- I don’t like GPL, I think that for most places that it is being used at, especially in wordpress, the BSD license would have served as well and would have removed the illusion that just by selecting a restrictive license your code becomes less prune for IP theft.
- Matt Mullenweg created a great product and succeeded to maintain a great community around it. So far his insistence on GPL everywhere haven’t really hurt either of them and maybe actually strengthened them.
It seems like once a year there is some form of debate about wordpress, GPL and whether people might develop software related to wordpress which does not use a GPL compatible license. This time it is about whether people selling themes/plugins under split license (one for code and another for styling) should participate in wordcamps.
Maybe it is time to take one step back and ask again whether themes and plugins have to be GPL compatible.
The legal base for the claim is this legal opinion from James Vasile of the Software Freedom Law Center. There are two things to notice
- By law a lawyer have to help his client to present the best legal case for his objective. If I had the money I could find 10 lawyers which will contradict every second word in that post.
- After many bold claims the last paragraph backtracks from it all
Finally, we note that it might be possible to design a valid WordPress theme that avoids the factors that subject it to WordPress’s copyright, but such a theme would have to forgo almost all the WordPress functionality that makes the software useful.
But the most important thing to know about lawyers opinions is that they are always not much better then a guess and only the court can actually decide what is the correct legal interpretation of a legal situation. Lawyers can “guess” much better when there are precedences, but there where no court cases revolving around the nature of derivative work similar to wordpress plugins and themes that I know of (and I’m sure the lawyer would have cited them if he was aware of any).
Well, in may 2012 there was a ruling about a similar issue, whether API is copyrightable.In the legal battle between Oracle and Google about the use of java derivative in the android OS. Oracle claimed that just because Google implemented the same API that java has, without a license from Oracle, it infringed on its copyright. This claim was dismissed in court, but it has more to it then that, and according to the report the judge had set a limit to when a derivative work do not inherit the license of its origin.
Ninety-seven percent of the source code in the API packages is different; it’s only the three percent that overlaps that formed the heart of Oracle’s copyright claim. That three percent included packages, methods, and class names. But those declarations—like starting a function with
package java.lang—can only be used in certain ways. “In order to declare a particular functionality, the language demands that the method declaration take a particular form
Therefore claiming that just because some lines of code are similar in all themes to the GPLed themes provided as part of the wordpress distribution as Mark Jaquith says
If that argument doesn’t convince you, then note that the vast majority of themes derive from the original WordPress core themes. How they load different PHP subfiles, loop through posts, and get and interact with WordPress data is all covered by the original WordPress core themes, which are explicitly GPL
Doesn’t hold water unless there is some different way to use the wordpress API, which there isn’t. Big part of the PHP code in many themes is identical because there is either no other way to perform a specific functionality, or it is the best practice.
In my opinion the wordpress foundation (or wordpress.org or whoever is talking for wordpress) might have a right cause, but they win the fights because they have bigger sticks, and not because the law is on their side.