49 Comments

  • kelltic

    :) Loved your rant. Feel better now?

  • The first big flaw in your article is “Automattic in this post refers to statements by Matt Mullenweg” which implies that Automattic (or myself) control WordPress.org unilaterally.

    There is a unambiguous decision on the fact that themes and plugins must be GPL under WordPress’ license, and it’s from the Software Freedom Law Center, the people who have been on the winning side of every GPL case that has ever been brought up in the US. I also discussed it with Richard Stallman at WordCamp San Francisco. It’s also an opinion shared by every major developer of WordPress, the majority of whom do not work for Automattic. Thus, it is unfair to refer to the opinions above as mine or Automattic’s, probably the most accurate way to update your article would be to say “the WordPress core team.”

    The GPL is about user freedom, not developer freedom. It says the users have certain rights with regards the the software and no one, not even the developer, can take them away. When someone claims their plugin or theme is not GPL, they take away user freedom. If this wasn’t a concern to us, we would have chosen something like a MIT or BSD license.

  • If you’re curious about the SFLC:

    “The SFLC has dealt with over a hundred compliance matters since its inception on behalf of various clients, including BusyBox and developers of significant portions of the GNU/Linux operating system. The vast majority of these matters usually end with violators voluntarily coming into compliance. In the rare cases when a company refuses to cooperate in good faith, the SFLC has been forced to take legal action on behalf of its clients to enforce FOSS requirements. Since 2007, the SFLC has sued six companies, including Verizon and Cisco, for selling products with embedded FOSS programs in violation of the GPL.”

  • @kelltic

    Not really. You know, best kind of rant is after you are done and you look at situation and think “screw this, it is over”.

    Looking at this one I only feel “this is so not over…”

    @Matt

    Thank you for dropping by and spending your time to reply. This post is not really intended to make another fuss with multiply people involved (we have WPTavern for that, heh), but to express my thoughts on subject in single and appropriate place.

    which implies that Automattic (or myself) control WordPress.org unilaterally.

    I am sorry, but this is impression I get. More like I was never able to distinguish who does control it. And I also get an impression that it is common, see for example WPTavern threads when people had their plugins kicked and were completely lost about who is responsible for what on wp.org.

    There is a unambiguous decision on the fact that themes and plugins must be GPL under WordPress’ license, and it’s from the Software Freedom Law Center, the people who have been on the winning side of every GPL case that has ever been brought up in the US. I also discussed it with Richard Stallman at WordCamp San Francisco.

    I am perfectly aware of that one and it is linked to in post (somehere).

    But decision? That is opinion and there are opinions that differ. I disagree (small me, but again – my opinion which I call what it is).

    It’s also an opinion shared by every major developer of WordPress, the majority of whom do not work for Automattic.

    I am sorry, did I miss a poll?

    WPBlogger did a number of interviews with some of those major developers. Somehow they all say almost same thing – they only went GPL so community would shut up about them. To be “in line with WordPress” and “in line with Automattic” is not strong opinion on GPL, it is weak action to follow the herder.

    When someone claims their plugin or theme is not GPL, they take away user freedom.

    Oh yes, those evil ones who dare to license their work how they see fit and not agreeing to GPL linking opinion. How dare they. :) I mean I use theme licensed under Creative Commons, clearly my freedom is being smashed here.

    If this wasn’t a concern to us, we would have chosen something like a MIT or BSD license.

    Does this void my understanding (stated in post) that WordPress has GPL inherited as b2 fork and is stuck with it (unless some major code changes happen)?

    If this is major concern – why wasn’t license with clear terms on linking extensions used? I believe it’s not that hard and allowed to make derivative of GPL with additional clauses.

    If you’re curious about the SFLC:

    Yep, very scary. I believe I read somewhere that there is no intention from WP to bring any of people who do not agree to lisence their extensions under non-GPL terms to court.

    “We would have totally won this one” is another opinion, not a fact.

    Any of those cases dealt with CMS themes by the way? :)

  • Gubatron

    I say let’s fork the shit out of it, and build a multi-license plugin directory where people can make compatible plugins that can be sold.

    People are selling themes left and right, why can’t awesome PHP developers come and make wordpress better.

    There’s plenty of plugins out there that need to be developed, some people like myself probably have the skills to do it but lack the motivation and time for it.

    Why can’t we have the equivalent of an App Store?

    I’m all for GPL, but you can’t force people to write extensions and license them the way you want to. I’ve heard lots of bad stories also on how the wordpress plugin directory is run, and if you have to time to read some of the code of the most popular plugins in there, it seems like the curation process right out sucks, it all seems like a mafia they got going on there.

    Fork, Fork, Fork, Fork.

  • @Matt

    “The GPL is about user freedom…..If this wasn’t a concern to us, we would have chosen something like a MIT or BSD license.”

    This is a null argument since the original b2/cafelog is GPL, you can’t change it.

    If you care so much about the GPL and freedom, maybe you should encourage Brett Smith to write another letter to Apple and remove the WordPress for iPhone from the Apple Store (http://www.fsf.org/news/2010-05-app-store-compliance/).

    “I also discussed it with Richard Stallman…” and you think it’s a good thing? He was a great programmer but today he is very close to very polemical political affiliations (supportive of Hugo Chavez, Advisory Council of TeleSUR).

    At the end, serious innovations and changes does not care about the GPL issue, because they are made in software as services and they are never released for free. How much do you think the Automattic’s profit come from GPL stuff?

  • @Gubatron

    I believe there are some stores already, PluginBuddy comes to mind. But WP experience is very wp.org-centric in starts. Most users won’t know/care about alternatives anyway.

    By the wa technical side is very wp.org-centric as well. Plugin update system is not flexible and suffers with backwards compatibility issues.

    There’s plenty of plugins out there that need to be developed, some people like myself probably have the skills to do it but lack the motivation and time for it.

    It would be interesting to see service that offers fixing up and bringing up to date plugins from official repository.

    Why can’t we have the equivalent of an App Store?

    Vendor-controlled environment with tight obscure rules and shaky practices? :) I believe we have one. At least we don’t have to root WordPress to install plugins from elsewhere. :)

    I’m all for GPL, but you can’t force people to write extensions and license them the way you want to.

    Craziest thing I hear occasionally is that if WP extensions are mandatory GPL and you can take and do whatever you want with any of them. This is crazy. You can’t assume GPL! Unless developer explicitly made his code GPL it isn’t. He may be or may not be breaking GPL in process, but short of court you can’t just put GPL label on it.

    @Alden Torres

    At the end, serious innovations and changes does not care about the GPL issue, because they are made in software as services and they are never released for free.

    Like wpmu.org if I understand you right. And this is exactly model Automattic( /Matt /core team? :) showed to have problem with. Desirable functionality behind paywall detriments from WordPress “free and happy” image.

  • WordPress extensions cannot run without WordPress, link core WordPress functions and data structures, and are executed as a single stream at runtime. The GPL was created to cover exactly that sort of linking. Just because someone says the opposite, the most comprehensive arguments coming from a Florida real estate attorney, doesn’t mean there is any real dispute. Regardless, the polite thing to do in an ambiguous situation is to respect the intent and opinion of the authors.

    The GPL enables businesses to thrive in a stable environment, as the numerous 100% GPL theme and plugin businesses show. (Which collectively generate tens of millions in revenue a year, and growing fast.) Who knows whether they or their customers care about the GPL or not (is that even relevant?) but they are building their businesses on a strong legal foundation and with the respect and support of the core WP team.

    (By “core team” I mean the several dozen people currently busting their butts to make a powerful, flexible, and stable 3.0 for you, all the while WP is being downloaded over 40k times a day.)

    Automattic, my business, has shown the same, becoming one of the top 10 properties on the web, profitable the whole time, while contributing countless hours to GPL software and releasing all of our improvements from WordPress.com even though we’re not required to under the letter of the GPL, which did not anticipate web services. It’s just the right thing to do.

    I’m probably not going to change your mind if you’ve decided you don’t like the GPL, or that it’s an ambiguous license despite standing strong for 15+ years, but at least recognize that 99% of the businesses out there are 100% in line with the license and doing fantastic. At every WordCamp I meet hundreds of people whose lives and livelihoods have been positively transformed by WordPress, a group we know numbers in the tens of thousands in the United States alone.

    In a market growing this fast, isn’t it common sense to want to be aligned with the platform you’re building on? If not, better to build on something else. If you want a non-GPL platform, I would suggest Habari (Apache), Serendipity (BSD), Movable Type (proprietary license option), or Expression Engine (proprietary). Avoid Drupal or Joomla as they share WordPress’ “opinion” of how extensions should be licensed.

  • WordPress extensions cannot run without WordPress, link core WordPress functions and data structures

    Not necessarily. All or part of extension code can be completely WordPress-unspecific, except for meta information needed to recognize it as extension.

    Even if it is completely WordPress-specific it is still ambiguous if such linking establishes derivative work. I understand you consider that it is. Some people don’t.

    And Wikipedia still has page of text dedicated to how screwed up situation with GPL and linking is. And that text isn’t going away for some reason.

    The GPL was created to cover exactly that sort of linking.

    GPL was created to cover compiled software binaries. It was not created to cover loosely linked interpreted code with CSS, JS, docs and images on top. By the way I have trouble with concept of images under GPL at all.

    (By “core team” I mean the several dozen people currently busting their butts to make a powerful, flexible, and stable 3.0 for you, all the while WP is being downloaded over 40k times a day.)

    I have no gripe with WordPress as product and its development. I am reasonably happy with it, otherwise I’d use something else.

    And I rarely see most WP developers going around telling people how they should run their blogs and businesses. You tend to. :)

    I’m probably not going to change your mind if you’ve decided you don’t like the GPL

    And where did I ever said such thing? I have no issue with GPL. I have issue when people start to play loose with it. I have issue when people in total compliance with GPL are considered some kind of impure. I have issue when GPL is bent to fit opinions instead of being legal document it is. I have issue with GPL used to justify “open source spirit” demands that go well beyond GPL letter.

    In a market growing this fast, isn’t it common sense to want to be aligned with the platform you’re building on?

    When platform tries to police what you say, link to and advertise online at your blog and puts additional restrictions on top of GPL… this decision moves from “common sense” into “may be, may be not” area.

    As I summed up in post I’d like to drop pretense that this stuff is about GPL and GPL only. This is political. You have a vision of how WordPress ecosystem should work (one I believe formed by your business obligations as well as your personal beliefs) and you use leverage you have to implement and uphold this vision.

    I would very much prefer that your vision was in form of clearly defined code of conduct or whatever, as what Chip Bennet suggested on WPTavern.

    Rather than FUD. Because developers being hit with “you are evil and will be banished from WP.org” out of nowhere for no reason except not fitting your vision is FUD. When developers adopt GPL out of fear to not fit your vision alone it is FUD.

    GPL was not made to be scared into.

  • “I have no issue with GPL. I have issue when people start to play loose with it.”

    100% agreed. :) I’ve discussed this very issue with the guy who wrote it, the lawyers who defend it, and my fellow developers who choose to license their work under the GPL. The rights and responsibilities of WordPress developers under the GPL are exactly the same as what they are under other projects with similar structures. Nearly every developer I’ve talked to with an invalid license on their theme or plugin did so because they didn’t know any better. (An honest mistake, one we could probably lessen by more resources on WordPress.org, as you recommend.)

    They switch out their invalid license with the GPL, and their business continues on just as before. The only difference is they’re building their prosperity on a solid foundation of decades and billions of dollars of GPL-based open source development, not some fringe interpretation that seems to occur only along the edges of the WP world. (I can name two, out of well over a hundred substantial businesses and products, so let’s call it 2-3%.) They can focus on things that really matter, like creating solutions that work for their customers and users.

    I have lots of opinions about everything, including how to run a business. (Though that is informed by my relatively short experience.) However one of the freedoms of the GPL is that people can run the code, and their business, in any way they like. That freedom could be taken away, however, by proprietary extensions.

    What if your theme had a license that said you couldn’t criticize the author? (Don’t laugh, there was a CMS that had such a clause in their license.) Now it’s not just your theoretical software freedom, but your actual freedom of speech being taken away, and there’s nothing you can do about it except abandon the theme.

    WordPress protects its users from this by its own license, the GNU Public License (GPL), that says extension developers can’t spoil WordPress with restrictions for their own personal gain at the expense of the community and user freedom. It would be a horrible tragedy of the commons we’ve created together over the past seven years, if such protection wasn’t in place.

    It’s a Bill of Rights for WordPress users.

  • By the way, PluginBuddy, along with the rest of iThemes endeavours, is completely awesome and in line with the GPL. They’re a great example of one of the many businesses that doesn’t think they need to break a license to make a buck. iThemes is listed on the commercial theme directory on WordPress.org, and has been from day one.

  • @Matt

    100% agreed. :)

    Except that I include putting more restrictions on top of GPL as “playing loose” as well. As I repeat it goes well beyond actual license.

    What advertisement you run on blog came up as factor more than once. It has what exactly to do with GPL? It comes back to that “non-GPL-compliant people” which is probably craziest definition I heard this year.

    Every single GPL fallout on WPTavern comes down to letter of GPL versus open source spirit of GPL. And message from “WordPress core team” seems to favor spirit more often than letter.

    Again – it’s you leverage and up to you how to use it. Just don’t be surprised when it irks people who disagree. Leverage works that way – when you swing you hit something.

    They’re a great example of one of the many businesses that doesn’t think they need to break a license to make a buck.

    And yet just as GPL compatible wpmu.org got much less stellar words from you.

    The difference? They dared to sell valuable functionality (as opposed to generic and abundant market of themes). Again – out of GPL realm and into specific vision of WP ecosystem.

    To sum up a little there are different opinions and there always will be. However delivering your opinions with a stick of repository purges and occasional blog comments only blazes stuff more.

    Clear project structure, code of conduct and personal responsibilities. Is it such an irrelevant information to have?

    Also could use real documentation. Codex kinda fails. :)

    I hope I made it clear that I am neither WP or GPL hater. I am not much into hating things overall. But a lot of things with WP really make me react with wtf. And almost two years into it that is a lot of wtf moments.

  • I’ve been talking about the GPL, I think you’re talking about the website policies on WordPress.org-the-website. For the record, WP places *no* additional restrictions on top of the GPL. The license is the license. There’s no spirit. There was confusion around extensions, but that’s been cleared up by us and the SFLC.

    There are a small, small handful of products left that violate WordPress’ license, which is found morally reprehensible by the core team in the same way any intellectual property abuse is. Let’s say what you found morally reprehensible was taking ice cream from kids. Let’s say you were sending significant amounts of traffic to websites that were sponsored by child-ice-cream-stealing, or contained prominent ads on “how to steal ice cream.” You would reconsider sending your audience to such an odious place.

    The third issue you raise, around wpmu.org, has nothing to do with the GPL or valuable functionality but with significant marketplace confusion being created by borrowed designs and predatory trademark infringing domain-name acquisition, use, and SE optimization aimed toward sites like wordpressmu.org. If you put yourself in the shoes of a novice user, it’s very confusing, and one of the reasons we retired the MU moniker.

    If you want fewer WTF moments, change the places you hang out. If you judged by a few Twitter accounts, or particularly drama-filled blogs or forums, you’d think the entire project was on the verge of collapse. Once you get outside of the inside baseball stuff and into the real world, like at a WordCamp, it’s amazing and refreshing to see what the real WP community is like. You’ll never meet a more supportive or generous group anywhere.

  • @Matt

    I’ve been talking about the GPL, I think you’re talking about the website policies on WordPress.org-the-website.

    I am talking how blurred is line between GPL and GPL+open source spirit. What is essentially a technical issue is repeatedly brought into emotional and moral context.

    I’ve seen perfectly fine businesses as Theme Forest with dual-licensed themes referred to as suspicious because of “everything should be GPL” ecosystem you insist on for WP.org

    I talk about GPL and WP.org because believe me they are mixed into complete mess in many heads. Current blend of GPL with semi-official policies on top of it creates environment where you can’t be sure what is license and what are vague unwritten guidelines.

    On traffic – I understand where you come from, but not methods. I find it questionable that it is more important to banish person with some banner on his blog than to have and benefit from fine GPL code he submitted to repository. Again – GPL and moral get mixed up.

    That is not kids and ice-cream, that is more like firing person for what he is doing in his backyard.

    On wpmu – didn’t look like that from the sideline. I revisited those comments when writing this post and it clearly started with functionality and moved into branding later (seemed like afterthought to me).

    Quoting you:
    Therein lies the problem. [...] When that development is instead channeled behind a paywall, regardless of license, the community suffers, as MU has.

    Thus distinct impression that being GPL in WP ecosystem is not enough if you do something “WordPress core team” finds not to their taste.

    If you want fewer WTF moments, change the places you hang out.

    At moment I have little opportunity to travel and I don’t think there are any WordCamps planned around here.

    So here is backwards perspective – people whom you meet at WordCamps are only tiny percentage of WP community. Probably quite active percentage but that doesn’t make numerous people like me that primarily hang out around WP online any less real and any less community.

  • Rush

    Awesome read.

  • @Rush

    I think that is shortest comment I ever had from you. :) Glad this ended up with some entertaining value after all.

  • Gubatron

    So I guess it’s just a matter of the likes of PluginBuddy to streamline the plugin installation and purchase process by creating a GPL Plugin :)

    Basically, you go to a PluginBuddy like site, get their plugin, and then you can browse all the non-free plugins inside your wordpress.

    If only I had the time.

    @Matt:
    And I’m all for GPL, but share the cake baby. Automattic is profitable, super top hot 10 property in great part because of that community that supports you. Why not make it 1000 times more profitable by opening up to the idea of allowing also paid-for plugins?

    Don’t get too cocky on your success, and look to the future, Google will be doing the same on Chrome with their Web App Store, you are in an amazing position to become hugely profitable, if you don’t take that chance you’re not as bright as you think.

  • Gubatron

    I find this line of thinking a little bit weird:

    “WordPress extensions cannot run without WordPress, link core WordPress functions and data structures, and are executed as a single stream at runtime. The GPL was created to cover exactly that sort of linking.”

    It this was true, then every piece of code that runs on the Linux kernel should be GPLd.

    Say you needed to use a socket struct in your C code…

    #include // <– GPL 2 code from kernel
    struct sock* mySockPtr;

    eventually your program will link down to sock.h, it won't be able to open a socket, hell, it won't run without the linux kernel, therefore it must be GPL :)

  • @Gubatron

    Automattic is profitable, super top hot 10 property in great part because of that community that supports you. Why not make it 1000 times more profitable by opening up to the idea of allowing also paid-for plugins?

    Because it’s not their business model. Ideal environment for Automattic seems to be lots of free stuff (big part of WordPress promotional value, it doesn’t want to be known as platform where you have to pay all the time) and GPLed to death so it is as straightforward as possible to use it in WP.com (and then WP.org).

    So ideal stuff – free and completely GPL (not that it even makes much sense for images and such).

    Less than ideal, but bearable – free or paid generic stuff, GPL+something (doesn’t matter that theme is paid, thousands free around).

    Unfavorable – GPL paid killer functionality (no free version), yes I am still not buying that wpmu stuff was about branding alone.

    Mortal sin – paid non-GPL stuff, even worse if it is market success.

    Notice how line is blurred in the middle. You can be ok with license, but so-called “community” (people labeled as such by “WordPress core team”) won’t be happy with you.

    Yesterday I had seen post on WPTavern straightly saying that dual-licensing is against WordPress philosophy. Crazy, but that is what “community” being formed into. GPL or else!

  • Gubatron, with regards to the kernel, fortunately they’ve thought of that. Kernel modules (like WP extensions) are considered to fall under the GPL, but the COPYING file includes a specific note on userspace programs: “NOTE! This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel services by normal system calls – this is merely considered normal use of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of “derived work”.”

    In a similar way WordPress doesn’t consider programs using the XML-RPC, Atom, RSS, or other HTTP-based APIs to fall under the GPL. Someone could write a theme that didn’t use any WordPress functions, just parsed public RSS feeds, and I wouldn’t consider that to be under the GPL. There are some other technicalities, such as the include direction, but that’s the gist.

    I’m not sure what you mean by share the cake — I can’t think of any cake more delicious than the right to use all of the GPL code we release or contribute to for any purpose, including commercial. The WordPress ecosystem collectively makes 25-50x Automattic’s revenue. (Just because we contribute the most back, doesn’t mean we make the most.) That’s a direct result of how open the commercial community, of which Automattic is a part, has remained.

  • Rarst, I know that in day-to-day life it’s unusual for a commercial entity to have a mission besides just profit, but it does happen! Spend some time talking to any Automattician and you’ll see that. Also, your theory only works if this was a grand conspiracy promoted by Automattic people to dupe everyone into releasing things for free and taking advantage of that. It breaks down because that hasn’t happened, we’ve produced and contributed back enormous amounts of code and time, and the reading of the GPL you disagree with is the consensus amoung many independent organizations, including dozens of individual contributors and the SFLC.

  • @Matt

    This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel services by normal system calls – this is merely considered normal use of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of “derived work”

    So… Aren’t WordPress extensions “normal use of WordPress core” then? :)

    I don’t know details on Linux, so if you might clear up this… Whose choice it was to define userspace apps as normal use on Linux? Whose choice it is to determine WordPress extensions as derivatives? Wait, you said there is no choice…

    Also, your theory only works if this was a grand conspiracy promoted by Automattic people to dupe everyone into releasing things for free and taking advantage of that.

    Oh, I don’t believe in conspiracy. I don’t think you click “chatroom for discussing evil plots” in the morning and decide whom you are going to go screw up today. :)

    But scenario works just fine without conspiracy. See reference to interviews with major developers above. They did not comply with GPL because they had strong opinion and clear idea how would that benefit their business (judgin by interviews it hardly does). The complied merely to be “in line”.

    And that is line you are drawing.

    Ask a payment for killer functionality and you are hostile. Put a banner to Thesis on your blog and you are immoral. Dual-license your code and you are suspicious.

    No need for conspiracy theory for these thoughts blooming. Just occasional WP.org purge and comment here and there.

  • JeeMan

    Interesting read, but man, this is way over my head!

  • @JeeMan

    This issue is one of WP land mines. :) You start to use WordPress thinking “hey – this is cool, easy and overall awesome” and year later it is “wtf, I wish I knew this, this and that”.

    Well, techie perspective. Luckily most of WP users won’t have to ever bother bother knowing issues with GPL and many more.

  • I’ve tried my best in this conversation, but I feel like you’ve already made up your mind and you don’t accept anything I say at face value without imagining a bad intention behind it. i hope that you continue to enjoy the benefits of using WordPress, even if you disagree with the people who built it.

  • @Matt

    I feel like you’ve already made up your mind

    I have no problem changing my mind. But I don’t see much new data here. I am aware of both views on linking, repeatedly stressing that your opinion is right doesn’t really make me less sure about mine.

    you don’t accept anything I say at face value without imagining a bad intention

    I am not imagining bad intention, more like biased towards certain things.

    i hope that you continue to enjoy the benefits of using WordPress, even if you disagree with the people who built it.

    Will do. :)

    Thank you for your time!

  • @Matt,

    I personally appreciate your time writing in this post. It doesn’t matter if the result is nothing more than good comments. It’s always good to see you inside the community.

  • @Matt
    (It’s awesome that you’re actually reading this btw, thanks for the time spent)

    What do I mean by “Sharing the Cake”? I think you could do a hell of a lot better than Steve Jobs himself on running a Plugin Store for wordpress. You have the Open vision, and you have demonstrated to truly know the technicalities and gray areas of the GPL, I will in no way win an argument on those areas with you.

    I think that there are some interesting ideas that can work ON TOP of WordPress via a GPL plugin. Let’s say I built an RPG platform to engage users into participating, rating, the content of a WordPress based website. I could build my entire RPG platform completely independent of wordpress and have it talk to WordPress using a GPL plugin, I’d like to sell my RPG platform to 10s of thousands of blogs out there, wouldn’t it be cool if we shared the cake?

    By me having a WordPress Centric experience to sell my RPG Platform + WordPress RPG Plugin THROUGH the Official Plugin Directory I get plenty of exposure, Automattic gets a % of each sale. If it’s a service, Automattic gets a % on every recurrying payment.

    As of now, Automattic is doing fine, you managed to create a great business model around it but you’re eating all the cake. Sure, we get GPL code, but why not consider the opportunity. Themes are making a killer, there’s tons of Web entrepreneurs who would jump on a WordPress Market in an instant, there’s so much fabric to cut on this idea, think micropayments, virtual goods that could be shared across wordpress instances.

    I think WP can be a lot more while still keeping it’s GPL flavor, I think there should work arounds and you’ll be flooded with business.

  • shawn sandy

    “WordPress extensions does not include or bundle WordPress code, the only thing from WP they include are function names.”

    I think it is pointless to discuss a GPL or license if you fail to recognize the validity of the license or the spirit of the thing or even know that a function is more than a name.

    Developers who are against the GPL simply want to have their cake and eat it to, you build on code that was made free to you and use it to make money ignore the license and then want others to respect yours!!!!

    Whats even worse is that these developers can find creative ways to work around the GPL but most do not want to do the work with a couple lines of code you could write a theme that runs atop the theme structure, it is basic, but I doubt some of them even have the skill to do it.

  • @shawn sandy

    First and last warning – I will not allow trolling here. You want to talk, keep it polite and civil and less assuming everyone is dumb but you.

    I think it is pointless to discuss a GPL or license if you fail to recognize the validity of the license or the spirit of the thing

    I never challenged validity of GPL. Spirit of GPL is something so vague that some people twist in the opposite of GPL really promotes. So don’t give me spirit, most of the time that is only tool for people to justify their personal agendas and cover ass with authority of GPL.

    function is more than a name

    Calling functions and incorporating them in your code are different things. Disagree?

    Developers who are against the GPL

    And what gives you idea that developers are against GPL? That they dare to disagree on linking? And that is exactly the problem with attitude – you either shut up and what WordPress core team says or you are evil all around. Yay for WordPress freedom.

    want others to respect yours

    I think all work deserves respect. And work of third party developers no less than work of WordPress core team. Not being hired by Automattic doesn’t make someone inferior human being.

    Whats even worse is that these developers can find creative ways to work around the GPL but most do not want to do the work with a couple lines of code you could write a theme that runs atop the theme structure, it is basic, but I doubt some of them even have the skill to do it.

    Can’t make sense of this passage. Why find ways around GPL if you may just stick with your opinion on linking and release your extension in line with that? Why bend your code to fit opinion that is neither yours or something you agree with?

  • shawn sandy

    I am sure where I was impolite, but I will apologize for sharing my view and having a strong difference of opinion, after all it is your blog and I have respect your wishes!!!

  • shawn sandy

    ***I am sure I was not impolite, but I will apologize for sharing my view and having a strong difference of opinion, after all it is your blog and I have respect your wishes!

  • @shawn sandy

    I have no issue with you sharing your views, different or not. I only ask that you don’t treat those with different opinion as morally or intellectually inferior.

    In that one comment you claimed other side of debate is unable to understand terms of GPL, sucks at programming and is out to maliciously rip off WordPress project.

    If that is polite I’d hate to see your version of rude.

    As for me THIS is the issue with WordPress community. And this is exactly what original post is about – having different opinion on GPL and linking (or whatever else) should not be an excuse to vilify people.

  • shawn sandy

    “In that one comment you claimed other side of debate is unable to understand terms of GPL, sucks at programming and is out to maliciously rip off WordPress project…..”

    Your interpretation I cannot change that…

    As it is the web today is filled with way too much noise and clutter, so when I say anything I try to be as direct and factual as possible not politically correct.

    This is not the first time I have engaged you in this conversation and the like I said the GPL is clear on this matter and that is a fact!

    Another fact is that when you add a function to a theme it executes pieces WP code and what you get is the results of the code… Without the WP code and the php compiler all I would be seeing is “”. It is the GPL that allows you to do this if it did not you would not be able to reuse a single line of that code for anything. It is the way code works, suggesting otherwise seems either irresponsible or uninformed.

    “freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs….”

    All of the themes I write for WP use a simple MVC structure and I do this for two reasons 1. Is the WordPress theme structure of including files is archaic, and does not allow you to reuse code.

    2. I can truly separate my design and code from the WordPress core and in fact reuse it anywhere. It does not take much to do this.

    I have looked at a lot of these themes they contain a lot of sloppy code that is not fit for redistribution or resale for that matter.

    As for frameworks most of them contain WP function wrapped in more functions creating more bloat than innovation IMHO.

    My biggest issue with the GPL is that it seems to promote free as beer more than it does Freedom to share but that is a whole other issue.

    That said you can choose to delete this post if you wish, I would expect and have no problem with it.

  • @shawn sandy

    Another fact is that when you add a function to a theme it executes pieces WP code and what you get is the results of the code… Without the WP code and the php compiler all I would be seeing is “”.

    Is WP derivative of PHP? It does execute PHP functions and get results. WP won’t work without PHP.

    It is the GPL that allows you to do this if it did not you would not be able to reuse a single line of that code for anything. It is the way code works, suggesting otherwise seems either irresponsible or uninformed.

    So you think Linux is wrong in considering function calls as “normal use of kernel” and not establishing derivative work?

    GPL establishes license inheritance for derivative works. Unfortunately what IS derivative work can be vague. GPL contains no definitions of such on top of weakly formulated that is to say, a work containing the Program or a portion of it.

    I have looked at a lot of these themes they contain a lot of sloppy code that is not fit for redistribution or resale for that matter.

    I must note that WP code is hardly marvel itself… :)

  • shawn sandy

    This is why I have to sound like I talk down, I get my facts before I make a statement so I am confident when I say something or I say I do not Know…

    It does not matter if WP is a derivative of PHP under the php licence it does not make a difference.

    ” GPL enforces many restrictions on what can and cannot be done with the licensed code. The PHP developers decided to release PHP under a much more loose license (Apache-style), to help PHP become as popular as possible.” http://www.php.net/license/index.php#faq-lic

    I am not familiar with the linux licence so I cannot answer that questions sorry.

    Actually the GPL is quite clear on what it considers a derivative!

    The WP code is simple for most part, I am not sure what you mean by hardly a marvel???

  • It does not matter if WP is a derivative of PHP under the php licence it does not make a difference.

    I missed the answer… So do you or do you not consider WP derivative of PHP? :)

    Actually the GPL is quite clear on what it considers a derivative!

    Quote please.

    The WP code is simple for most part, I am not sure what you mean by hardly a marvel???

    Simple?? I mean that it is messy, complicated, plagued by multiple layers of backwards compatibility and deprecated functions.

    In the end it works, but I suspect that a lot of sloppy third party code is that way because it is pain to get it right with WordPress. Every little thing with WP can waste ton of time on how to do it in right way with poorly documented APIs.

  • shawn sandy

    “A derivative is something which has been developed or obtained from something else” so technically it is!

    Now thats out of the way read the GPL to understand how derivatives should be handled.

    Have you ever really explored WP code-base, do you understand why backwards compatibility is an issue, or it exists!

    I can assure that sloppy codes by theme and plugin devs have nothing to do with WordPress!

  • “A derivative is something which has been developed or obtained from something else”

    When I open blank text file and write code for WordPress theme I neither “develop from” or “obtain from” WordPress. I can code without even seeing any of WP code, merely using API documentation.

    How can I derive from code I don’t see?

    I am still waiting for your answer is WP derivative of PHP? Is PHP in turn derivative of OS?

    Have you ever really explored WP code-base, do you understand why backwards compatibility is an issue, or it exists!

    I am not particularly interested why, I am interested how to deal with it. And it is rarely a pleasant process.

    I can assure that sloppy codes by theme and plugin devs have nothing to do with WordPress!

    Yeah, how kind of you to decide for all of WordPress developers. Wait, you don’t.

    When official WP documentation contains wonderful instructions like Meh, I’m not going to tell you now. there is no wonder developers screw up.

  • shawn sandy

    Are you still trying to present a valid argument against the GPL here… cause it is getting weaker with every response.

    A blank text file… You can code without seeing any WordPress code??? I am not particularly interested why???

    Devs are the ones that start with “blank txt files” and fill it with lousy code poor structure and redundant “functions” AKA frameworks…

    I am sorry but how do you expect me to take your argument seriously!

  • @shawn sandy

    There is not a single argument against GPL on this page. If you don’t understand that – read damn post and 29 comments after it.

    I expected you to participate in logical discussion, but apparently repeatedly saying that you are right (and everyone else must be dumb to not understand that) works for you better.

    I am taking you seriously (or at least try to). If you are not willing to spend even this much effort I will just stop replying to your comments, even if that is against how I run my blog.

  • This is quite an interesting series of comments. 2 sides having monologue; without giving credence to any facts presented by other side. I am not on either side, and have no take on the issue, but this is neither a discussion nor a debate; just 2 sides shouting out loud with their ears closed :)

  • @Ishan

    Well… As I said above Matt didn’t really present any facts I wasn’t aware of. And speaking frankly ignored most of really interesting questions. I made my take on arguments of both sides very clear in the post, but that got largely ignored.

    As usual.

    It is so much more convenient and usual to try and twist me into stupid-person-who-hates-GPL-open-source-and-even-kittens rather than stick to what I really wrote in post.

    It wasn’t my intention to have discussion under this post with Matt or at all. I merely had these thoughts boiling for some time and is there any more fitting place to put them in writing than my blog? :) Shouting is just collateral damage.

  • I find myself on the fence. I love WordPress, I use WordPress and I profit from WordPress. But, I have absolutely felt vilified with a bit of “elitist behavior towards me where opinion was shined on as fact” subtlety from mods, theme reviewers and WP programmers/developers that share a certain view.

    It doesn’t anger me to the point of the same passion you have about it, but I get it and it’s frustrating, convoluted and certainly not ideal. I see both sides. I’ve contributed one theme and one plugin officially to WordPress totally for free, for fun, interest, experience and perhaps a little recognition/backlink love in return (for anyone to deny that would be a lie).

    However, I recently ventured into premium theme territory that of course pushed me to do my research into GPL. When all I was doing was contributing for free it was easy going, but now that I’ve gone to premium there is definitely this weight of how dare I try and make money, the commercial evil has consumed me.

    I don’t get this from the top, but from the people in the middle that perhaps haven’t been given a clear enough handbook into how they should treat WordPress’ users, designers, developers or people in general. When programmers wouldn’t work with me because my project was premium or my ideas of the project didn’t fit this WordPress’ unwritten ethical codes guideline I definitely felt this “I’m a bad guy.” attitude. Until I read this article, I thought I was the only one asking myself “What the hell, I’m a professional. I give a lot of stuff away for free, but I can’t work hard on something and then make a profit on it too?”

    And then I read this and it really put things into perspective:

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

    “Many people believe that the spirit of the GNU Project is that you should not charge money for distributing copies of software, or that you should charge as little as possible — just enough to cover the cost. This is a misunderstanding.

    Actually, we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can. If this seems surprising to you, please read on.”

    That’s the official gnu.org stance on the issue and seemingly the way WordPress also feels considering they have a commercial showcase of theme on their site itself.

    So, I don’t think Matt is to blame or any other conglomerate of higher ups. I get the feeling that all the unpaid people that help out the WordPress project (the people who really run things) have sort of created their own idealism on how things should be. Here’s an analogy for you…

    WordPress is like an island. Matt and the core team are sort of like guards that keep just enough pressure and explain just enough to appease the king (the law) and keep the people in order. And all the mods, theme reviewers, developers, designers, users, customers etc (“the community”) are all the people dropped onto this island.

    They’re told just enough to stay in compliance and be allowed to stay on the island. But, for all pertinent info, nuances and in-between stuff they have to figure out for themselves. And without enough clarity from the guards they form all sorts of varying opinions and break off into groups. They know enough to appease the guards and the king, but they never learned how to all get along.

    The bottom line is that wherever there are people, there’s trouble. Whether that be an island, a city or even an online community it is political, I can’t see how that could be argued. You make a very valid point.

    Ironically, though I’m made to feel like a bad guy for earning a living, my ideals of how to give away for free or sale digital goods is way less restricting than even that of the GPL. All the code I write on my blog or software, website templates etc that I create, I don’t even want to restrict how people can or can’t use it at all, adding no license most of the time. But, because we live in such a litigious society people are scared. So I have to say that it’s public domain and they can safely use whatever it is, however they want.

    My ideal would be no licenses at all. But, to play with WordPress is not a mutual friendship. WordPress is that one kid you played with growing up (you know the one). You benefit from one another’s company enough to still be their friend, but it’s not mutual. WordPress is the dominant friend. If you don’t agree with them or do the things they want to do they won’t play with you anymore, period.

    So, although it’s interesting to discuss these issues and our opinions, they’re just that and no one cares and nothing is going to change.

    Like I said, I’m on the fence, neither left or right. So my opinions are probably less popular than any.

    Thanks, Bryan

  • [...] The WordPress community is pretty divided on the subject and really all over the might. I read an interesting article that shares some of my same views on the issue.My thoughts on what was said and GPL are as [...]

  • @Bryan Hadaway

    Note the post is from couple years ago, it was about peak of GPL wars. I think the interesting takeaway is that “every WP extension is derivative under GPL” was de facto (and silently) dropped since and official plugin repository demands merely GPL compatibility, not inheritance.

    I disagree that the top folks had little to do with it. It were and remain their ideals that crowds adopted… and often blew out of proportion. It was their witch hunts and policies that educated people to go around and mess with people to “uphold” those ideals.

    In the end my standing opinion on the licensing perception by WP higher circles – it’s a stick. Handy when you need to smack someone, boring and irrelevant rest of the time.

  • @Rarst – All the same, as a newcomer to premium theming, doing my GPL research lead me to your article. While being two years old, still holds true on many points as I experience them for the first time.

    Many of those points being of non-GPL origin and more of this fear of breaking compliance undertone that is ever present in the “company”.

    Right now I’m pondering GPLv2 vs GPLv3.

    Thanks, Bryan

  • [...] Or we could be watching political drama for dramas sake, that has been going on for a long time, here’s an old blog post on the subject from the venerable Rarst: [...]

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