[wp-hackers] Plugin Licensing

Trent Martin trentmar at gmail.com
Tue Mar 15 18:59:49 UTC 2011

There have actually been many, many court cases regarding derivative works.

A derivative work is a work that partially contains someone else's work. My
code is 100% my own and because I don't distribute WordPress with my product
I am not bound by the GPL. My product is combined with WordPress by the end
user, which the end user is allowed to do; the GPL doesn't even come into

For something to be a derivative work it must be a work in the first place;
a work that is separate from the original work. A work is a fixed medium you
can distribute to others, a user installing a plugin that mixes in RAM with
WordPress is simply not a work. I can sell a case for an iPhone that
completely depends on the shape and size of the phone, but my case is
certainly not a derivative work.

Further the GPL plainly and explicitly states that “You may make, run and
propagate covered works that you do not convey, without conditions.” In
other words, if you accept the GPL you are not bound to any conditions as
long as you do not convey (distribute) the work to others. An end user is
clearly allowed to modify WordPress for his or her own use and the fact that
they do it themselves, pay someone to do it, or by purchasing code from
someone else it doesn't make a difference because none of these constitute a
violation of the copyright law or the GPL.

The biggest argument I see is that plugins completely depend on WordPress
and it's inner workings. However, books about WordPress also have this same
requirement and they are not derivative works. Dependency does not define a
derivative work.

On Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 12:43 PM, Andy Charrington-Wilden <
andycharrington at gmail.com> wrote:

> [...]However, I accept that the WordPress community has rightfully defined
> its
> own ethos with respect to acceptable licensing of WordPress Plugins and
> Themes.[...]
> That hits the nail on the head. Without any actual court cases happening no
> one really knows the legality of derivative works. The whole thesis debacle
> went a step closer to defining it but I think all it really proved was the
> power and influence Matt has.
> I'm all for good ethics and morals but unfortunately it is a fact that they
> are not always conducive to making a living.
> For what it's worth my solution was to build a hosted service. No one
> downloads or even sees my code so there's no worries about people stealing
> it and reselling. Whilst this solution works for me I understand that it
> doesn't solve the larger issue if licensing and derivative works.
> I think this will keep producing massive threads until either something
> changes within automatic or a case goes to court......
> Jealous Designs
> Website: jealousdesigns.co.uk
> Portfolio: jealousdesigns.co.uk/portfolio
> Phone: 07903030008
> Twitter: _a_n_d_y
> Skype: andycharrington
> Sent from my iPhone
> On 15 Mar 2011, at 18:08, Chip Bennett <chip at chipbennett.net> wrote:
> > However, I accept that the WordPress community has rightfully defined its
> > own ethos with respect to acceptable licensing of WordPress Plugins and
> > Themes.
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