Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

WordPress Creator GPL Says WP Template Must Be GPL'd

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the several-sticky-wickets dept.

Businesses 571

An anonymous reader writes "Matt Mullenweg (the creator of open source blog software WordPress), after review by various legal experts, is sticking to his guns that themes and plugins that 'extend' WordPress violate the GPL if they are not themselves distributed under the GPL. Matt has gone so far as to post this on Twitter. According to Matt, the premium template called Thesis should be under the GPL and the owner is not happy about it. WordPress is willing to sue the maker of Thesis theme for not following GPL licensing. The webmasters and Thesis owners are also confused with new development. Mark Jaquith wrote an excellent technical analysis of why WordPress themes inherit the GPL. This is why even if Thesis hadn't copy-and-pasted large swathes of code from WordPress (and GPL plugins) its PHP would still need to be under the GPL."

cancel ×


And this folks... (4, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about 4 years ago | (#32994858) why I don't do any work creating anything for WordPress. CopyFree [] is the way to go.

Re:And this folks... (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#32994958) why lots of businesses won't touch open source software. It is stuff like this that gives ammunition to the FUD.

Re:And this folks... (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#32995012)

What FUD? GPL is pretty clear. The developer in this case was an idiot. If you don't want to be bound by any particular license's restrictions, open source or otherwise, don't use stuff licensed using it, or at the very least don't release it publicly.

Re:And this folks... (0, Redundant)

Myrddin Wyllt (1188671) | about 4 years ago | (#32995110)

(posting to undo wrong mod)

Marketing (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 4 years ago | (#32995216)

It may be clear to US, but the problem is people like this get the air time, and it does cause confusion and scares good people away. You never hear about the 1000's of people every day that DON'T have license issues, and rarely the outcome of things like this when the idiot at the helm loses the battle. It looks bad and leaves bad tastes in peoples mouths. Remember too, even if you are in the right, if you get sued it costs you $ and could bankrupt smaller companies so being right doesn't always mean diddly.

This is also a good way to kill off a project, who wants to be working with a madman?

Re:And this folks... (4, Interesting)

ehrichweiss (706417) | about 4 years ago | (#32995296)

Even better, why don't Thesis just make a "templating engine" to handle the WP code that can then be released under GPL and then release the rest of the CSS, images, etc. under their own license? I can think of a couple of ways this could be accomplished and it would protect Thesis entirely.

From the WP "analysis" on one of the links in the summary...

"My JS/CSS/Images are 100% original. Do they have to be GPL?

No, they don't. If they aren't based on GPL'd JavaScript, CSS, or images, you are not forced to make them GPL. What you could do is offer a theme under a split license. The PHP would be under the GPL, but other static resources could be under some other license."

That said, I'm a bit concerned about how this "it's a part of WP" will be interpreted because doesn't that then mean that commercial apps like Zend Studio, etc. are ALSO required to comply with the GPL since they ostensibly hook into the various GPL'ed libraries, etc. ??

I mean I'm all for GPL but if everything that so much as touches GPL'ed software falls under that license, we're going to find fewer and fewer people willing to create commercial apps for GPL OS'es, etc..and while I may not use it, we definitely don't need to go shooting ourselves in the foot at this stage of the game.

Re:And this folks... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 4 years ago | (#32995310)

If I write a module for the linux kernel it is noa derivative of the linux kernel. The binary it produces likely is, and once loaded into the kernel it is (but no one distributed the running kernel memory image...). But the source code? No way.

Are all my C programs derivatives of libc because they call libc functions and libc functions call into it?

If it includes code from WP, then that's a different story.

And what happens if someone clean room re implements the WP theme interface? Suddenly though the code hasn't changed at all, the theme isn't GPLd?

Re:And this folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995322)

Egh, it's questionable. I, personally, wouldn't say that designing a theme for Wordpress is considered a derivative work, unless there are obvious cut-and-pastes from the default theme. Personally, it's another example of the viral nature of the GPL, especially the GPLv3. Now, one can argue that the theme creator should have known this, but it's not obvious. Sure, copying Wordpress and re-releasing your own version is obviously covered by the GPL. However, making a theme that "plugs-in" to Wordpress to me is just not a derivative work and should be licenseable under whatever. I'll take BSD, Apache or LGPL over GPL any day of the week.

Re:And this folks... (1)

Altus (1034) | about 4 years ago | (#32995486)

I guess my confusion is in how themes in WordPress are different from plugins in another application. Most of this comes from a lack of understanding of how WordPress works.

If I made a competitor to photoshop under the GPL and defined a plugin interface similar to but distinct from the actual photoshop plugin interface, would plugins written for that interface have to be GPL? If not, why are these themes any different?

If plugins would be required to be GPL'd I think that could and should be explicitly spelled out in the GPL but it would have a pretty chilling effect on commercial developers making software that interacts with GPL software.

Re:And this folks... (2, Interesting)

ircmaxell (1117387) | about 4 years ago | (#32995366)

The GPL is as clear as mud. Do you want an example? It says "derivative works" must be GPL as well. Well, what is a derivative work? Guess what? The GPL itself doesn't define that term. So there's huge debate as to if a block of code that uses nothing from the parent but fully documented and exposed APIs is derivative or not.

Obviously Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian; that much is clear... But is Internet Explorer a drivative of Windows (Taking aside the license for a minute)? It hooks into deep APIs (So deep in fact, that it cannot run on any other OS than Windows)... Parts of the core of Windows (Windows Update) depend upon it... It's a very difficult question to answer.

And this is why I hate the GPL. It promotes the "If you want to comply, you can do no wrong by licensing GPL" attitude. It's trivially easy to comply with, but it's VERY hard to make a clear determination if the restrictions extend to you or not. So most people "just take the easy way out" and license GPL. Not out of belief, not out of fear, not out of requirement, but out of confusion and misunderstanding...

Re:And this folks... (1)

jjb3rd (1138577) | about 4 years ago | (#32995388)

Allow me to preface this by saying that I did not RTFA, nor do I inherently disagree with licensing, but...

It does make it difficult for businesses to work with open source, and it makes developers have to understand legal matters in addition to everything else we have to learn. Every system, including open source, ties you to its platform. I, for one, am enjoying the walled garden development right now with it's glitzy proprietary open standards really do get what you pay for.

Re:And this folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995496)

The GPL is not pretty clear. In fact, it's intentionally written to be vague on what a derivative work is so they can argue it in court to be as broad a definition as possible.

Re:And this folks... (2, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 years ago | (#32995514)

What FUD? GPL is pretty clear.

How (and even if) GPL applies to dynamic linking - which, in this case, what it really boils down to - is very far from clear. This is especially true for languages where the actual "linking" happens on user side, not on developer side - i.e. anything using a bytecode VM (JIT or no JIT) or a plain interpreter. Such as, well, PHP.

Yes, the FSF has a well-defined and widely publicized position on this issue, but that is separate from the text of the license as such, and it is not certain if the text really means what they want it to mean.

The correspondence [] of Stallman with the author of CLisp - where the former argues that mere use of GNU Readline APIs (i.e. invoking a function named "readline" with arguments of specific types) in your code makes it a derived work under the GPL - is a very interesting read in this context.

Stallman's argument hinges on the claim that the mere existence of Readline means that any program using its APIs is derived work. If you buy into that line of reasoning, then just imagine what the implications would be for any FOSS having to do with clean-slate implementation of proprietary APIs (consider the SCO-IBM case and Wine for a few specific examples; there are many more). I also very much doubt that the court would buy that; indeed, by the end of the email exchange, Stallman also seems to be implicitly acknowledging that, changing his argument to "if you manage to circumvent GPL this way the Evil Proprietarians out there will know they can use it too, and it's BAD BAD BAD, so please do as I say".

This case seems to be similar. The claim is that the template is GPL'd because it contains calls to functions with names and arguments such that they match the WordPress internal APIs. However, one could do a clean-slate implementation of all those APIs (it wouldn't even have to do anything useful; think mocks), and the template script will happily run on top of that as well. And it doesn't contain any actual WordPress code. So, if it doesn't actually require WordPress to run, why should it be considered a "derived work"?

Re:And this folks... (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 4 years ago | (#32995516)

What FUD? GPL is pretty clear.

In this particular case (as apparently there is large cut and paste of code), this seems to be a pretty clear issue; OTOH, the more expansive interpretations often offered of the GPL (including the interpretation that would hold that all templates, etc., for a GPL blogging platform needing to be GPL) is arguably untenable, as many of the things which proponents of this view would demand that the GPL must apply to are not what would otherwise be considered derivative works, and consequently require no license to produce in the first place.

Re:And this folks... (3, Insightful)

LordPhantom (763327) | about 4 years ago | (#32995018)

...except not all open source software is licensed with the GPL. If anything the issue is less with OSS as a concept and more with the licensing wordpress uses.

It is often pushed as such though (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#32995150)

Not only us the GPL an extremely popular license, but many OSS heads push it as the One True Way(tm). Other licenses aren't really open because they don't FORCE people to be open with their products. They sell the GPL as being synonymous with OSS.

While that isn't correct, you have to accept public perception and in particular that with companies, it is perception of non-technical people. If there's a lot of crap going around with the GPL being the king of OSS and people getting hammered for not opening any and everything up, well don't be surprised if companies get cold feet. The non-technical managers that make the decisions will say "Wait, so someone can be sued for making a theme with GPL'd software? So like if you make something with or for GPL's software at all you can be in trouble? Fuck that, we use Microsoft! They want money, but they are clear on what you can do!"

Re:It is often pushed as such though (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | about 4 years ago | (#32995218)

You're right, people who don't understand the difference between open source and a licensing agreement might make bad decisions, but those people aren't^H^H^H^H^H shouldn't be making decisions about that sort of thing without imput from their tech/IP folks.

Re:And this folks... (1)

discogravy (455376) | about 4 years ago | (#32995256)

to the majority of those making business decisions -- PHBs and their ilk -- this is nitpicking of a granularity they'll never get to. Just as all PCs run "windows" and all copy machines are "xerox machines" etc. You're right, but almost no one will notice.

Don't like it? Change copyrights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995420)

Don't like it? Change copyrights and remove protection of derived works to the inspiring or extended author. This is merely the intent of COPYRIGHT LAW.

So if it's bad, then it's bad because this is what copyright law says.

At least, unlike, say, the closed source program BitKeeper, you aren't forbidden from working on extensions or improvements to any other blogger software.

Or, as with, say, Microsoft's license, lose any and all patent provisions under the original code if you sue the author.

Or, indeed, as with, say, the license for many MS database produces that says you cannot benchmark their products without first talking to them.

It all derives power from copyright law AS APPLIED.

Don't like it? Change copyright.

Re:And this folks... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995054)

It's also why my company does its best to avoid anything open source. I re-invent the wheel all the time for fear of some OSS zealot snaring me with some hook.

"You may use this library for whatever you want as long as you leave this license file handy" BZZZT, that actually means if you write an add-on for your niche that leverages the library you are evil and all your base are belong to someone else.

It's too bad... I'm a big fan of open source and run nothing but Linux at home. The concept is amazing, but the GOTCHYA's have gotta stop if companies like the ones I've worked for are desired to utilize and contribute to OSS projects.

Re:And this folks... (0, Troll)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#32995078)

It's too bad... I'm a big fan of open source and run nothing but Linux at home. The concept is amazing, but the GOTCHYA's have gotta stop if companies like the ones I've worked for are desired to utilize and contribute to OSS projects.

Translation: The company I work for wants to profit off of a legion of other peoples' work, but doesn't feel it has any particular obligation to play by the same rules.

Re:And this folks... (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 4 years ago | (#32995224)

He quite clearly said his company AVOIDS open source, and instead pays HIM to re-invent things instead of using open source. Quite the opposite of your 'translation'.

Re:And this folks... (2)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32995240)

Translation: Profit is evil.

Re:And this folks... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#32995488)

Never said that. Profiting by adding to software with a GPL or GPL-like license and then trying to sell that mix of proprietary and GPLed code, directly contravening the licensing terms, is evil.

Re:And this folks... (1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | about 4 years ago | (#32995408)

Not to come off as a troll (too late?), but it's interesting to see that kind of post on a site that consistently takes an anti-copyright, pro-piracy stance. In piracy articles, other people's work is free to trade. In GPL articles, other people's work suddenly should be protected.

In reality, without copyright, the GPL would have no power, because it's a copyright license! It seems that implication is lost on many people who take a strong anti-copyright stance in the comments for some articles and a pro-GPL stance in others.

Re:And this folks... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#32995130)

Does your company distribute the modifications you make? If not, and it sounds like they do not, then there is no problem other than your poor understanding of the GPL. If they do, and they insist upon releasing proprietary software, then you are stuck reinventing the wheel, plain and simple, and I really see no problem with that. If the community is going to do the right thing and release libre software, why should your company try to turn it into proprietary software?

Re:And this folks... (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | about 4 years ago | (#32995326)

You say that, but if the software is being distributed internally within the company any employee receiving the code will have the right to the source code. They will also have the right to keep the source code once they leave the company, and also the right to distribute it.

Re:And this folks... (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about 4 years ago | (#32995378)

... just like the software that was originally modified and received for free under the same terms.

Why should anyone else get to hide their modifications to free software when they didn't have to pay for the original software itself? There's a huge cost savings in leveraging existing code, but you don't get to turn that into magical profits without working out a new license arrangement with the original author.

See MySQL, Zope, Ogre3D and others for excellent examples.

Re:And this folks... (1, Troll)

Nadaka (224565) | about 4 years ago | (#32995494)

wrong. The company is a single entity.

The employee is part of that company.

So no, it isn't distribution.

Source code does not have to be shared.

The employee does not have the right to take it with him after leaving the company.

Re:And this folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995558)

You say that, but if the software is being distributed internally within the company any employee receiving the code will have the right to the source code. They will also have the right to keep the source code once they leave the company, and also the right to distribute it.

Your interpretation of the situation is backwards because the (GPLed) software is not being distributed to the employees of the company. Instead, the software is being distributed to the computers that the company owns. When you go into work and the company computers are upgraded to Office 2010, are you allowed to take the software home? No, because that software is being put on company computers for company work.

The GPL software that has been customized by these large corporations is not being distributed to the employees, but is instead distributed to the company owned computers. Therefore, an employee has no rights to the source code because the company, not the employee, has the rights to request a copy per the terms of the GPL. Since the company in question already has the source to the GPL software, why would they request it from themselves?

Re:And this folks... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 4 years ago | (#32995552)

Will the company distribute this software immediately?

That is a fairly simple question to answer.

Will the company ever want to distribute this software?

That is another matter entirely.

Re:And this folks... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | about 4 years ago | (#32995348)

What gotcha?

You distribute something under a license, you obey that license. Open source or not is completely irrelevant.

Implications for plugins (2, Insightful)

popo (107611) | about 4 years ago | (#32994866)

Given that loads of major software companies have released plugins for WordPress, including payment gateways, social networking plugins, twitter plugins, etc ... doesn't this expose a huge amount of proprietary code to potential (and possibly unintended) open-sourcing?

Re:Implications for plugins (1, Flamebait)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about 4 years ago | (#32994894)

Exactly why I don't use the GPL anymore. It's infectious. It's junk for true open-source. This is just copyleft (not that it's claimed otherwise) and is no better than copyright.

Re:Implications for plugins (1, Flamebait)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#32994966)

I don't get the vitriol over GPL. If you don't like it, use another license, there are no lack of them. But it's a pretty stupid developer who doesn't check the legal implications of developing on any given platform as far as licensing goes. GPL is meant to be viral, at least as far as publicly released derivatives and extensions go.

A helluva lot of incredibly valuable and important software is under GPL, so on top of being a troll, you're a fucking moron too.

Re:Implications for plugins (1)

mattholimeau (1027730) | about 4 years ago | (#32995068)

So - you said "if you don't like it, use something else" in response to him saying "i didn't like it, so i use something else." What part about it makes him a troll or a moron? Sounds like the first part of what I'm formulating as the "my momma's a ho? YOUR momma's a ho" syndrome. (i.e., useless name calling.)

Re:Implications for plugins (2, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | about 4 years ago | (#32995346)

What part about it makes him a troll or a moron?

The "It's infectious" part makes him a troll or a moron.

It comes form scope creep (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#32995080)

The idea of the GPL, at least the original idea, seemed to be that if you modified the code of a project and distributed that modified version, you also had to distribute the code. Ok, fair enough and easy enough to understand. So Linksys could go and use Linux on their routers, and they have to release the mods to Linux they make, but not any of the software they run on it.

However then you get things like this. A theme for something they now say has to be GPL. Not a new version of the software, a theme that adds in to it. Ummm ok. What about plugins, do those also have to be opened up? This leads to other worries, will GPL authors try and say if you use a GPL'd software to create something (like a picture with GIMP) that too has to be opened up?

That is some of the "viral" nature MS was bitching about. You GPL something and then you want to say everything it touches has to be GPL'd too.

I think people get a little miffed when they find that using GPL software got them more than they bargained for.

Re:It comes form scope creep (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#32995204)

The issue here is the way that PHP and Javascript, in particular, are being used by these open source projects. Where the dividing line between data and code is unclear, or possibly doesn't meaningfully exist at all (JSON for instance), it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that themes that are as much code as they are presentation are probably going to end up being swallowed into GPL.

The solution is simple. Find a platform that isn't GPL, or write your own.

Re:It comes form scope creep (3, Interesting)

improfane (855034) | about 4 years ago | (#32995234)

In Wordpress the templates are PHP calls to functions, so it is basically a contribution to the codebase in itself. It's not a templating language what you would expect.

Not that I understand GPL or Wordpress but that sounds like the logic.

I honestly don't see how CSS could become GPLed though.

Re:It comes form scope creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995364)

I would give LGPL this meaning. GPL is IMO pretty clear. You want to use it: use the GPL.

Re:It comes form scope creep (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about 4 years ago | (#32995404)

Themes in Wordpress aren't plugins like the image set you use in say Gtk theming, but actual modifications to the source at some level.

This isn't scary, it isn't unique or strange, its just a basic understanding of what you're doing. If you're modifying someone's GPL'd code, your diffs are under the GPL.

Re:It comes form scope creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995450)

There is a simple way around this "problem": Don't distribute any WordPress code. As long as you only distribute your own code, which is written to the WordPress API but does not itself include any of WordPress's GPL licensed code, you can choose any license you want. The user combines the two and thereby creates the derived work. The user however does not distribute, so the GPL doesn't apply. This is how binary-only Linux kernel modules are legal and this is also how there is no issue here. Now calm the fuck down, everyone.

Re:Implications for plugins (0, Troll)

Magic5Ball (188725) | about 4 years ago | (#32995108)

> But it's a pretty stupid developer who doesn't check the legal implications of developing on any given platform as far as licensing goes.

If understanding implications is as easy as you claim, please provide a concise enumeration of all possible technical and legal interactions between any two pieces of non-trivial software of your choice under any combination of your choice of open source license.

Re:Implications for plugins (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#32995014)

No. It exposes a huge amount of authors of proprietary code to a copyright infringement lawsuit. How they settle this is up to them, but they can't be forced to open their code. In any case, they'll get off a lot easier than if they had misappropriated proprietary code.

Re:Implications for plugins (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | about 4 years ago | (#32995052)

All they have to do is not use GPL code if they don't want to follow the GPL. They can always write the other code themselves for a much larger than free cost.

Re:Implications for plugins (1, Interesting)

Lando (9348) | about 4 years ago | (#32995550)

Using misappropriated proprietary code means that you have to turn over all income from said product plus since you knew it was proprietary damages are tripled so you still owe more. Most people will forgive past violations with GPL as long as you come into compliance or stop distributing said item. How is it easier if they use proprietary code?

Re:Implications for plugins (4, Informative)

Annirak (181684) | about 4 years ago | (#32995194)

It really doesn't, actually. The only time that a company would have a problem with this is when they distribute their plugin or theme. Any company which makes a WP template or theme is absolutely not required to open source it unless they distribute it. This means, obviously, that the majority of company-specific plugins and themes are not going to need to be opensourced.

The only companies which stand to be hurt by this are the ones which have a business model of making wordpress plugins/themes and selling them. Even then, they are not required to stop doing so. The requirement is just to license their software under the GPL and provide source if and only if someone requests it.

People act like the GPL will kill all software business as we know it, but those who do so clearly haven't even read the license.

Make a parsing plugin (1)

improfane (855034) | about 4 years ago | (#32995200)

Good point. The market will learn to adapt to this I reckon.

If someone makes a plugin (that is GPLed) that reads another form of file (which has nothing to do with the original Wordpress codebase) and is a *true* template language which uses SUBSTITUTIONS like {post_title} and {post_body} rather than get_post_body();

currently templates are PHP coded, they should not. It's bad design to begin with and quite obvious why it inherits the GPL.

Surely this new template engine would not be infected by the GPL as the new plugin is only a READER of another format. The plugin itself would have to be GPL but the files it reads would not ;-)

Otherwise the logic would be that someone who makes a database plugin to talk to a database, say Oracle and then Oracle DOES NOT become open source, which is stupid.

Yo dawg... (-1, Offtopic)

matt-fu (96262) | about 4 years ago | (#32994888)

...I heard you like the GPL.

Re:Yo dawg... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32994990)

Yeah? I like the GPL? So what? Did you release my GPL under the GPL so I can license while I license? Come on, man. Try harder.

Details, details (5, Funny)

MaggieL (10193) | about 4 years ago | (#32994960)

"People Who Care About Details Trust Thesis". -- []

Presumably the licencing of the platform you're developing for could be considered a "detail"

data vs code (2, Interesting)

roguegramma (982660) | about 4 years ago | (#32994968)

Just goes to show that data vs code is a false dichotomy:
The programming language and data description language used should not affect where the split is.

This is even more obviously worse if you for example transfer your data as JSON, so that the data interchange language is the same as the programming language.

Re:data vs code (1)

capnchicken (664317) | about 4 years ago | (#32995520)

Is it Data vs. Code or Library vs. Executable

As a rule of thumb I always assumed that any Executable using a Library under the GPL was bound to the GPL, and that is the reason for the existence of the LGPL.

Are they now saying that any Executable under the GPL, makes all Libraries written for it bound to the GPL?

That doesn't make any sense.

You need to release your patches that make the Executable run the library (include functions and other changes to Wordpress), but the library should be off limits, it's not derived, it's used.

Are they calling Wordpress the library now? Is it impossible to create "themes" that don't use Wordpress like a library?

(obviously, there is copy/paste code in the Thesis case, so no argument for them in this specific case)

Hmm (1)

selfabuse (681350) | about 4 years ago | (#32994988)

As someone who just paid $50 for a premium Wordpress Theme, I find this post to be relevant to my interests!

Re:Hmm (1)

sammy baby (14909) | about 4 years ago | (#32995024)

Out of curiosity, why? One would assume that you already have the "source" of the theme, since there's no compiled code in there.

Re:Hmm (1)

selfabuse (681350) | about 4 years ago | (#32995126)

Well, I do now that I paid for it - but I didn't prior to buying it. I had a "lite" version, which worked OK for a while, but did not have the "source" for any of the functions/features that the paid version has. After I bought the paid version, I was sent a copy of the full theme.

This [] is the theme in question.

Regardless of how this GPL thing works out, it was money well spent. I could have slapped something similar together myself, but it would have taken me a while, so I'd much rather spend $50 and be done with it.

Re:Hmm (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | about 4 years ago | (#32995374)

Well, even if the code is GPL - there is nothing preventing them from selling it, potentially including support, helping you with the setup, informing you of updates etc. They just can't stop any of their customers to fork the product or to give it to someone else for free. If they don't go crazy with the amount of money they charge they probably won't have a problem.

I've seen this work in Taiwan quite recently: at a nightmarket there is a stand selling bootleg porn DVDs - nobody watches the stand, there is just a box where the customers put the money in, and they take the DVD they want. The procedure is necessary, because selling the stuff is obviously not legal, but ironically: the honor principle works... There is no reason that it couldn't work for these guys, too.

Re:Hmm (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | about 4 years ago | (#32995042)

Perhaps you should post on your blog rather than wasting your valuable comments here?

I don't buy it. (3, Interesting)

PylonHead (61401) | about 4 years ago | (#32995030)

IANAL, but I don't buy it.

The GPL is based on copyright.

If I sell a product that doesn't contain *any* of your copyrighted code (and API calls certainly can't be copyrighted), you have no basis to sue me for copyright.

Re:I don't buy it. (2, Informative)

orkysoft (93727) | about 4 years ago | (#32995096)


This is why even if Thesis hadn't copy-and-pasted large swathes of code from WordPress (and GPL plugins) its PHP would still need to be under the GPL.

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 4 years ago | (#32995106)

One of the key phrases in the GPL is "derivative work". The GPL has a lot to do with describing derivative works and the rights which apply to them. The author of WordPress is arguing that themes are derivative works, and as such are covered by the GPL.

If I sell a product that doesn't contain *any* of your copyrighted code (and API calls certainly can't be copyrighted), you have no basis to sue me for copyright.

Who's suing over copyright? This looks like a license issue to me, not a copyright issue.

If themes are derivatives, then all C programs are (2, Insightful)

jabberw0k (62554) | about 4 years ago | (#32995272)

Themes contain code that works to a certain API. If a theme contains no lines of Wordpress code, then by definition it could work with any program that used the same theme API.

How then can Wordpress say that its licensing is required?

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 years ago | (#32995384)

Clause 9 if the licence specifically allows you to reject it, and simply bars acts that require permission under copyright.

Hence, there is no claim to violation without a claim under copyright.

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 years ago | (#32995548)

One of the key phrases in the GPL is "derivative work". The GPL has a lot to do with describing derivative works and the rights which apply to them.

Can you point at the place where GPL provides a clear definition of "derived work"?

You're right that this is essentially an issue of whether the template code is derived work or not, but that is far from clear. I've elaborated on this elsewhere [] .

Re:I don't buy it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995124)

A theme is a PHP file distributed separately from the main application. That the main application happens to accept it (as a configuration file, executed by PHP) does not cause the theme to become GPL infested.

If PHP was GPL infested, but you wrote some code code using it, then it does not infest your code with the GPL. Even though both your code, and PHPs are running inside one process.

So how does running a GPL infested batch file (WordPress) along with your own batch file (the theme), both of which, at some point, spew some crap out, which gets rendered in a browser, cause you to become diseased with GPL?

The most rediculous and unenforceable line in the GPL that they quote is here: "If modules are designed to run linked together in a shared address space, that almost surely means combining them into one program."

Under the GPL's rules, then, if a series of PHP scripts running inside a single address space (an instance of PHP) are virally-coupled to the GPL, then all your PHP include files (your configurations) are GPLd as well. This is rediculous.

How about we put some GPL code on a microcontroller. Is everything automatically GPL infested on a system without an MMU/MPU? But we add an MMU/MPU and it blocks the GPL's viral capabilities?


Re:I don't buy it. (3, Insightful)

improfane (855034) | about 4 years ago | (#32995314)

This is like the GPL libraries. If your project uses a GPL product, does it become GPLed too (and you want distribute it)? Yes, it does. Why you should not use the LGPL for your library [] .

Essentially, you're using Wordpress as a library, which is GPL and not LGPL. It makes sense, it's just your (and my) perceptions of what constitute as data and code is blurred with templates. You'd think they'd be a data structure but they're actually code. It's the same in Joomla too: most templates I have read have to copy and paste lots of code from the default templates to get the same basic behaviour.

So they use Wordpress as a library and they then "become" GPL or they're violating.

Re:I don't buy it. (2, Interesting)

daid303 (843777) | about 4 years ago | (#32995158)

GPL is much wider then just the code. GPL states that anything linked to it needs to be GPL. But in the case of PHP this is a bit fuzzy, when is it linked or not?

GPL is made for C programs running on something you own. The cases of interpreted code, and code running on a webserver hosting services are not covered in it. So I can customize wordpress, run it on my own server, and nobody has any right to get the source then. Except for myself.

Re:I don't buy it. (4, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | about 4 years ago | (#32995412)

Yes you can, the GPL only talks about distribution. The thing is the moron copied and pasted WP source code and then went ahead and charged for it. Besides that, PHP include and require makes the files part of it's own program and then compiles it - it becomes a single program. If you don't like that, use exec or system. It would be the same as releasing a GPL program written in C++ but then not releasing the header files under the GPL.

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

improfane (855034) | about 4 years ago | (#32995442)

I disagree, my understanding is that:

GPL product ---> format ---> output
does not make the format GPL

It's only if

output --- GPL --- input
then the input is GPL.

In the sense of an OS language, the GPL product is reading the format and producing a result. It's not the other way round.

An open source image renderer does not make an image GPL
An open source browser does not make the (X)HTML(5) GPL
A OSS OS does not make the files you use GPL

Using a GPL library makes your product GPL
Making a plugin for a GPL program makes your plugin GPL (but only if it calls the GPL library)

Am I right?

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about 4 years ago | (#32995534)

Anything except system libraries needed ... and some such other exceptions.

That's probably where PHP itself fits in.

As for interpreted languages, things are even fuzzier. An interpreted program calls another interpreted piece of code, does running in the same interpreter make them one piece of code? Using an API certainly does not in the case of system libraries, but I doubt WordPress qualifies as 'system library', unless you see the website as a system.

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about 4 years ago | (#32995480)

As a logic puzzle, if I told you to insert "i=i+j;" on line 3832 of a Copyrighted source file, you'd be modifying source, not me. I'd be telling you how to do it, but not doing it myself. Would there be a Copyright violation if you distributed the changed source file? Sure. What if we all just told each other how to change it?

Welcome to diff format, and the legal issue. If I tell you how to change something and you do the changing, then you're bound by the GPL. If I never distribute my changes at all, I'm not bound by it.

Personally however, I think any judge would see through that and realize that the electronic ability to distribute only the modified part of a work doesn't change the intent to distribute a modified work itself.

Re:I don't buy it. (1)

painandgreed (692585) | about 4 years ago | (#32995522)

The GPL is based on copyright.

If I sell a product that doesn't contain *any* of your copyrighted code (and API calls certainly can't be copyrighted), you have no basis to sue me for copyright.

If I understand this, copyright is what allows them to control your use of their code. However, to be allowed to use the code and their copyright, you must agree to the license which may have terms not involving copyright.

Twitter (5, Funny)

sbates (1832606) | about 4 years ago | (#32995062)

Matt has gone so far as to post this on Twitter

Offenders are really gonna get it now. This guy means business.

Re:Twitter (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about 4 years ago | (#32995164)

Once I got to that part of the summary I was thinking "Wow, this guy is totally hardcore"

Re:Twitter (1)

electron sponge (1758814) | about 4 years ago | (#32995350)

It's not hardcore until he posts it on his Facebook page.

Re:Twitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995386)

He's was willing to write up to 140 characters! This is madness!

He has no case (5, Informative)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 years ago | (#32995082)

If he's taken GPL code and put it in Thesis, game over. It's GPL. Period. Whatever he could have argued about API calls is now irrelevant.

At this point, the only thing I'm curious about is what would happen to WordPress users who start to distribute Thesis without his permission.

Re:He has no case (1)

LetterRip (30937) | about 4 years ago | (#32995294)

If he's taken GPL code and put it in Thesis, game over. It's GPL. Period. Whatever he could have argued about API calls is now irrelevant.

At this point, the only thing I'm curious about is what would happen to WordPress users who start to distribute Thesis without his permission.

While GPLing his theme might be a remedy there is no guarantee that it will be a remedy of the courts choosing. Also even if he copied some code, an affirmative defense known as 'de minimus' has been established that allows for some amount of copying without it being infringement. Similarly if the code is purely functional in nature it can often also be exempt from copyright. Essentially you don't seem to know anything about what you are talking about. Of course I to don't have a law degree, but I at least have some knowledge of the basics and limits of copyright law.

no gpl (1)

Bizzeh (851225) | about 4 years ago | (#32995084)

it doesnt matter what licence the templates are or what licence the plugins are as long as they are a GPL compatible licence such as MIT or BSD or Apache.

Re:no gpl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995454)

it doesnt matter what licence the templates are or what licence the plugins are as long as they are a GPL compatible licence such as MIT or BSD or Apache.

Not necessarily.

If the templates or plugins use "borrowed" GPL'd code, then they can make their own code MIT or BSD or Apache, but making the entire work MIT or BSD or Apache still violates the copyright of the GPL code contained therein - YOU cannot choose to relicense MY gpl code under BSD license.

Can someone clear up a misconception of mine? (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#32995114)

I'm not a programmer (at least, not a good one), but I was under the impression that one of the major fine-lines in the GPL is how linking occurs: if you link like something is a library call, you're fine. But if things are compiled together, you fall under the purvey of the GPL.

How does the GPL deal with interpreted languages? If there isn't any cross-compiling that takes place, where does one piece of software end and another begin?

Re:Can someone clear up a misconception of mine? (0, Offtopic)

selven (1556643) | about 4 years ago | (#32995148)

The GPL doesn't allow linking with incompatibly licensed software. The LGPL [] , however, does.

Re:Can someone clear up a misconception of mine? (1)

NetCow (117556) | about 4 years ago | (#32995168)

The linking issue is tangential - the real issue is the notion of a derivative work, linking is just an instance of that.

Re:Can someone clear up a misconception of mine? (3, Informative)

PhrstBrn (751463) | about 4 years ago | (#32995536)

You're confusing LGPL and the GPL. The LGPL has a linking exception, the GPL does not. You cannot distribute code linking to GPL code without using a GPL compatible license. If you link to code distributed under the LGPL, you're fine. The only thing you need to distribute is the the actual library you linked to, if you made any changes, but not the rest of your codebase.

Wordpress is GPL, so linking to any of the Wordpress codebase requires distributing your code under the terms of the GPL. I don't see how you can make a useful Wordpress theme/template without making a Wordpress call somewhere. Printing out a post, or comment is going to require a function call to some GPLed code.

I believe the creator is correct, as long as Wordpress remains pure GPL, most non-GPL themes and plugins are going to break the license. It is entirely possible to create a non-GPL plugin, as long as you don't need to make any calls to Wordpress functions or internals.

Interpreted vs compiled, there is no difference in the interpretation of the license. Linking in an interpreted language is treated the same as linking in a compiled language.

Heh (0, Redundant)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 years ago | (#32995120)

Matt has gone so far as to post this on Twitter.

I'm pretty sure that's a very funny statement.

GPL people make it clear in their FAQ (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 4 years ago | (#32995122)

If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and the plug-ins. This means the plug-ins must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and that the terms of the GPL must be followed when those plug-ins are distributed.

If I add a module to a GPL-covered program, do I have to use the GPL as the license for my module?
The GPL says that the whole combined program has to be released under the GPL. So your module has to be available for use under the GPL.

So basically it comes down to whether or not WordPress and share code or data structures. If calls functions from WordPress and shares the data structures (which is kinda the default in PHP if they are using includes or requires) then it should be released under the GPL.

Unless you can take and make it work by itself (which could be possible if all it is doing is generating a file with CSS in it), it's going to be covered by the GPL. Otherwise they are boned. What they could do is release the next version of with a skeleton plugin that is released under the GPL that handles all the calls and then forwards them to a daemon or program that returns custom data structures. This would severely impact performance though and I doubt a lot of people would keep using it.

Re:GPL people make it clear in their FAQ (1)

westlake (615356) | about 4 years ago | (#32995304)

If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program

The key words here are "we believe." It is at least possible that a court might disagree.

Re:GPL people make it clear in their FAQ (2, Informative)

chipbennett (1862188) | about 4 years ago | (#32995432)

The GPL doesn't define "derivative work", nor does the FSF's GPL FAQ; only the Copyright Act does. If the GPL's interpretation of "derivative work" differs from that of the language of the Copyright Act, or of applicable case law, then the GPL's interpretation will not withstand a court challenge. And in fact, the interpretation of FSF/SFLC/Matt Mullenweg/et al that WordPress Themes are inherently derivative of WordPress core, and therefore inherit GPL, runs exactly opposite to relevant copyright case law [] .

Libraryise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995152)

What if you DIDN'T use the exposed WP interface, and instead wrote your own library-like exposed front end... then your theme would call these functions?

I reason that the libraryised WP would be GPL, as a derivative work, but the theme itself would not.

Went so far as to post on twitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995160)

Matt has gone so far as to post this on Twitter.


Did I sleep through the part of technology evolution where Twitter went from being a venue to tell others about the itch you currently have on your behind, to being "I really mean business. This is official and serious!"

Had To Think About This Some (1)

ElusiveMind (1714020) | about 4 years ago | (#32995162)

Ultimately this is a good thing. I've worked with a number of non-GPL based PHP solutions like Interpire and to a lesser extent Magento - and have (against my better judgement) "bought" modules for these which typically meant the thing is encoded with Zend Optimizer or some other crap and doesn't work half the time anyway.

While I'm not crazy about Wordpress, you do have the same issue with Drupal or many other CMS solutions. It's part of the price you pay for playing ball with someone elses CMS/Framework.

Frankly, I'll accept these terms any day than having to play ball with byte-code compiled PHP.

From the GPL FAQ (1)

edelbrp (62429) | about 4 years ago | (#32995208)

A company is running a modified version of a GPL'ed program on a web site. Does the GPL say they must release their modified sources?

The GPL permits anyone to make a modified version and use it without ever distributing it to others. What this company is doing is a special case of that. Therefore, the company does not have to release the modified sources.

It is essential for people to have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately, without ever publishing those modifications. However, putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly “private” use, so it would be legitimate to require release of the source code in that special case. Developers who wish to address this might want to use the GNU Affero GPL for programs designed for network server use.

IANAL, but it seems as though all end-users creating custom themes may be breaking the license terms?

BTW- I wonder about the config file. To be legit, do I have to release my authentication keys, too?

Hurting his own cause (1)

wesw02 (846056) | about 4 years ago | (#32995260)

First and foremost all he will accomplish by this is scaring companies aware from using GPL stuff. Second, we all know he's wrong (at least that seems to be the theme on /.), but should this make it to court and be decided in his favor it could have serious ramifications on software of all types. Stating that a 3rd party plugin or theme should be held to the license of the of it's integration software could be a serious mess for a lot of people.

Thanks for the traffic. I'll get my site back up. (2, Informative)

AndrewWarner (1862164) | about 4 years ago | (#32995290)

I run, where I did the interview with Matt & Chris. Sorry my site is down. I'm working on it now.

One minor inaccuracy in Jaquith's article (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 years ago | (#32995318)

Movable Type Open Source and Melody (a fork of MTOS) are GPL, but their templates are actually a HTML-like language that is interpreted by MTOS or Melody. As such, they are akin to XSL documents, not PHP files, in part because they never link with MTOS or Melody the way WordPress PHP files and WordPress theme PHP code link together. Therefore, if Thesis were rewritten as a theme for Movable Type or Melody, it would have a very strong position.

So ... WordPress should use the PHP License? (3, Insightful)

wesw02 (846056) | about 4 years ago | (#32995360)

His argument is that WordPress Plugin should be bound to the WordPress license because it uses hooks and attributes from their API. By that very argument Wordpress should be using the PHP License.

Check out the case law. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32995452)

Themes don't inherit the GPL. See the following article:

WordPress Themes, GPL, and Copyright Case Law

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account