[wp-hackers] Blatant Copying of Plugin Code

Chip Bennett chip at chipbennett.net
Mon Oct 3 12:07:04 UTC 2011

*TL;DR*: Add an explicit copyright attribution and license declaration to
your code, if you expect others to retain them.

I note that you don't actually have a copyright attribution in your original
Plugin (or, for that matter, a license declaration), in either the primary
Plugin file<http://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/slick-social-share-buttons/tags/1.3/dcwp_slick_social_buttons.php>or
in the readme
is a bit of a problem with WordPress Plugins and Themes, because most
developers do not properly/adequately attribute their *own* code. (I found
this to be true even among core developers, in a Plugin
two years ago; I suspect that little has changed.)

Note that GNU recommends this format for copyright attribution:

Copied out of some of my own code, for example:

 * Oenology WordPress Theme, Copyright (C) 2010 Chip Bennett
 * This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
 * it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
 * the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
 * (at your option) any later version.
 * This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
 * but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
 * GNU General Public License for more details.

For Themes, one would expect to see this attribution/disclaimer in the
header comments in style.css. For Plugins, one would expect to see this
attribution/disclaimer in the phpDoc header docblock in the primary Plugin
PHP file. Note also that phpDoc includes @copyright and @license tags, that
can and should be used where appropriate.

The important part of the GNU-recommended attribution is the *copyright
statement*. If you include it, you can reasonably and legally expect that
any derivative (or re-distributed) work will retain it; however, if you fail
to include this attribution, it is unreasonable to expect that someone else
is going to create it for you.

Personally, I'd love to see a bit more education of WordPress Theme/Plugin
developers regarding the proper method of code copyright attribution and
license declaration. With WPORG-hosted Themes, at least explicit
License/License URI declaration is required (though we don't currently
address copyright attribution). Plugins have... well, an (IMHO) legally
non-binding statement here <http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/about/> that
Plugins are "explicitly" (whereby the definition of "explicit" is bludgeoned
into a semblance of "implicit") licensed as GPL if no license declaration

So, we've somewhat brought on a "wild west" environment upon ourselves, with
respect to modified/re-distributed code. While on one hand some people will
have nefarious intent, and won't follow convention even if convention is
established, on the other hand, even people who intend to follow convention
- and who intend to attribute copyright properly when they
modify/redistribute code - are stymied by a lack of convention with in the
WordPress developer community, and by a lack of education regarding what the
license *itself* (er, GNU) recommends.


On Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 6:15 AM, Phillip Lord
<phillip.lord at newcastle.ac.uk>wrote:

> The GPL doesn't allow what he is claiming. He says that his author name
> has been removed. GPL allows you to use other peoples content, but the
> copyright on that content remains with the originators. The GPL requires
> "appropriate copyright notice" on modified forms; as the copyright
> remains (in part) with the original author this would have to be
> included.
> The GPL does allow you rebadge things; but you have to be clear that
> this is what you have done.
> Phil
> Mike Schinkel <mikeschinkel at newclarity.net> writes:
> > P.S. The moral is: When you use (or operate in an ecosystem that uses)
> > a license that allows anyone freedom to do whatever they want with
> > your code, don't be surprised or upset when someone takes you up on
> > that freedom. It happens; just ask the guys at Jigowatt.
> >>>>>> It has just come to our attention that a plugin, Smart Share
> Floating
> >>>>>> Buttons, which was launched earlier today on wordpress.org is an
> exact copy
> >>>>>> of a plugin we developed called slick social share buttons. In fact
> the
> >>>>>> plugin still contains links to our own website, where the "author"
> has
> >>>>>> forgotten to remove some of the links. The only changes made to the
> files
> >>>>>> are to change the author name and site to his own. In fact he
> couldnt
> >>>>>> actually be bothered to even rename files.
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