WordPress Plugin and Theme GPL Misconceptions, Misinformation, and Perspective

I don’t have some crazy linkbait title bashing some plugin, developer, or Automattic employee/executive, but you’re here so I guess you still found the post somehow.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about a variety of issues related to the commercialization and GPLness of plugins, themes, and Automattic.  Some of these discussions have been overlapping and conflicting.  Most of them are crap, and it’s getting harder and harder to weed through all the crap to find the legitimate stuff.

It’s been made clear before, but I’ll say it one last time, if you develop a plugin or theme for WordPress and plan on hosting it at wordpress.org, giving it away, selling it, or distributing it to the public in any fashion it must be GPL.  If you don’t like this, then go develop for something else.  When I started developing for WordPress, I did so with the knowledge that someone could take the fruits of my hard work, and redistribute it as their own.  This is seen by some as a crutch, a roadblock to making money with GPL software development.  Some people have decided that the GPL is some sort of burden (whether by design, flaws, or implementation) to making money.  Tell that to Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, our own Automattic, or the countless thousands of people and companies making their living from WordPress in some way (including fully compliant plugin and theme development).

For one thing, if you’re developing plugins because you think you’ll get rich off the donations, then stop right now before you waste your time.  Aside from the fact that we do it for other reasons that you’ll never understand, your average wp.org plugin just isn’t going to provide you with donations on a level that will afford you early retirement.  Open source software development is about the community being able to bring together collective and individual efforts to create applications that best serve everyone. It’s not about getting software free of charge, even though that often can be a great side effect.

I sometimes wonder if some of the GPL misconceptions we see in the WordPress community are largely due to people having their first exposure to “free and open source” software with WordPress.  They see this great free software with lots of free community supporting, plugins, and themes, and perhaps think that everything has to be free, or that everything touched by GPL software has to be free (in either sense of the word).

Let’s look at Akismet.  You can download the Akismet plugin, which of course is free of charge, but also the GPL kind of free.  This plugin interfaces with a proprietary Akismet service.  The Akismet service doesn’t have GPL freedoms, that doesn’t even apply here.  Whether or not the Akismet plugin costs money has absolutely nothing to do with it being GPL, and whether or not the Akismet service it interacts with costs money has nothing to do with the plugin being GPL.  Another example would be any one of the many Google-related plugins.  There are plugins to interact with Google Maps, Google Analytics, Youtube, Google Translate, Google search, etc.  These plugins are all GPL (free as in liberty).  They interact with a service that is not.  We don’t have access to the source code of Google, and have no liberties with it, other than being able to use their API.  Whether or not Google charges for any of these services is irrelavent.  The code that the GPL applies to is the plugin itself.  The fact that it happens to interface with something that may or may not be commercial, and may or may not be GPL doesn’t affect the GPLness of the plugin itself.

Making money with WordPress Themes and Plugins

There have been some recent movements to help plugin developers either be better compensated for their work, or to develop a solid business model.

There has been talk a while back, and again recently, about Automattic creating a commercial themes repository for the community theme developers to use.  Now people have been talking about a commercial plugin repository, which could possibly be similar to the iPhone App store.  While I wouldn’t be opposed to this happening, I won’t lose any sleep at night if it doesn’t.  I keep seeing all these posts and comments lately that Automattic or Matt needs to define a list of business models.  Although I suppose it would be great to have someone tell me how to make tons of money, it really isn’t their responsibility to hold the hand of someone trying to figure out how.  They’ve made it clear that they pretty much don’t care (and fully support) whatever business model you dream up, just as long as you comply with the GPL.

Another topic being discussed lately is the fact that donations to plugins are fairly meager. Again, I have to point out, that if you’re concerned about how you’re going to make money with the plugin you uploaded to the repository, you’re missing the point of creating that plugin.  As someone who develops several popular WordPress plugins, I can testify that you aren’t likely to make a living from the donations.  Do I enjoy receiving and appreciate donations of any size?  Of course I do.  Do I require it or look down on someone just because they don’t donate?  Absolutely not.  I have no problems with receiving little or no donations from most people for my contributions, that’s not why I do it.  If I never get another donation I would still continue to work on developing my public and private plugins and love doing it!

Some people wonder about a plugin developer who’s had part or all of the functionality of their plugin intergrated into the core of WordPress.  I suppose I can see why someone could be upset if they just lost what was their primary means of income, but again, this is missing the point of the GPL.  (I need to point out that certain functionality of a plugin winding up in the core doesn’t mean that the specific code they used is the same as the code to achieve that functionality in the core, but that’s a topic for another day.)  The point of the GPL isn’t to enable someone to have access to free (of charge) software, or to be able to take someone elses’ software and put their own name on it.  Are the developers of SimplePie or TinyMCE upset that WordPress uses their software in the core?  I doubt it, especially since SimplePie themselves makes a WordPress plugin.  The whole point is that we can all benefit.  It may not be much consolation to tell you that you should be honored that the functionality of your plugin was so great and so desired that it made it’s way into the core, but that’s what it’s all about.

About

Christian, Voluntaryist, Marine, Southerner, WordPress enthusiast.

47 comments on “WordPress Plugin and Theme GPL Misconceptions, Misinformation, and Perspective
  1. Jake says:

    Nice article!

  2. Kevin Eklund says:

    Hey Michael,
    Thanks for chiming in on this topic. I think you bring a lot of experience to the table and that’s great to have you opinion.

    BTW, it is not my intent to bash Matt or create “link bait” whatever that’s suppose mean. Most people see Automattic’s plugins and/or business model questionable because they don’t understand the relationship between the two and when commercial entities can/can’t be GPL compliant and still be allowed to have their plugins or themes in the official WordPress repository. With that in mind, and the fact that most people still don’t understand that when the GPL refers to “free” it means free to distribute, not free as in price, there is obviously still a need to explain it to people.

    With regard to:
    “Although I suppose it would be great to have someone tell me how to make tons of money, it really isn’t their responsibility to hold the hand of someone trying to figure out how. They’ve made it clear that they pretty much don’t care (and fully support) whatever business model you dream up, just as long as you comply with the GPL.”

    I like your choice of words 🙂 “hold the hand” Ha! You make it sound so simple yet you left out the fact that many theme developers did comply with the GPL and their themes were thrown out of the repository last year based on what was on the developer’s own website, and not related to GPL compliance issues. That can be devastating to someone that depends on that. That’s just not a risk worth taking for some developers and that’s why they need to be clear about what’s allowed and what’s not.

    If Matt and company could simply create a listing of what is acceptable and what isn’t with regards to GPL compliant business models and the relationship one’s business has with his/her plugins and themes that can/can’t be hosted at WP.org, you and I wouldn’t be writing about this. It’s really that simple.

    • Michael says:

      It’s not my opinion, Matt & Co have been explicitly clear. Your theme or plugin has to be GPL or GPL compliant. If someone doesn’t understand what that means, that isn’t their fault, and it isn’t their responsibility to educate (even though they have, countless times). This also applies to there being some sort of list of acceptable business models. This is both impossible and unnecessary. It’s impossible because they can’t possibly come up with every potential business model that a person may create. It’s unnecessary because because they’ve already let us know what we can and can’t do (refer back to the GPL/GPL compatible requirement for this).

      As for the removal of the themes for GPL compliant themes that had questionable material on their websites? I don’t know, I didn’t do it. Matt has talked about this before, and if you’re not clear, I would suggest asking him or another wordpress.org administrator about it. He keeps telling people to contact him directly with any questions, and specifically told you to do that.

  3. Kevin Eklund says:

    So you’re saying it’s impossible to identify common business models that adhere to GPL compliancy? No, it really not. Most would fall under a few examples.

    To assume that Matt and Automattic don’t make any mistakes is ludicrous. Do we really have to go over the Revolution2 banner ad placed in the theme repository that contained an affiliate e-junkie link?

    • Michael says:

      Yes, it’s impossible to identify every possible business model. (and unnecessary) They’ve already discussed the guidelines for including your theme or plugin in the repository (again, it has to be GPL or GPL compatible). Outside of that, as long as you don’t violate their license or trademark, I doubt they care very much what legitimate business model you have. Like Matt said, I’m sorry that you haven’t been able to find a good business model to use in the WordPress world. Not everyone is having that problem, and for those that are, it isn’t Matt’s job to tell you how to make money with WordPress.

      I neither implied nor explicitly stated that Matt and/or Automattic don’t make mistakes.

    • Kevin, to be clear -the eJunkie link was placed there as a means to tracking conversions, and not a way that WordPress was going to make money through my affiliate program. When it became clear that folks wanted to come up with their own theories, the link was changed within an hour from the banner being placed to avoid any confusion on the matter.

  4. Kevin Eklund says:

    I think you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree here about whether or not it’s necessary to identify GPL compliant business models. I think the simple fact we are discussing it speaks for itself but I respect your opinion too.

    The article was not an attempt to find a business model for myself, it was to promote awareness, however, your attempted use of a red herring is a good try 🙂

    I read what you wrote Michael; I know you didn’t say that Matt and/or Automattic are impervious to making mistakes. Whether it’s honest mistakes, favoritism, or whatever, it’s still best to know the facts and tackle issues that most people in the WP community won’t touch or don’t have the balls to address. Like I said before, obviously there are many questions that still need to be addressed and that most individuals in the WP community share the same concerns.

    Seriously though Michael, I respect your opinion and I don’t wish to engage you in a debate as there is no judge to rule who wins and loses. And since it is most likely that neither of us will concede to other, our efforts are better left to other topics of interest. I do not wish to offend you either, so I hope you do not think that’s my intent.

    • Michael says:

      “I think the simple fact we are discussing it speaks for itself” No, that just means that you don’t understand.

      “it’s still best to know the facts and tackle issues that most people in the WP community won’t touch or don’t have the balls to address. Like I said before, obviously there are many questions that still need to be addressed and that most individuals in the WP community share the same concerns.” Anything legitimate that you’ve brought up has already been brought up before. It’s fine if you honestly need help understanding something, but you aren’t pioneering any grand new topics that nobody else has dared touch.

      I think it’s clear that one of two things is your motivation. Either 1) you need help understanding how certain things work with in the WordPress world or 2) you just want to get some traffic to your blog. Judging by the content of your blog post alone, I would lean towards #2. Judging by your titles, etc, I would definitely say that it’s obvious you were mostly just making a linkbait post.

      None of what you’ve done in the past couple of days has done anything constructive to help the WordPress community. You’ve mainly just insulted Matt, and made wild accusations and assumptions, as though Automattic is some mystical entity that discloses very little. Please understand that nobody is taking you seriously, as you apparently have very little knowledge of WordPress and of Automattic.

      • Kevin Eklund says:

        Hey Michael,
        Like I said I don’t wish to engage you in a mean spirited way and I’m not saying offensive things to you so can give me the same kind of respect and return the favor please?

      • Kevin Eklund says:

        Micheal said:
        “None of what you’ve done in the past couple of days has done anything constructive to help the WordPress community.”

        Wow, even if you disregard the article about Matt and Automattic, I you’d have to admit that many commenters, visitors, and social media bookmarks and tweets would argue otherwise about the first article that brought the whole idea regarding helping promote donations to plugin developers would be a good thing. Especially you, as a plugin developer someone whose quote it in the article.

        Once again, thanks for insulting me and my blog but I’ll ask you to not do it again as I am not insulting you. How many times do I have to say that to convince you that I mean you no harm?

  5. Kevin Eklund says:

    Questions:

    1. Can you explain why you didn’t include the links to the exact articles you are referring to and making such arguments? I think that would really help people understand what exactly you are talking about.

    2. Can you tell me why you are holding such links in moderation and not allowing me to use the article permalink you refer to as my website (such was the case for my very first comment here)?

    It’s possible they may have got caught in your filter because there are two of them within the comment that is currently in moderation. I saved them if they accidentally got deleted so if that’s the case, just let me know and I can shoot you the image and/or text of them. If this was a mistake feel free to disregard/toss this comment.

    3. Why don’t you use a subscribe to comments plugin here? It sure would make it easier on my end.

    • Michael says:

      1. This post isn’t about you. Most references are to discussions from the http://wptavern.com forum, WP Weekly, and various private discussions that have been going on for a while.
      2. Your comment with multiple links to your site was automatically flagged as spam (as was your first comment which I removed from the spam box). I don’t allow links to articles like that.
      3. I don’t use a subscribe to comments plugin because I use the RSS feed capabilities built into WordPress. You can subscribe to the comments feed of the post at the bottom.

      • Kevin Eklund says:

        In your original version of the comment you did not include those references to wptavern and WP Weekly, nor did you link to them in your article. Obviously you don’t want to link to my article because you disagree with it. But like I said, I can respect that and I invite you to join me in making sense of this with another article that maps GPL compliant business models.

        Here’s what you said and I pulled this straight from the complete page image capture:

        “1. This post isn’t about you.
        2. Your comment with multiple links was automatically flagged as spam (as was your first comment which I removed from the spam box). I don’t allow links to articles like that.
        3. I don’t use a subscribe to comments plugin because I use the RSS feed capabilities built into WordPress. You can subscribe to the comments feed of the post at the bottom.”

  6. Kevin Eklund says:

    Okay, well that’s too bad you feel that way. I didn’t intend to make it about me (another red hearring); that’s exactly why I’m here talking with you.

    Your actions to withhold reference to the articles and not let the visitor see them doesn’t seem to be in the true spirit of openness and discussion that WordPress is built on but that’s your right and I can respect that.

    I went ahead and tweeted your article anyway that includes my comment in moderation and I have no ill will towards you. I will most likely post a follow-up article to address GPL compliant business models since Matt doesn’t seem to be interested in doing so. I also intend to make reference to your article as you have another opinion that’s in stark contrast to mine. I think it’s good to provide visitors with different opinions on topics and I would greatly like to have your input in the article as I think you possess great insight in to this matter. Perhaps together we can make sense of all this and end the controversy. Is that something you are interested in doing for the good of the WP community?

    • Michael says:

      As if I needed any other reason to think you are just trying to get traffic to your blog, the fact that you are mostly just talking about posts that you’ve made on your blog add to that. This is for comments on my blog post, yet you’re spamming it with references to your own blog.

      By the way, all of your comments are getting caught by the spam filter. Read into that however you like.

      • Kevin Eklund says:

        Michael, I reached out to you and added a quote from you in the first article. I quoted you exactly. This is how you treat someone that is being nice to you?

      • Kevin Eklund says:

        Well, I guess my comments getting caught in the spam filter is the price I pay for not aligning my opinion with yours and challenging Akismet’s owner. I can accept that if it helps clarify things for the WP community.

    • I’m fairly certain Michael didn’t allow you to link to your article because he doesn’t want his readers to be misinformed about anything. It’s nothing against the true spirit of openness and discussion. It’s just against the the idea of having more misinformation floating around the Web.
      .-= Justin Tadlock´s last blog ..Series: WordPress Plugin =-.

      • Kevin Eklund says:

        JustinTadlock:

        If you’re worried about readers getting misinformed I think it’s a little late for that. The comments on your post, prior to me ever writing my article or commenting on your site, were misinformed and that’s why there was and is so much confusion.

        Your own article posted on 12-11-2008 citing the 200 themes removed from WordPess.org does more to misinform the reader than my article ever could. That is, unlike you, I do not censor people and remove their avatar link because I disagree with their opinion. Anyone is welcome to share their opinion on my article as I believe that best defense against misinformation is open discussion so we can point out what is true and what is not. Censorship is the worst and most despicable act on the web and everyone knows that.

        I wish you the best Justin. Honestly, I don’t dislike you just because you disagree with my opinion and I won’t censor you if you choose to share your opinion with my readers. I encourage you to comment if you see any misinformation and I will update the post or write a follow-up article to tackle such misinformation.

  7. Jay Todd says:

    Great article, I found it to be very informative. What are your thoughts on the WP ecommerce business model? Do you think it’s been successful for them? Are they compliant with the GPL? What about the Shopp business model? I don’t think they’re GPL compliant are they? Which do you think is probably more successful?

    Sorry for all the questions. Great plugins by the way. I love your All-in-one SEO and Security Scan. Any thoughts on incorporating any of your plugins with a commercial business model?

  8. Jay Todd says:

    Also, what about a commercial plugin repository that’s not hosted by Automatic? I wonder if anyone would be willing to do that?

  9. Kevin Eklund says:

    Michael,
    I am a user of your All in One SEO Pack and I greatly appreciate your work to create it.

    I just donated $10 to you. I wish I could have done more but I am not a rich man and I have more donations to disperse.

    Let me know if you interested in co-authoring that article. Once again, I think you could provide some great insight. I sincerely wish you the best.

  10. Kevin Eklund says:

    Michael,
    Just wanted to make sure you got my $10 donation for use of your great All in One SEO pack plugin. Sorry it can’t be more but I have others to hand out and I’m far from rich 🙂

    For some reason my comments aren’t even showing up in moderation anymore. Anyway, I wish you the best. Let me know if you are interested in co-authoring that article. I think your opinion and insight would be a great benefit.

  11. Jeffro says:

    Great post Michael. There are a couple of great points you bring up. First, not all plugin authors are doing it for the money. Second is this statement:

    Open source software development is about the community being able to bring together collective and individual efforts to create applications that best serve everyone. It’s not about getting software free of charge, even though that often can be a great side effect.

    I hope whomever reads this understands that there is nothing wrong with charging for GPL software. It being free of charge is a side benefit but by no means does it have to be free (as in price).

    The third point which I believe solves the argument of Automattic possibly enforcing a double standard on the plugin repository is solved with this statement:

    These plugins are all GPL (free as in liberty). They interact with a service that is not. We don’t have access to the source code of Google, and have no liberties with it, other than being able to use their API. Whether or not Google charges for any of these services is irrelavent. The code that the GPL applies to is the plugin itself. The fact that it happens to interface with something that may or may not be commercial, and may or may not be GPL doesn’t affect the GPLness of the plugin itself.

    With this in mind, it’s easy to see that the Polldaddy plugin and Akismet are well within the guidelines of the repository. Furthermore, nothing stops someone else from creating a proprietary service that a GPL compliant WordPress plugin taps into either through an API key or some other method. The point is, if the plugin or code that interfaces with the service is GPL, the entire model is ok. The double standard argument comes into play only if the repository starts removing GPL compatible plugins that tie into services that are not GPL.

    I’m not a fan of the app store idea regardless of the cheap $1.00 per plugin. I believe Kevins first post was a great way to bring up an important topic in that some of the most well known plugin authors were not receiving very much in donations and because of the raised awareness, it provoked some people into donating money which was a great thing. The post regarding Matt, Automattic, business models and the like comes off pretty badly and presents misinformation that is easily obtainable through a couple of Google Searches.

    I don’t really think a listing of acceptable business models needs to be created by Matt. If you have a question regarding the way you are doing business and the GPL, the best thing you could do is contact Matt Mullenweg personally via email or at a WordCamp event and have a chat with him about it. Dan Milward of WP Ecommerce has done this, Brian Gardner has done this, so has Cory Miller of iThemes, Adii of WooThemes, perhaps even Jonathan Davis of the Shopp plugin. So when Matt responds in the comments that if you have a question regarding your business model and if it complies with the GPL or not to contact him, that is actually the way to go.

    When you think about it, as long as the code is GPL your imagination and creativity can take over with regards to the business model you want to use. It doesn’t have to be the same one everyone else uses and I think alot of times, plugin/theme authors are not being creative enough in creating a viable model for themselves.

    With regards to plugins being added to the core of WordPress. Matt clearly states in the video you linked to on your blog that the popularity of plugins is an excellent gauge in what the userbase wants to see added to the base of WordPress. Matt also goes on to say that most times, they won’t add the entire block of plugin code but instead, add bits and pieces so as to wet the appetites which means this leaves plenty of room for either the original plugin to expand on their offering or just continue to do it better than the implementation that is added into WordPress. As a plugin author, I would be honored to have my entire plugin or even pieces of the code added to the platform. If my business model was entirely built around that code, I would keep in mind that the code is GPL meaning it could end up in the core someday in some form or fashion. That is the nature of the license. If your business model was built entirely around that code, then your model sucks. That’s why Matt continuously stresses that the value is what is built around the code such as services, options, addons, services, support, community, etc. Not so much the code itself.

    While I am still on the fence if whether or not Matt is overstepping his boundaries removing things that are GPL compliant that link back to sites advertising non GPL compliant things, he is the leader of the WordPress project and chief maintainer of the repositories and if he believes it’s in the best interest of the community and the repository to remove these items, then so be it. If you want the benefits that WordPress.org has to offer, you have to play the game by their rules or get punted off. Of course, if you don’t like their rules, nothing is stopping you from continuing whatever it is you’re doing with the business just not on the WordPress.org domain.

    Instead of publishing that post calling Matt out on a bunch of crap and then telling him what he should and shouldn’t do was a bad idea. I wish you would have continued to discuss business models as it’s a great topic. We could dive into each one, review the pros and cons, and perhaps make a few lightbulbs go off for those in the community thinking about starting a business around their development work. But instead, we have an article which contains alot of misunderstandings, this being the most important misunderstanding of them all:

    *note* blockquote is from the article on tomuse.com

    It’s probably no mistake that Matt doesn’t want to acknowledge such issues. For it he did, he would have to acknowledge the fact that Automattic, a commercial entity that owns WordPress, exploits the GPL to promote it’s distribution, uses plugin and theme developers work to build upon WordPress, and then uses the GPL as a barrier to prevent anyone except Automattic from benefiting financially from the work.

    I don’t even understand how you can come to that kind of a conclusion.
    .-= Jeffro´s last blog ..WPWeekly Episode 59 – Roundtable Featuring Peter Westwood =-.

  12. I was curious about if you could put plugins in the plugin directory that used only paid services. That is you can’t really take advantage of the plugin unless you pay for a service. Which was ok as Matt replied here http://wordpress.org/support/topic/282380 .
    The theme directory is a little different. Its a gray area using a paid service for themes which depends on how its done etc.

    But I can think of a bunch of paid services which can be suited for plugins.
    .-= Andreas Nurbo´s last blog ..GWO plugin for WordPress: beta version released =-.

    • Michael says:

      Funny you should make this comment. I actually just tweeted that link!

      • Yep I saw that tweet =) I’m following you. Could have included my tweethandle in the tweet ;). Got the link to this post from wptavern Jeffro. Your original blog tweet was way down in my wordpress group in tweetdeck so I totally missed it.

  13. The bottom line to this whole GPL thing is simple:

    It’s all about the license.

    If your theme carries the GPL license 100%, you can charge for the theme, the support behind it and what not.

    If your theme carries the GPL license 100%, and you or any sites you are affiliated with are not actively promoting non GPL themes, then your theme will be considered for submission into the WP.org directory.

    It’s not gray area here – pretty black and white to me. The bottom line, as most of us theme/plugin developers have waded through is that as long as your theme/plugin is 100% GPL, then case closed. You’re good.

    • Barry says:

      “If your theme carries the GPL license 100%, and you or any sites you are affiliated with are not actively promoting non GPL themes, then your theme will be considered for submission into the WP.org directory.”

      Yeah, that last part isn’t in the GPL. The GPL doesn’t dictate what I can have on my site.

      “The bottom line, as most of us theme/plugin developers have waded through is that as long as your theme/plugin is 100% GPL, then case closed. You’re good.”

      That contradicts the above statement.

      So If you’re theme / plugin is 100% GPL and the authors site doesn’t have anything on it that breaches an extra set of rules then you are ok?

      • Michael says:

        Barry,
        Thank you for commenting. To answer your question, a WordPress theme or plugin must be GPL compliant. Since Automattic/Matt owns wordpress.org, they can also allow whatever they want there. They’ve decided that what they want are themes that people would like to share with the community. What they don’t want is someone to make a theme as bait to lure people to their site which has non-GPL themes, or just so that they can advertise sponsored links on the theme. Nobody is perfect, and during the manual cleansing there were likely some legitimate themes that fell through the cracks and got removed.

    • If you check Matts response to my paid service theme question it also comes down to how things are to the end user. The theme should not complicate things for the end user or as Matt put it be user-hostile.

  14. First. No. Wow, what a lesson that was. I read the post. Slowly scroll down to see what’s being said and I’m totally ignorant of these predicaments between individuals where GPL is concerned. Maybe naive is a better word. I don’t know of Mr. Eklund. I’m just a very thankful user of WordPress and especially the incredible work of plugin developers like Michael here. I don’t have a side except that Michael sees the cottage industry grass root side of things clearly and I like that. I’ll leave the business model discussion alone. Too hoity toity for me and not something I’ll pursue reading about. Mark Mullenweg has obviously made it good for himself and people will always be jealous and think they have a need to strike out. I’ve done that when I was young and naive. Now I’m middle aged and naive.

    This is a great article dedicated to the true pursuit of excellence in work regardless of the perceived rewards or lack thereof. Thank you for your dedication.

    Stuart

    • Michael says:

      Stuart,
      Thank you for your comment. I agree completely. People sometimes see others who are successful and seem to be jealous that they can’t replicate that success, whether it’s of the person who created something like WordPress, or a WordPress developer or service provider who’s enjoying success in their business model. I certainly appreciate you recognizing the hard work and dedication that the rest of us have, and I believe you understand our motivations, and that it’s not all about the money. Thank you again for your comment and insights.
      By the way, I took a peek at your website. That’s quite an interesting media application you have there.

  15. Katy says:

    Pretty nice post. I just found your site and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. In any case
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

  16. Thanks for taking an even-handed look at this, one of the best articles I’ve read on the whole issue in a while.

  17. Dan Milward says:

    Hey Chaps. What a fascinating read!!

    Kevin I’ve had an idea. Here is my plan. Why don’t you do what other people do (the real WordPress Rockstars) and contribute this so called list of acceptable GPL models back to the community. We know you can write well and it seems like you have a lot of time on your hands and it certainly seems as though you’ve certainly done your research.

    I don’t think its a big ask especially since people like Matt, Michael and Brian are busy working on their respective projects.

    It seems to me like you could have written this “list of acceptable business models” 10 times over in the time that it has taken you to personally retort to each of these comments. What a huge amount of time you must have spent on this, I hope you havent lost any sleep over it.

    Because time is short you should start as soon as possible and when you’re finished you could either sell it online using the WP e-Commerce Plugin or you could except online donations. If you choose the later and if Michael chips in $10 I’ll chip in $10 too.

    On a more serious note I’m going to talk about our business model at the UK WordCamp coming up soon.
    .-= Dan Milward´s last blog ..simpleCart + thematic (weekend) challenge =-.

  18. Michael, if you have not seen this yet, you may want to take a look at the following legal analysis of the “plugins must be GPL’d” claim:

    http://www.law.washington.edu/lct/swp/Law/derivative.html

    It’s a long article but it’s well worth the read.
    .-= Andrei Belogortseff´s last blog ..Getting online in New Zealand =-.

  19. Red says:

    Thanks for taking the time to make a stand on this.
    I see a pefect sense in what you wrote and it makes me angry to find people twisting the GPL.
    I use some of your plugin in most of my sites and I enjoy them, especially All in One SEO. I moved to headspace2 on a test site only to find some fundamental issues and move back to All in One SEO.

    Thanks for your continues contribution to the WordPress community.

    Keep up the good work!!
    Red
    .-= Red´s last blog ..Steve is back: over 1m Apple iPhone 3GS sold =-.

  20. Dunia says:

    Great articl e with complete and detail explanation. Thank you

  21. 91jianfei says:

    Can plugins charge and still be GPL?

  22. Darren says:

    But isn’t GPL software supposed to be free?

  23. Michael Roberts says:

    yeah, I dont understand this isn`t that GPL is by default free? It can not be charged. Or it can?

  24. John Rockwell says:

    Clearly this GPL business isn’t clear to everyone. The only people its clear to are the uber geek computer programmers who can’t fathom the idea that it isn’t clear t oeveryone. That other people don’t live and breath wordpress 24/7.

    Kevin Eklund cam out out on top., not looking like the rude one.

  25. Doug says:

    Hi, I’m shocked that anyone would slave away writing plugins and providing support- for free. You would have to literally value your time at $0 unless you feel that answering the 10,000th email about why your plugin affects someone’s modified theme is more fun than getting out for some fresh air, playing a game or talking to your family.

    It’s just sad. And the dirty little secret of this bizarre programming-for-love approach is that WordPress plugins are nearly all lousy, broken and unsupported. After all, most people come to their sense eventually or get good enough to write software that pays.

  26. Yvonne says:

    I paid for authorship when competitiveelectronicssuppliers.com was used as an entry blog for that website. Then, trying to get in using Word Press with a login which I assumed was set up by Web Media, LLC. with Word Press.
    Everything Web Media promise by their marketing, they make null and void in their “terms and conditions”. It is very difficult to try to set up E-commerce when one cannot wade through all the stuff that comes up. I hate to see promises made to people who are simply trying to make a living then turned into a nightmare of having been scammed. It is a shame that I am even contacting you… complaining about the treatment I must endure trying find out which web pages simply become bait. This has cost me $25,000 and I really feel taken. Having read other comments, the internet which should be an American treasure has become a liability to more than just me.

  27. John Melone says:

    Michael, a lot of people are obviously confused when it gets to its legal implications. My understanding is that is largely the case because we all grew up in a Copyright-World which makes us believe that all code that was developed by one person only belongs to this person and taking all or parts of it to create something new is “theft” or “unethical”. That is very much short sighted from my point of view. There are so many great software projects (like most parts of Linux) that can just exist because people understand software as a common good that everyone can build upon without the requirement to ask for permission. I am therefore one of the few WordPress enthusiasts who supports websites like https://gpldl.com that offer Premium WordPress products for free. I do not consider this immoral or harming the WordPress Ecosystem in any way. What we as developers need to learn is that people who buy our products do not just buy code but they buy a “product experience” including support, help in customization etc. that actually creates value for the users. We need to get this right and always allow others to build upon our code, fork it or redistribute it to make it better. Thanks for your attention!

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