[kwlug-disc] Wordpress themes must be GPL

Johnny Ferguson hyperflexed at gmail.com
Sun Jul 25 09:47:06 EDT 2010

On 07/25/2010 12:28 AM, unsolicited wrote:
> Khalid Baheyeldin wrote, On 07/24/2010 11:10 PM:
>> From a practical point of view, not just licensing, I believe that
>> releasing your
>> modules free is far better for the developer, and the ecosystem, for many
>> reasons: the code gets fixes, features and upgrades that are impossible
>> for one or a few people to do on their own, the developer gets
>> recognition,
>> the ecosystem for the larger application gets better by having more
>> components,
>> the developer gets new business, everyone wins, except those who are
>> locked
>> into the mentality that they should press CDs and sell their software
>> commercially
>> only.
> But, to Paul's point: How do developers put food on the table?

I got into this debate with someone on another mailing list, and I now 
wonder the same question. I think the short answer is they can't (or 
they have to do something free to establish an opportunity to 
potentially provide extended service which others could very well provide).

The long answer would be more complicated, and I think it would be found 
somewhere between the strict nature of the GPL and the easygoing nature 
of something like BSD.

The GPL maintains freedoms, but spreads them so widely that no one 
author can hold on to their own work. The GPL also sidesteps the 
question of value by giving developers an excuse to be lazy. You could 
sell software under the GPL, but because it would be de facto gratis 
it's not worth it, and I think as a result many projects stagnate.

There are groups that will put money into GPL code, but they either do 
it with a sense of charity (which is fine), or because they're big 
enough to leverage that work as part of a commercial product/service.

I think the financial prospects for independent GPL developers is pretty 
slim, and is one of the largest reasons we so so many unfinished 
projects, and even a few that have received massive donations and still 
lack polish (I'm thinking of a certain linux audio app).

The developers won't work because they have no money, and the patrons 
won't pay because they have no product. How do we get around this?

I pay for code that works, not code with all sorts of wonderful 
ideologies appended to it. Ideological freedom means nothing to me when 
I lack the freedom to be productive. And if GPL code was exceptional, I 
wouldn't know who to pay. The GPL needs to be retooled, imo.

It's nice that we can have so many programs free and free, but there are 
specialized applications that authors should be rewarded for writing. 
Having a certain bias against the usefulness of things like wordpress, 
I'm not sure if this applies to Thesis, but the fiasco does raise the 

I think we could fix the GPL by creating a commercial version that does 
not allow you the freedom of redistribution. A scheme where each 
redistributed copy requires royalties flowing back to the original 
author. People should have the option between selling and being 
charitable. Could be chaotic, but it's the quickest solution that comes 
to mind. It does run the risk of locking up good software though, so how 
would we allow such a work back into public sphere if commercialization 
didn't work out?


p.s. sorry for the sheer volume of text. This is an issue one could go 
on about forever.

> Without having to execute a continuous stream of work?
> They create something 'wonderful', but, in essence, must (practically
> speaking) make it free. How do they gain a 'royalty' (not an annual
> license fee, but a bite of pie) every time their work is 'acquired'
> (downloaded?)
> I get your business model, your code (and other activities) enhances
> your reputation and makes you the go to guy for a continuous stream of
> work.
> But how do FOSS developers put food on the table for effort expended
> without having to continuously execute new streams of work?
> e.g. Suppose you get sick (and have no income replacement insurance) -
> your revenue plummets and you have to live on what you have managed to
> save. Or, what about those who don't make enough or have insurance?
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