[kwlug-disc] Wordpress themes must be GPL

Chris Irwin chris at chrisirwin.ca
Fri Jul 30 15:15:12 EDT 2010

On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 00:07, Khalid Baheyeldin <kb at 2bits.com> wrote:
> V cannot say: "you didn't get the hardware from us, did ya? We have no
> relationship with you. Go ask F for the source code".
> This is not the only use case. Suppose F modified the code? F has to make
> available the modifications (either on request, or downloadable from
> somewhere).

I think there are two issues at play here in this topic:

The first issue is If I distribute GPL software, am I required to
distribute source to everybody, or only to those I provided the
original software to? According to the FSF GNU GPL FAQ (OMG WTF?), no,
you don't need to make the source universally accessible....

Q: "If I distribute GPL'd software for a fee, am I required to also
make it available to the public without a charge?"
A: "No. However, if someone pays your fee and gets a copy, the GPL
gives them the freedom to release it to the public, with or without a
fee. For example, someone could pay your fee, and then put her copy on
a web site for the general public."
- http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLRequireAvailabilityToPublic

...unless you made a written offer for source instead of simply
providing it, in which case you do...

Q: "What does "written offer valid for any third party" mean in GPLv2?
Does that mean everyone in the world can get the source to any GPL'ed
program no matter what?"
A: "If you choose to provide source through a written offer, then
anybody who requests the source from you is entitled to receive it.
"If you commercially distribute binaries not accompanied with source
code, the GPL says you must provide a written offer to distribute the
source code later. When users non-commercially redistribute the
binaries they received from you, they must pass along a copy of this
written offer. This means that people who did not get the binaries
directly from you can still receive copies of the source code, along
with the written offer.
"The reason we require the offer to be valid for any third party is so
that people who receive the binaries indirectly in that way can order
the source code from you."
- http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#WhatDoesWrittenOfferValid

So in summary:

- distribute a binary+source, you have no further responsibility at
all to anybody. Being GPL, you can't restrict anybody downstream from
posting it on github, etc.

- distribute a binary+written offer for source, that offer must be
"valid for any third party", which essentially means that yes, you do
have to distribute the source to anybody that asks. Since it can be
costly to have somebody fielding these requests, pretty much everybody
just throws the source online (unless you make eBook readers, in which
case you bury your head in the sand and not provide source. It's okay
though, nobody seems to care...).

There is also the second issue: If I redistribute upstream binaries,
am I personally required to make the source available? (such as
reselling my old Linksys router)

>From reading the FAQ, the answer looks to be, again, "No, unless yes":

- If you are commercial, yes, always. All commercial distribution of
binaries must include either the source or a written offer for *you*
to provide it.

- If you are non-commercial, you can do the above as well.

- If you are non-commercial, redistributing unmodified upstream
binaries *and* the upstream had a written offer, then you can
transparently pass that offer on, essentially removing yourself from
the source loop. You never touched the source or modified the binary,
and upstream's offer is an open offer to all third parties. You're
transparently moving bits from A to C, and you've passed on A's
written offer. This is where the resale of Linksys Routers would fall
(unless you rolled your own firmware).

Also note that this only applies to unmodified upstream binaries. If
you built the binary, even non-commercially from pure upstream source,
you're not transparently distributing an upstream binary and are again
on the hook to provide the source.

Chris Irwin
<chris at chrisirwin.ca>

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