Who Owns WordPress? Or How to Make Money in a GPL Universe

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Written By Brian Krogsgard

6 thoughts on “Who Owns WordPress? Or How to Make Money in a GPL Universe”

  1. I thought this post was pretty good, but ultimately fell short of delivering on “How to Make Money in a GPL Universe.” The author didn’t really provide that information, besides pointing out that the GPL allows charging for a service, rather than a product. I would have liked to see a much more detailed analysis with case studies of WP-based businesses, how they make money, etc.

  2. This article is intended to be the first in a series. My main point was to point out that the business model that is being employed by the parties locked in the current dispute is not a business model that works with the GPL and that to work with the GPL you have to think outside the normal way of doing business. You actually got my point exactly, and I’m hoping to see a discussion start around how GPL friendly business models can still be successful.

  3. To clarify, when you say “not a business model that works with the GPL” you actually mean “not a business model that works with the WordPress Foundation”, right? The most recent drama was because a theme author who sells themes on ThemeForest (in total compliance with the GPL) was barred from speaking at WordCamps by the WordPress Foundation. The theme author was not in violation of the GPL.

    • That’s up for debate. As far as I can tell the WP Foundation argues that because the theme author is selling his themes through Theme Forest which looks to be breaking the GPL, he is by association also breaking the GPL. Matt was pretty clear that if he pulled his themes from ThemeForest he would be let back in again. And yes, there is a discussion here about how militant the WP Foundation should be about enforcing these rules on third parties like theme devs.

      Regardless, my point is that the business model of selling themes again and again and attempting to restrict the redistribution of these themes is inherently dissonant with the GPL and bound to end up causing problems. The whole premise behind this model is faulty and needs to be readdressed. There are countless models that work so it’s not like it is impossible.

  4. If I were to start a business selling WordPress products (themes, plugins, etc.), I would likely go the 100% GPL route to avoid drama and complications.

    However, I suspect that many people selling themes on ThemeForest (or elsewhere) would disagree that the premise behind a split-license business model is faulty. Some people make a comfortable living selling split-licensed themes.

    • Split license is tricky because of how GPL is worded. It is also in conflict with the overall philosophy of WordPress itself. Imagine if WordPress was released under a split license. Personally I think when you build something on top of something others have given you for free, you shouldn’t break that ‘trust’ if you will just to turn a quick buck. But that’s just me.

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