Are WordPress Themes open source? Is it right to release them on a pay-to-download basis?
… what these premium theme providers are doing … we would call that “Evil”Chase Sagum
… themes link and use lots of internal WordPress functions, which make them linked under the GPL and subject to being a GPL-compatible license. If a theme (or a plugin) used no internal WP functions or APIs, then it could probably be considered independent, but that would be really really hard for a theme. Matt Mullenweg
I haven’t really talked about it a lot but I’ve been trying to do pay-for-use themes differently. Namely, giving away what might normally be considered a “Premium” theme—my WordPress theme framework Thematic—and charging for upgrades in the form of Child Themes and custom design. I think it’s a little more fair to the WordPress community and the debatable concerns around the ethics of paid WordPress themes.
But there’s still more questions. There’s always questions, isn’t there?
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.Jon Soroko
Good question, I don’t really know. As far as I understand the GPL license, any GPL work can be redistributed. So, um, maybe? Does that make me “evil”?
More important, I think, is what Jon is trying to get at in his question. “The general, overarching concerns,” as he says in his original comment, around open source, the GPL and pay-for-use WordPress themes. So far, there’s been no definitive answer that I know of. Excepting the oft-linked comment above from the WordPress support forums.
What do I think? I can’t answer that question either. ThemeShaper is supported by advertising from premium theme designers and, of course, I release commercial Child Themes (I call them Themelets) for my GPL WordPress Theme Framework, Thematic, at a premium. I even predicted the end of “Premium” WordPress themes. My opinion, as they say, is biased.
But! I can start a discussion. :)
So what do you think? Are WordPress themes open source? Do they inherit the GPL? Does the WordPress community want “premium” themes to exist? Should they?
Update: You must read the comments on this post. There is some really interesting discussion happening. Notable commentators include WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and several designers involved in releasing commercial WordPress themes.