8 thoughts on “When Premium WordPress Themes & Open Source Ethics Collide

  1. I like the spirit of Upstart Blogger’s piece – but I’m not in complete agreement with his reasoning or conclusions. There are principled and less-principled reasons that we should pay for things. Fully principled is that people should be entitled to the fruits of their labor – if someone – we’ll call him Ian – sweats to make a brilliant usable thing – fruit(s) should end up on the table for the little Stewarts to eat. Less pure is that people like me – who benefit from Ian’s output – get much more value than they pay out when they “purchase” the intellectual output of the Ians.

  2. Believe it or not, I’m on the fence on this one. But that’s why I’m comfortable monetizing Child Themes. I think it’s win-win for everyone.

    Ashley (The Upstart Blogger) thinks Linkbacks are reason enough to produce a theme. I’d disagree with that. But at the same time, money isn’t the reason either. Again, believe it or not, I just like making stuff that people like to use.

  3. What would happen if Premium Themes were sold under the GPL? Would it be a stupid idea or would the support for the original author be great enough to make it worth wild. I’d like to note that Red Hat Linux is sold under the GPL and that company still makes money.

  4. The problem/worry is redistribution, which the GPL encourages and without which there wouldn’t even be a WordPress to fork from B2 or a name-your-theme to fork from Kubrick, K2 or The Sandbox. But then, I know of at least 2 “premium” WordPress theme designers that consider their themes to be GPL anyway—regardless of the theme licenses they display on their sites. A sort of “hope for the best” strategy which really, isn’t so bad. It’s the strategy a lot of musicians seem to be moving towards with CD release and the inevitable grassroots digital distribution. I’m starting to ramble but, at one time, that was Corel Draw’s strategy at gaining marketshare.

    … only Corel Draw sucked. They forgot to take care of that part.

  5. Ian and Dan,
    Would you guys mind if we went back a step or two – I’m lost – and as an attorney and citizen – there are important issues here. And I clearly don’t get all of them.
    @Ian: that you’re on the fence makes sense; it’s a complicated problem, and that’s what smart people do with difficult, morally ambiguous problems: admit their complexity (but not ever in the United States during a political campaign).
    I don’t see the difference between your taking money from me for a Child Theme – or for a Theme. WordPress is free (as before); Thematic is free (as is typical of themes); and the “Child Theme” – in my case Travailler – I’ve happily paid for.
    The reason I do it is that your work is outstanding and often brilliant, and I can’t afford a bespoke/custom piece of work from you. Simple as that. And I can’t get quite the same outcome with only Thematic.
    But isn’t this like hiring a designer who’s using K2 – and charges for the mods built onto k2? Let’s say header images, styling changes, etc – sold as a “style”? Paid work on top of open-source.
    Here’s my first properly framed question for both of you: Is there a principled difference between on the one hand, Jon hiring Ian to build a blog – Ian using his own Thematic theme as a base, and makes a custom blog a “child theme” with a distribution of 1; on the other hand, Ian makes 10 types of “child themes” – puts them on ThemeShaper – for a small price. Depending on pricing and volume – one or the other might be more profitable – I’m not sure that’s the crux of this issue.
    George Merck put his antibiotics into the public domain in the 1940′s – patented them and granted a general public license. Do we say there is, or ought to be, a perpetual obligation for anyone buildingon that to keep it in the public domain? Even if the second thing is worth more, was harder to make – and the person needs the money more?
    Sorry to sound like a second-rate law professor – but I’m trying to get at what the general, overarching concerns are.

    That said – as I get the hang of it – I like Thematic a whole lot. And I’m also learning about what I still need to learn (e.g. a little CSS, etc.)

    Jon

    P.S. Ian – what’s your drawing/graphics program of choice?

  6. Is there a principled difference between on the one hand, Jon hiring Ian to build a blog – Ian using his own Thematic theme as a base, and makes a custom blog a “child theme” with a distribution of 1; on the other hand, Ian makes 10 types of “child themes” – puts them on ThemeShaper – for a small price.

    I think I’m going to put that into a post. Let’s make this question a more public one.

  7. Ashley (The Upstart Blogger) thinks Linkbacks are reason enough to produce a theme.

    The problem with that though is Matt’s view of the GPL is that links and credit can and will be removed without issue. Automattic got caught doing so when they copied the Drupal theme for wordpress.com awhile back. They also removed my link and credit to all those support forum posts when I complained about their lack of follow up to splog complaints and his rather distasteful comments about my physical handicaps.

    It’s in very poor taste that they promote GPL themselves but refuse to follow it.

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