GPL – The beauty of WordPress

When you consider what a huge money-spinning market that has grown up around it, you probably wouldn’t believe that WordPress was created to be free, for everybody. WordPress is supplied to users with a GPLv2 (or later) license. The GPL license was created to guarantee a user’s freedom to share and change software and to ensure the software is free for all its users. If Bill Gates had chosen to give Windows a GPL license, he’d be doing his shopping in Kmart and cutting discount coupons out of magazines…

WordPress plugins and themes are obliged to use WordPress coding to work, and so are considered to be ‘derivative works’. Part of the GPL license outlines requirements for derivative works, such as plugins or themes. In short, derivatives of WordPress code such as plugins and themes inherit the GPL license.

You probably didn’t realise it, but almost all WordPress plugins and themes have a GPL license. This licence, if you read it, says that if an author distribute copies of a theme or plugin, either for free or at a price, they must give the buyers or recipients of the theme or plugin those exact same rights.

WordPress and GPL

What does that mean, in simple terms?

What it means is that if you buy or download a theme or plugin with a GPL licence, you can do whatever the hell you want to do with it. You can modify it, change it or redevelop it, use it on a thousand websites or give copies away to the first 200 people you meet in the street, as long as you pass on the same GPL licence which allows them to do the same. That’s the freedom GPL gives you.

All the WordPress themes and plugins that we make available for our members to download are under the GPL license. Once you become a paid subscriber and download WordPress themes or plugins from us, you are free to do more or less whatever you want with them.

People who develop and sell plugins and themes for WordPress are doing exactly as they are entitled to do; they are earning a living. They make a good living selling their themes and plugins with a GPL licence, as mentioned above. Having paid for them, the terms of these GPL licences allow us to share these plugins and themes with our members even if, quite understandably, developers would prefer that we didn’t. The simple difference is we charge a lot less but don’t offer support or automated updates.