Matt Mullenweg: WordPress and the GPL

12 responses on “Matt Mullenweg: WordPress and the GPL

  1. James McWhorter

    “Just because you can make money doing something doesn’t mean you should do it.”

    Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ricki Steigerwald

    Will there be a “commercially supported GPL plug-ins” page created?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mark McLaren

    I have been using WordPress for a long time but never really had a clue about the significance of the General Public License until I heard Matt talk about it at WordCamp Portland this year. This video spells it out plain and simple.

    If you use WordPress, you need to know that some people who sell premium WordPress themes comply with the WordPress license and some do not.

    Arguably, WordPress would not exist without the GPL. There are lots of legal ways to make money with WordPress. So we should support premium theme developers who abide by the GPL.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sean Wichert, Sr.

    Hi Matt,

    Awesome information.

    Sean Wichert, Sr.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Neal

    Ok so if I do sell themes under the GPL, then people still can’t share them. Only my PHP would be under the GPL, while my CSS, Javascript, and Images would be under my own license. Because if wordpress wasn’t there the CSS, etc. can still work just fine on its own.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. GPLThemes?

    I watched this video with interest and I think Matt has a very good grasp of not only the “letter” of GPL, but also the “intent” and “integrity” of GPL. I agree 100% with everything he said in the video and applaud this outlook and vision.

    So, having watched the video, I did a little research on the commercial GPL themes linked on the site here:

    The first thing I noticed is that on some sites you can’t get the GPL themes unless you pay for them or pay a subscription fee — perfectly within the GPL licenses–GPL doesn’t prohibit a person from selling a GPL product and, contrary to popular belief, it does not require a person to freely distribute a GPL product. However, as Matt pointed out in the video, once a person does acquire one of these themes, then they are free to redistribute it under GPL.

    Therefore, I was quite surprised to see WooThemes listed on the site. Here is a link to their licenses:

    This does not seem to me to be GPL. As you can see, they are granting a “non-exclusive limited license” and here are a couple of the limitations:

    Under point 1 they state: “Our themes may be used by our customers on as many websites as they like.”

    However, under GPL, their themes may be used by anyone (and redistributed to anyone).

    Under Point 2 they state: “The photoshop design files for our themes come packaged separately and are not GPL licensed. They are licensed and copyrighted under”

    This is a clear violation, if not of GPL itself, of the intent of GPL and, listening to Matt’s video, it is clearly counter to the intent of what I understand his vision for Commercial GPL themes being promoted on

    There are a couple other suspicious statements in their 11 point licenses, but the two above seem to be the most problematic.

    I applaud Matt for this initiative, but you must hold these commercial companies to the letter and intent of GPL and to the intent of the wordpress/commercial theme initiative. WooThemes is clearly attempting to “work” the system.

    To be fair, I haven’t looked at all the companies listed on site, but one of the other more popular ones, Pixel Theme Studio, has very similiar limitations on the PhotoShop files.

    In my view, these companies should be removed from the Commercial GPL Themes list on or they should change their licenses to be fully GPL compliant.

    As Matt said in the video, “If you build something on top of GPL, then it must also be GPL”.

    You really need to get a handle on this from the start and make sure these commercial providers know that when you say “100% GPL”, that really means 100%. If not, then this nice speech about WordPress and GPL really doesn’t mean much.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GPLThemes?

    More “GPL” language from other sites listed on the “commercial/GPL” providers list:
    From FAQ’s:

    “Can I remove the credits in the footer?

    Yes, you may only remove the credits if you have purchased one of our packages.”

    I’m also unable to find anything on the iThemes site that spells out the GPL nature of their themes, although, I do see a lot about copyright and about a “Multiple Use License”. I’m still confused as to why a GPL theme would need a multiple use license?
    From FAQs under license:

    “Can I buy these templates and use them to generate websites for resale or redistribution to third party clients? Unfortunately, no. As noted above, our themes make use of an enterprise license for the JW Image Rotator….”

    That’s the important part…you can read the rest on their site. These themes are clearly NOT GPL, but they are listed on the wordpress commercial/GPL themes site.

    From Terms and Conditions:

    “1. Theme Licensing & Usage

    All our themes are licensed under the GNU general public license. Our themes may be used by our customers on as many websites as they like.

    2. Fireworks Files Licensing

    The Fireworks design files for our themes come packaged seperately and are not GPL licensed. They are licensed and copyrighted under Obox Design.”

    Again, clearly NOT GPL…when the use is limited to their customers and/or when the design files are not GPL.


    This is just a small sample…it seems almost every link on the wordpress commercial/GPL themes page has the same limitations.

    GPL Themes? Really?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. bob

    how can you say worpress is GPL when it relies on php which is NOT GPL?

    Take away php and will your program still run? Thought not.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oliver Nielsen

    While WordPress sure isn’t perfect, I feel very confident building part of my business around it, as a webdesigner. Matt is part of that equation.

    In my opinion he is really clever, bright and ethical in what he’s doing. “Software with purpose” you could say. With a leader like that in charge, things can go great ways, and WordPress proves that by making fast, innovative leaps, and becoming better and more integrated with the rest of the webs technologies every day.

    So Matt, you rock!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Joseff Betancourt

    Free BSD is better then GPL for business. PHP is not GPL.

    The way I see is any code base (PHP) that uses the wordpress theme must be GPL, all other aspects of that theme can be non-GPL since it exist outside of the wordpress framework (i.e. CSS, Base HTML, Photos).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Andre

    Very good video and I agree with everything he has mentioned. In fact, I come from the Joomla cms environment and even over at Joomla, the whole GPL concept is hard to grasp by many and has created a lot of friction with many users as well as developers themselves. I know for myself, there were obviously a certain criteria to be met, both on WordPress and for my own site to be approved, but I had no problem with the requirements as I like to support the concept of GPL and been fortunate enough to be accepted by both platforms.

    Just to follow up with GPLthemes comments, more specifically my site (Pixel Theme Studio) which does offer the Photoshop files but not under the GPL…the themes themselves are not dependent on the Photoshop source template and are not distributed within the theme download so they do not have to be part of the GPL and why they are available separately. The actual design of any theme is copyrighted under the original designer and allows the rights to be reserved by the designer as he/she decides as the owner of that artwork. However, if the Photoshop source is included as part of the theme download, then this is where it would fall under the GPL.

    I can easily say I do comply 100%, even with Joomla. Unfortunately there are still designers who claim GPL but are not 100% GPL once you start reading their license terms…I can list the top big players for Joomla that are not compliant and some are controversial but this is also the same for some WordPress developers.

    Overall, the GPL is a very complex and confusing license for most, even for designers and developers and in most cases, you almost need to be a lawyer to understand the language. There is a lot that gets misinterpreted, even I had to re-read the licenses over and over again when I first started all this, but in the end, I still believe in the GPL. When I started up, I could have gone a few ways but I felt more will benefit with true GPL.

    Liked by 1 person

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October 13, 2009

Matt Mullenweg gives an overview of the GPL and how it benefits WordPress, why WordPress is licensed under the GPL, how the GPL fosters innovation, affects themes and plugins, and creates value.

The directory of premium theme authors who support the GPL as mentioned in the interview is located here.

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