Recently I stumbled upon two posts that had pointed out interesting implications of WordPress using GPL as it's license. I guess not many gave a serious thought to that, me included. We all kind of know that GPL is something that is associated with 'free', we like that and use it as such.
But as attributing world of WordPress becomes more commercial every day, with paid plugins and 'premium' themes, I thought it is important to understand what GPL really brings to that world.
And the implication of GPL is this: all typical WordPress plugins and themes automatically fall under GPL license. In other words, even if you paid for that 'power' plugin or 'premium' theme, and even if author tried to put a different license on it, you are free to modify it, give it away for free or even resell it yourself.
The implication comes mainly from this paragraph of GPL:
You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.
This means that whenever a theme or a plugin uses just one function from the WordPress code, GPL license automatically 'kicks in' and takes over. And since plugins and themes must use WordPress functions they automatically become GPL as well.
What this means..
You are free to remove those links from the theme that author tried to forbid you from (even from sponsored themes). Even when an author slaps a CC (Creative Commons) license on the theme, and demands you respect the links or work, you do not have to as they are actually violating the GPL by putting CC over it.
This goes for plugins as well. In fact for all WordPress based solutions. GPL allows you to do whatever you want with it including reselling it straight away.
Is there a solution?
The solution exists and is technical in nature. For plugins you can develop your whole code as a library under your own licensing model. Then you would have the wordpress plugin which will call functions from your library. The plugin itself becomes GPL but the library not and you are free to slap any kind of license and restriction to it.
For themes it is a bit of a different story. Having read the GPL FAQ carefully this is my interpretation. First solution: You do not need to call any WordPress functions in your theme, but you can connect to the database directly and get the information you need. This method is possible but not elegant at all.
Second solution is to have your theme in external php files and one WordPress index.php. This file will use WordPress functions and only include() your files as neccessary. Again index.php would fall under GPL, all other files won't.
Obviously core of the problem remains in choosing GPL as the licensing model for WordPress. There is a way out, not as elegant as we would like but possible nevertheless.
Also have in mind that GPL is not strict even in their FAQ. They often say "we think", "we beleive", "that's a borderline case" etc. which implies that the license is still a subject to free interepratation in many ways.
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