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Sponsored themes and GPL (11 posts)

  1. mysorehead
    Posted 17 years ago #

    I've just found this as this is the only wordpress forum I regularly go to. Matt Mullenweg posts about custom themes with hidden links and the such and idea of banning them from (totally agree) There is also some discussion in the comments about the license requirements of themes and plugins - thought it might interest soem of you.


    See posts, comments and voting at:

  2. drmike
    Posted 17 years ago #

    We've discussed it before. I myself don't mind sponcered links although I add it a noinfex,nofollow to the link. Or just skip it in our WPMu install.

  3. drmike
    Posted 17 years ago #

    To add to this discussion, and it came up over in land recently a couple (dozen) times, at the very least there should be a tag on for these themes.

  4. mysorehead
    Posted 17 years ago #

    Bringing this one back up. In the light of WordPress' decision to remove sponsored themes by the end of July.

    Do you think all themes and plugins should be GPL?

    Are wordpress obliged to release their code?

    Should only host GPL themes and plugins?

    I really am interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas,

  5. lunabyte
    Posted 17 years ago #

    "Bringing this one back up. In the light of WordPress' decision to remove sponsored themes by the end of July."

    Can't say I disagree one bit. Half the a-holes that fill up their theme(s) with this crap, are the same ones that were hitting your comment form. They just evolved. Me personally, if I get a theme that is full of that shit, I remove all links from it. And I mean all links.

    "Do you think all themes and plugins should be GPL?"

    No, I don't. It should be up to the individual author, as they wrote it and it's their intellectual property. However, WP could say that if you want to use their services (the repository) and be listed/available through their site, that it has to be. I don't think they will go that far, but you never know.

    "Are wordpress obliged to release their code?"

    No, they are not.

    First, have a look at Mu's history through the eyes of Farms, and see where it all came about.

    Saying is responsible for releasing the code is not correct.

    To begin with, why would they be required to anyway? If I write a script on my machine, does that mean I'm responsible for releasing it to the world? No, it doesn't.

    Second, that would be the same as saying that every MU user was required to release their personal modifications. Which, they're not.

    Just because folks "would really like" to get their hands on the codebase, doesn't mean that they are therefore obligated to fork it over. They aren't obligated any more than any other user of MU out there.

    Think of it this way. Would you want to enable folks to put up a competing service just like your "famous" one in 5 minutes or less? Um, no. To be honest, I think we're lucky to have MU at all. They very easily could have turned it into completely privatized code, and left folks ass out. But they didn't. So yeah, while is the flagship that many aspire to be (but fall way short of), expecting them to release their personal customizations just because the name WordPress is on it is pretty unrealistic.

    "Should only host GPL themes and plugins?"

    I like the GPL, in some cases. It has kept many a developer from losing their code to a commercial entity and it being out of their control. It has its uses, but I don't personally feel that any code that is open source (by strict definition, not "spirit" or "intent") should be GPL. I feel this way for many reasons.

    Let's take a look at SMF for example. [unknown] made a comment on why their license is the way that it is. Many spite them for it, but I can fully appreciate their logic behind it.

    In case you aren't aware, they essentially do not allow and redistribution of their code at all. None of it, at all. So someone can't say, "I heavily modified the whatever.php file so that it now does 'this function' natively. Here's the file."

    That irked a lot of Open Source zealots as they feel that to be truly open source it has to be GPL and free for anyone to modify and share.

    However, the reasoning for SMF to not be like that is simple. It comes down to dilution of the SMF brand, and security. Hand in hand, not separate.

    They feel that if they had X number of forks/redistributed packages out there, that it would end up being a security nightmare trying to get those folks to keep up with the original package. That it would leave a lot of unprotected and potentially vulnerable for who knows how long, and dependent on an outside source from where they got their code.

    On top of that, while the brand is diluted into a fork of a fork of a fork, and ending up to where the end user doesn't take into account the original product except in one case. When they get hacked. If that happens, they tend to only then acknowledge the original distributor, and not the one from where they got it. In turn, that tends to end up creating a lot of negativity about the original product, which then takes the fall even though it may be out of their control. The project ends up with a bad rap, and even publicly pointing the blame to the correct party (whoever redistributed it and failed to keep up) doesn't keep the bad exposure off their back.

    So while it isn't GPL, it still has its source open to those who would like to modify it for their personal use, or for someone to make a modification package so as to add onto SMF core features or to add a new one. They just have to release a package that modifies the original files, or adds on whatever.

    It seems trivial, here, where a lot of folks are "anti" core modification folks because of upgrades and how much trouble it induces. However, would they feel the same way if they could upgrade by simply running a file (or package) that simply looks for any and all strings within a file that were updated, and then replaces those strings with the new one? Meaning, a search and replace for only the things that were changed for the next core update, and that's it. No big file replacements or anything of the sort. It's pretty nice, and I'll give em the kudo for it. In the rare case someone has modified their core so heavily that the package fails, which is very rare, they can easily follow the file and update manually. That might effect 1 or 2 people out of 1000 or more. Which any system has, and they would be doing the same thing with any other platform out there. They upside to it, is that all changes are in a simple to follow format, and they can add/replace as need be.

    So to get back to it, purely using SMF as an example, the GPL isn't always the best way to do it. I don't personally see it as the "be all, end all" of open source. It has its uses, but it has its drawbacks as well.

    Referring to my example with SMF, they learned licensing the hard way, and their experience with it dictated their current stance. Why? Ever hear of YaBB SE? Anyone care to recall the nightmare that it became, and still is for folks? There's a reason why they stopped that code, and rebranded a freshly written codebase as SMF.

    I'm not saying that WordPress should take the same stance. Far from it. They have a battle plan and its working for them.

    That being said, not every piece of code was meant to be GPL. I think that they should host anyone willing to ethically share their code, as long as it meets certain criteria. That criteria being:
    1) Must not be a spammy "sponsored" theme/plugin.
    2) Must not have a financial cost.
    3) Must not contain obscured source.
    4) Must not litter a site with links back to their own site. (A link in the admin area is acceptable on the plugins screen, big donation boxes wouldn't be, or a single link to the authors site would be fine as long as that site is not in any way a "spam" site).

    Those would require some moderation and an approval/review system, but it could be done. It could even be where someone passing submission criteria, whatever it is, can then post a little image or something on their site that says their plugin is "WordPress Certified" or something.

    So no, I don't think (finally the wind dies down) that they should host strictly those themes/plugins which are GPL. They could, if they so chose, but they could also allow those that are within the ethical intention of Open Source as well, but aren't GPL. A lot of people confuse the two, and think they are one in the same.

    This isn't the case, and just because somethings source is not obscured, which technically makes it open, doesn't mean its GPL. On the other hand, just because you download something that is GPL, doesn't mean that its source isn't complied. However, the pre-compiled source would be available alternatively.

  6. drmiketemp
    Posted 17 years ago #

    Can't believe you wrote all of that.

  7. lunabyte
    Posted 17 years ago #

    I can't either.

    It started out short. Honest. :D

  8. mysorehead
    Posted 17 years ago #

    Thanks for the response, lunabyte.

    A couple of thoughts.

    Wordpress being a fork of b2 had to be GPL. There is nothing stopping any of us starting our own fork (what that other one called again) if we think we can do it better, and we want to modify the core files. :)

    Just like wordpress doesn't have to release it's code, there are many who think this is a loop hole. They can't sell it to me to run on my server without releasing the code right? but they can set it up on their server just for me and give me full access (if they wanted to) and I'd paid the same money??

    If you read the Free Software Foundations FAQ on plugins

    it seems that all wordpress plugins should be released as GPL. If that is the case why doesn't wordpress enforce that? Well maybe because they are "free" they dominate the market making it impossible for others to compete. So bending the GPL rules in this case suits them.

    So if we are happy for plugin authors to bend the rules why do we care about sponsored themes? Most people are happy for a link back to the authors site. Is it because its easy money?

    I remember a cigarette company in India started making cricket bats just so they could get around the cigarette advertising and sponsor Steve Waugh (Australian captain).

    On last thing about the GPL, I work in education where there is resistance against free software, having clear and transparent processes and rules is important. Even though I do all my coding after hours (I have a full time teaching load) -- I bet there are some higher who think all my code is theirs (I'd rather it was GPL)


  9. andrewbillits
    Posted 17 years ago #

    Luke, what's with the mini-novels today ;)

    Out of curiosity, did you use the tiny post box or did you cut/paste from Word (or equivalent)?

  10. lunabyte
    Posted 17 years ago #

    Well, it isn't just "WordPress" where this happens.

    You are correct where you say that they can't charge you for the software. And this is where it gets tricky.

    As a developer, I could make 2 versions of a program for example. A basic GPL version, and one which is not. I could then do whatever I wanted to with the second. Then again, if it's my code, I can sell it if I want to. What the license controls is what the end user can/can't do with it.

    To further add to the mix, let's take myself as an example. Being a developer and designer, if a client comes to me and says I want a website with a blog, I most certainly can use WordPress for it. I absolutely can not charge them for the software, and I would make sure to make that clear to them. However, what I can charge them for is my time I put in in order to customize it, install it, and design their theme. Any time I put into it, is able to be a billable item as a service.

    So let's say I were to code their website, and build it on WP. All I can do is charge for the time I spend providing service to them and making the site into what they want, and that's how in your example it's possible for there to be a fee. As long as you are not being charged for the software, it's all legit.

    Anyway, when it comes to sponsored themes, that's more like advertising. Granted it's a users decision to use it, but even under the GPL a sponsor doesn't mean copyright holder. If you get technical about it, the copyright notice (which would be commented into the top of each file) is what must remain. A simple link to a site doesn't necessarily constitute a copyright. Which is why WP can't absolutely force users to keep a link back to them in the footer, or the meta tag in the header. That, and can you imagine the resources it would take to enforce it if they could? Ouch.

    When it gets into plugins, and themes for that matter, it's a very gray area that is up to the individuals interpretation.

    A plugin by its very nature will naturally interact with the main program. That is what it is for. Whether it is completely legitimate to actually sell that plugin is obviously a big can of worms. Then again, if that plugin is offered as part of a service, and you're not paying for the plugin but the service it provides, that's different too.

    In the end, it pretty much comes down to the original license holder and how they see it. With WP, they are obviously fine with additional services and plugins being offered as paid. Look at the large community of external developers that support WP. At the same time, all the while increasing the visibility and power of the brand, and in the long run increasing revenues overall. More traffic means a larger audience, and more exposure to advertising through some of their sites, as well as other doors that open up to additional paid services.

    It's funny how it works, really. Usually if you have a free and a paid service, and average of some 85-90% will go the free route. That being the case, you do what it takes to make sure that the numbers outside of those percentages are as high as possible. Which, through all the exposure you can see them doing, seems to be working out.

  11. lunabyte
    Posted 17 years ago #


    That's all postbox, baby! :D

    Kinda sucks when you multi-task, and write a blurb, then come back and add some more, and so on. lol

About this Topic

  • Started 17 years ago by mysorehead
  • Latest reply from lunabyte