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  1. #1
    SitePoint Enthusiast 0ldfart's Avatar
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    Wordpress GPL and unauthorised theme reselling / is this theft?

    I have just been reading a thread on another forum (Dont want to break any rules here so will not provide a link) but to put things into a nutshell this guy has put together a PDF with links to a bunch of premium Wordpress themes on Fileserve as a WSO.

    Basically his argument is that you can take whatever commercial theme you like and resell it singly or as part of a bundle with no permission from the original author.

    I own and resell a wordpress theme. It took me 3 months and about $2000 to develop.

    I remember this argument floating around a few months ago, and was aware there was a debate. It had me worried then...

    I just cant believe people are able to blatantly stealing other people's work and resell it - and can get away with that. It just seems so wrong, given the time and money those of us who do make a living from this have put in.

    Can someone clear this up? Is it true that anyone can take our work and give it away or sell it without our consent?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0ldfart View Post
    I have just been reading a thread on another forum (Dont want to break any rules here so will not provide a link) but to put things into a nutshell this guy has put together a PDF with links to a bunch of premium Wordpress themes on Fileserve as a WSO.

    Basically his argument is that you can take whatever commercial theme you like and resell it singly or as part of a bundle with no permission from the original author.

    I own and resell a wordpress theme. It took me 3 months and about $2000 to develop.

    I remember this argument floating around a few months ago, and was aware there was a debate. It had me worried then...

    I just cant believe people are able to blatantly stealing other people's work and resell it - and can get away with that. It just seems so wrong, given the time and money those of us who do make a living from this have put in.

    Can someone clear this up? Is it true that anyone can take our work and give it away or sell it without our consent?
    I think if the work is patented, the person selling it without authorization can be sued. I supposed WP themes had patents or licenses that only authorized people can use them? Maybe you can contact the seller and ask him politely to stop selling or using your theme. If not, he'll have to face dire consequences.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0ldfart View Post
    Can someone clear this up? Is it true that anyone can take our work and give it away or sell it without our consent?
    I suspect the onus of proof will be on you to prove beyond doubt that you "own" the theme, which might not be easy to do if someone else claims they developed and own it.

    But in any case, imo, looking for legal advice in environments like this is frought with danger and should be taken as nothing more that general suggestions. The best advice I can give is to get a qualified lawyer on this issue and be advised by him/her. I don't take advice from wannabe lawyers in forums like this.

    Think about for a second - if you get taken to court because you did something wrong/illegal based on "advice" received in this type of environment do you really think a defence of so-and-so on SP, or wherever, told me I could do it would not be laughed at?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by apoldeer View Post
    I think if the work is patented, the person selling it without authorization can be sued. I supposed WP themes had patents or licenses that only authorized people can use them? Maybe you can contact the seller and ask him politely to stop selling or using your theme. If not, he'll have to face dire consequences.
    Patented? A theme would be copyrighted and while filing a copyright grants stronger protection in the event of a dispute, it is not required to establish a claim.

    http://www.lawmart.com/searches/difference.htm
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    If the themes are GPL'd, then it's my understanding that people are free to redistribute and also charge a fee for this. Otherwise, you set your own license and if you choose, restrict resale (but I believe php code using wordpress function calls have to be GPL).

    I may be wrong though, perhaps someone with more experience of GPL can clarify.

  6. #6
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    My understanding was that if you build something that extends something that is under GPL, then you are obligated to GPL your code if you distribute it what you made. So, you can sell your theme but anyone you sell it to then has full rights to do anything they want with it, including give it away.

    I'm not really sure about this, though. I am really interested in this topic. IP attorney, anyone?
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    My understanding was that if you build something that extends something that is under GPL, then you are obligated to GPL your code if you distribute it what you made. So, you can sell your theme but anyone you sell it to then has full rights to do anything they want with it, including give it away.

    I'm not really sure about this, though. I am really interested in this topic. IP attorney, anyone?

    I'm not a lawyer either, but someone from the Joomla core team explained it to me like this. I think the main point of contention is what is "extending" and what is "using a library". As I understand it the guys at Joomla say that if you use their library by extension, you are "GPL liable". This means probably that all components, modules, plugins are GPL, but it may mean that templates are not necessarily GPL.

    In any case, the indirect business model works best, attorney or not, so I suggest to the OP to structure it as a template club with support, rather than a single template with legal backup.

    HTH, Jochen
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  8. #8
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    I think it is clear that the license offered by wordpress leaves too much room for disputes. this is very unfortunate and 1 of the main reasons we have never chosen to develop word press themes or other programming. our relationship policy is almost in reverse. you buy our software, but then you are free to develop and sell modules or themes.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard masm50's Avatar
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    There has been a debate going around for the last year or so about Wordpress themes and whether they could have to be GPL'd to fit in with the Wordpress GPL license. Various WP developers think that they should be (Woothemes' themes are now all GPL for example - and instead sell "access"), and Matt Mullenweg of Wordpress has made it clear he *thinks* that they should be GPL'd - but the legal answer is far from clear. Plenty of developers still don't release their themes under the GPL.

    There is unlikely to be any certainty in this field, as it is not really worth Wordpress' time or money (or bad blood) to go after non-GPL theme developers - and so we probably won't see this played out in the courts.

    If you have not licensed your theme as GPL, then it should be pretty easy to get a file host like FileServe to take the offending file down. Whether the person uploading it believes they have the right to redistribute your theme because they feel it *should* be GPL, does not necessarily make them right, and file hosts are quick to watch their backs to keep their DMCA protections. Send FileServe a DMCA takedown notice for the file and they will likely remove it quickly- they will not want to haggle on the legal intricacies of GPL and open web development.


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