[wp-hackers] Plugin Licensing

Eric Mann eric at eam.me
Tue Mar 15 18:55:21 UTC 2011

> None of the core bloggers will let you advertise on their sites,

This is entirely within their rights.  If you're advocating that someone
should force WordPress bloggers to allow you to advertise on their site
merely because you develop with WordPress I think you'd meet with a *lot* of
resistance.  Individual blog authors, core team or otherwise, will
*always* have
the prerogative to decide whom can and cannot advertise on their sites.

> If you try to converse with important people in the community and they find
> out you

sell non-GPL software, the conversation abruptly ends.

Once again, within their rights.  You can always choose who you talk to, but
most of the "important people in the community" are mature enough that, if
the conversation is worth having, they'll still talk to you even though you
sell non-GPL software.

> Also, you cannot advertise your plugin on wordpress.org and of course
> cannot
> use any of the distribution or update methods built into wordpress so your
> customers are forced to manually update your software.

WordPress.org is run by the WordPress Foundation and has always stated they
will only allow the distribution of GPL-compatible plug-ins through their
system.   This is a decision that was made long ago to protect the user, and
it's not likely to change (nor would many of us want it to).  However, the
statement that you can't use built-in update methods is just ... wrong.

Brad Williams, Ozh Richards, and Justin Tadlock just published Professional
WordPress Plugin Development (you can get it on Amazon:
 It's a great book that covers licensing in detail, and even includes a
section explaining how you can make your plug-ins update from a
privately-hosted repository using the built-in updater.

Ronald Huereca published a detailed tutorial just last week explaining how
commercial or client plug-ins can build-in automatic updates:

So no, you can't advertise a commercial, non-GPL plug-in on the website of a
GPL-sponsoring foundation with a long history of prohibiting that tactic.
 But you *can* use the built-in update methods that are built into WordPress
to update your privately-hosted plug-ins.

> So yeah go ahead and argue.

How is this kind of challenge beneficial to the community or your argument?
 If you want anyone to support your position, try to take a less abrasive
tone when sending out a mass message.  Particularly when many of us are in a
similar boat (I also publish both free and paid solutions) and might be able
to back up your argument.

Unfortunately, some of us completely depend on our software to put food on
> the table and pay the mortgage and it really sucks when someone in
> Indonesia
> starts selling your software for $5 and it is completely legal for them to
> do that if it is GPL.

The trick with selling GPL software is making sure you stay ahead of the
curve.  Offer automatic updates *only* to paid customers.  Offer support
through a forum *only* to paid customers.  Give your customers a legitimate
reason to come to you, rather than the peddler of the $5 knockoff.  The
point of the GPL is to give the end-user (your customer) the right and
ability to make modifications to your code.  If your plug-in
only satisfies 99% of their need, the GPL gives them permission to take it
the other 1% of the way to fixing their specific problem.  It also protects
the community should you, for any reason, decide to abandon the system.
 Then, one of your customers can take up the mantle and keep things going.

And who says you can't contribute to the community in other ways? I do
> provide free plugins and have contributed a number of bug reports. Also, by
> creating software that people use, even if it is proprietary, you are still
> contributing to the value of the community and to WordPress as a platform.

No one's saying that.  The argument started as a question of creating a
non-GPL plugin.  Then it evolved into a debate over whether or not
WordPress-related work could venture away from the GPL at all.  Now it seems
to be a straight ad homiem attack on the core WordPress team, which is
completely groundless and does more harm to the community than good.  Yes,
you can contribute to the community at large in other ways, but which part
of the community are you contributing to?  Does distributing a closed-source
system help the core WordPress platform grow?  Does it help add features?
 Or does it just drag our discussions and interactions into back-and-forth
debates with increasing overtones of negativity and angst?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you are trying to
accomplish.  WordPress.org, as a site, exists to promote the open source
WordPress platform and open source extensions to that platform.  If you want
to sell a closed-source or other non-GPL system, that's not the place to do
it.  If you want to argue otherwise, entering a debate with the core team is
not going to be productive.  They're working hard to further the development
of the open source system and will likely ignore the discussion ("the
conversation abruptly ends") to move on to things that more directly affect
the project itself or its users - the millions of bloggers building their
sites on WordPress.

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