WordPress To Launch Theme Marketplace, All Themes To be GPL

About 4 weeks back I was contacted by Toni Schneider CEO of Automattic. Automattic was thinking of launching a WordPress Theme marketplace for WordPress.com. At that time they wanted to keep to it under wraps. Now Matt himself has confirmed this.

I thought it was an excellent idea especially to give exposure to WordPress theme designers. But there was one confusion i.e. wanted all the themes to be GPL. Below is my response to this. I didn’t get any response to my feedback. Not sure if it has something to with the fact that I objected to a GPL for Premium themes.

We’re thinking of making it a requirement that the themes be original (never published before), GPL licensed (to help other designers and keep the copyright issues simple) and not have any credit links (since they are paid). Any thoughts on that?

How can a theme be premium and GPL at the same time? Once it is GPL everyone has access to it for free. If its free why buy it? I wouldn’t sell a Premium theme with a GPL licence. Also if I am correct you mentioned that the theme is CSS based i.e. using the SANDBOX Theme. Which means It is very easy to grab the CSS source code hence It just doesn’t make sense to GPL the theme.
Credit links need to be shown irrespective of whether the theme is free or premium. Not only is it the right thing to do this is the way most Freelance designers get more clients and spread the word about themselves, it also acts as a copyright.

A comment from malan and a post from Matt blog got me rethinking.

blah! this will KILL any and all free WP themes. great job WordPress.

From Matt’s blog.

Beyond the obvious guidelines of browser compatibility and general not-sucking, we’ll require submissions be original, link-free, not published before, and GPL-licensed. (That also means that all themes in the marketplace will be available FREE to WordPress.org users. That may force some to switch from .com to .org, but that’s fine.)

I was in the process of releasing my current Theme “Azure Sky” as a free theme. But I had seconds thought of releasing it as a paid theme since I had put so much time and effort into it. I think if I release the theme on WordPress.com it solves both my problems i.e. I get paid for it and it also get to release it for free for WordPress.org i.e. people hosting WordPress themselves.

I am think I am willing to experiment and see how this marketplace works out. As long as the effort that I put into a theme is compensated for.

10 Responses

i left this comment on matt’s blog, but my comments rarely get approved there:

I think I’m missing something -
so I make this “killer” GPL, CSS only theme. you sell it for $50, on the premise that it’s not a generic XXL poncho (I know you said pink, but what you meant was gray with a blue hood). Immediately on release, any self-hosted blog can download it and install it themselves. Since it’s CSS-only, anyone on wordpress.com can pay for the CSS Upgrade and start using it.

Suddenly it seems like my theme is another XXL poncho, and the guy who bought it trying to get a unique design is seriously screwed.

The CSS upgrade is $10 annually, and it gets you access to any theme you want, plus the ability to tweak it. i don’t get how GPL premium themes make sense in that context.

@Adam I had the same confusion hence I objected to the GPL Licence. But if the theme does sell for say $1500 or more then I really don’t mind under what licence it is sold. Since it compensates for the effort I put into the theme.

But you are right this does not make the theme unique since once its in the marketplace everyone has access to it for free.

The only advantage I see in it, is for people making free themes.

First, I’m excited to see your next theme released.

As far as the marketplace is concerned, it does seem to have some logical wholes, but what I have learned two things in business and from learning about opensource projects. First, there are always people willing to produce for free just to bypass the corporation that charges. And second, there are always people willing to pay for something that is free because they are to lazy to learn how to implement the free version.

“There are always people willing to pay for something that is free because they are to lazy to learn how to implement the free version.”

@Jonathan you know what, you do have a really good point there. I have noticed this a lot. I get a lot of emails requesting for Design help for my free themes I usually reply back with explanations but some people rather pay me to get it done.

Arpit, I never got your follow up email (I just rechecked my inbox). Sorry about that – can you resend? If someone wants to take a CSS theme and use it via the wp.com CSS upgrade feature, they’ll do it whether it’s GPL or not. If this starts to happen we can work to detect and prevent it.

@tony -
your “detect and prevent” comment seems odd to me. preventing people from using GPL themes with the CSS upgrade would violate the 4 freedoms of the GPL, and if people are using the CSS upgrade to use site rips, that would be covered by your DMCA policy. What is there to work on?

@Toni I sent you the mail again I hope you get it this time please let me know if you didn’t get it.

Adam is right you can’t prevent people from stealing GPL themes. It would be violation of the GPL licence itself.

hye arpit jacob, so now you put the “on hold status” for azure sky? hm..:(

Hello the comment is delightful.
I will definitely read your site..
thank you again

I enjoyed reading your material. Thanks !