My interpretation is that the precedents in that article support this author's intepretations -- WordPress themes and plugins are not derivative works of WordPress. Merely calling simple interface functions is not enough to make a derivative work according to those cases.
Also, it may not be clear at first glance, but the author of this article and several of the commenters are lawyers.
Personally, I see Wordpress as a library for implementing Wordpress themes, and it follows that Wordpress themes must be distributed under the terms of the GPL. (Wordpress could easily fix this problem by making themes data, not code. But they didn't implement it this way, which leads one to believe that the authors intended for the themes to be GPL'd.)
Also, it may not be clear at first glance, but the author of this article and several of the commenters are lawyers.
True, and their analysis of the law is very good (well, it sounds good to me, anyway). But their analysis of the software is not so good; I think they decided on my first scenario, even though the code does not support this.
By that tortured logic, the Linux kernel is a library for implementing programs and thus every closed source driver and every closed source program that run on Linux must be GPL'ed. It's pretty clear that the authors really want themes to be GPL'ed but their intent is not the deciding factor here.
I am not trying to use "tortured logic" to make a point; I really think this is how Wordpress themes work. Without a theme, Wordpress does absolutely nothing. The theme makes calls into Wordpress to add data and display data. Each theme is its own piece of blogging software that uses Wordpress to abstract away common problems. That's a library.
Another "application" that is actually a library is xmonad. It's a library for writing a window manager that works in a certain way, and it's your "config file" that actually uses the library in such a way as to make a window manager. This is not "tortured logic", it is just good software design. (Although in the case of Wordpress, it's not the right design. Themes should not be applications, they should be data.)
Which part of the GPL do you have in mind?
Each theme is its own piece of blogging software that uses Wordpress to abstract away common problems. That's a library.
That's a library under a tremendously contorted definition of library. As I said, if that's the criterion for something being a library, any program that loads and runs extensions is a library. Firefox is a library, Apache is a library, etc. It may be your preferred definition but it's at odds with both common sense and the way the Wordpress people describe their product.
Anyway, if you want me to dissect a Wordpress theme and show you why I think this, I will. But I think it's obvious if you look for yourself.
You never answered my question about what specific GPL language excludes the Linux kernel from the kinds of claims you are making about Wordpress. Or Mozilla (you claimed Mozilla loading a GPL'ed extension makes it GPL which is an interpretation that makes the GPL not 'viral' but an actual virus)
In this case, there would be no question as to the legal status of the theme. It's just a program that transforms the output of another.
The GPL does not care about "library" verus anything else. The GPL is somewhat oriented around the constructs of C, but there have been clarifying guidelines from the FSF and in general its not hard to see how everything fits in for another language.
The LGPL, on the other hand, makes specific exceptions for libraries which are linked into an existing application. So long as a proprietary application is using the library in such a way that it could be removed and replaced for another compatible version, it is not considered a derivative work under the LGPL and is not subject to release.
The GPL also doesn't require them to "[fix] bugs or make improvements give them back to [you]".
It merely requires that if they do give the binaries to someone, including you, they have to also make available the modified source to those recipients.
I'm perfectly free to take your GPL code, modify it and run it in-house, including using it in a SaaS or web offering offering, and not give anyone access to the source modifications.
At the time, various FOSS luminaries (including rms) signed this -
If you do choose to incorporate GPL code into a program, you will be required to make the entire program Free Software. This is a fair exchange of our code for yours, and one that will continue as you reap the benefit of improvements contributed by the community. However, the legal requirements of the GPL apply only to programs which incorporate some of the GPL-covered code - not to other programs on the same system, and not to the data files that the programs operate upon.
That doesn't sound like 'A GPL'ed program loads your template, making the templated GPL'ed' at all.
Looks like GPL zealots are doing their job for them now.
In my experience, the people who try to extend the GPL beyond its lawful or reasonable capabilities are more interested in forbidding competition than guaranteeing user freedom. For example, MySQL's bizarre claims that their protocol is GPL'd and that non-GPL reimplementations are infringement, or Matt Mullenweg asserting that the GPL is a construct of the address space.
If RMS or Eben Moglen make a claim regarding the GPL, then it's worth analyzing and debating -- but Joe Nobody, author of Yet Another PHP Blog Engine, cannot be considered a reliable authority on GPL or copyright law.
Microsoft's contention was that using GPL'ed software exposes you and your intellectual property to risk. The motivation of the parties making very broad GPL claims is not relevant - what's relevant is that it is precisely the sort of thing Microsoft was insinuating and precisely the sort of thing the linked missive tries to disclaim.
Joe Nobody, author of Yet Another PHP Blog Engine
Matt Mullenweg is hardly Joe Nobdy, nor is Wordpress Yet Another PHP Blog Engine. He represents his claims as legally sound and offers the opinion of lawyers who are, according to him "the world’s preëminent experts on the GPL". See:
Does anybody care about Wordpress, though?
If his beliefs are correct, it is illegal to distribute proprietary software that only runs on Linux.
Yes. This is a well-established fact.
If his beliefs are correct
If his beliefs were correct, nobody would touch anything GPL'ed with somebody else's penis. His beliefs are either posturing or a sincere misunderstanding of copyright.
I was with you until you wrote this. Why can't programmers understand licenses? What's wrong with writing blogging software?
There is no reason a programmer cannot understand copyright, and there is nothing wrong with writing unoriginal software. But if somebody's going to make extraordinary, unsupported claims about the law, they need to have some experience or authority to back it up. To my knowledge, Mullenweg has neither.
If Eben Moglen said tomorrow that the GPL applies to any software in the same address space, then it would be dramatic and worrisome because he is a copyright lawyer and is one of the world's leading experts on the GPL. If the cashier at McDonalds said the same thing, I don't think it would deserve the same amount of consideration or concern.
Defeating a bogus lawsuit costs money, so this could have just been the cheaper route (or maybe the guy just wasn't familiar with the cases cited in the article here).
"If a program released under the GPL uses plug-ins, what are the requirements for the licenses of a plug-in?
It depends on how the program invokes its plug-ins. If the program uses fork and exec to invoke plug-ins, then the plug-ins are separate programs, so the license for the main program makes no requirements for them.
If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and the plug-ins. This means the plug-ins must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and that the terms of the GPL must be followed when those plug-ins are distributed.
If the program dynamically links plug-ins, but the communication between them is limited to invoking the ‘main’ function of the plug-in with some options and waiting for it to return, that is a borderline case."
The GPL is, by design, a license rather than a contract, and therefore it cannot forbid any action that copyright law permits. If indeed a WordPress premium theme is not a “derivative work” within the meaning of copyright law, then the GPL cannot touch it, regardless of the GPL author’s intent.
I'm not a big fan of this, though it makes the most sense in my mind (at least with my opinion mostly biased by the GPL). I remember reading Dries, the found of Drupal, effectively claiming that all Drupal modules were GPL'ed and not liking it so much that I have altered my plans for future Drupal modules (all the better for me, my intellectual property will not be open for all to witness as I intend a more hosted solution which I can charge a higher premium for).
Ultimately, I feel like crusades by open source projects (WordPress, Drupal, etc) to GPL their modules will backfire and create a more restrictive, hosted component to them that they will ultimately regret. Dries did this for this anti-spam module, Mollom. I don't think he'd be so happy if core features like Views or CCK performed identically. Drupal would effectively suck. I guess thats all the more reason to reject the idea that plugins are derivative works.
If I wrote an application which supports plugins, and I wanted to prevent a particular non-GPL plugin from being used, the only legally justified way I could do so would be to sue my users. That's right -- I'd have to attack the very people using my software. Not the plugin authors, the users.
Ironically, this means that selling a proprietary plugin is safer than hosting it. I wonder what Dries would think about that.
Which says things like "A consequence is that if you choose to use GPL'd Perl modules ... in your program, you must release the program in a GPL-compatible way", which we can see from the cases cited here (or just by reading the actual law) is clearly bogus. And there's no question of your binaries being derivative due to incorporating code derived from the module's header files (because Perl doesn't work that way).
You'll have to forgive me if it sounds insulting, but it was obvious that Mike's profession is not in copyright law, because his arguments and applications of case law are sloppy. Please keep this in mind when considering the validity of the posts, especially if one of the major factors in your thoughts are credentials; copyright law is very complex and its applications to software bring about all kinds of issues that don't exist even in the realm of copyright for other media. It requires an incredibly nuanced understanding of the law at hand and legal precedents of the industry.
But I am not a laywer, so perhaps far be it from me to be speaking up.
They left the wordpress project, and picked the ASL license because of their experiences in wordpress.
The GPL2 tself says... "You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works."
Also, regarding the marketplace surrounding WordPress, WooThemes distribute their themes under the GPL and per Andrew Warner's interview with co-founder Adii Pienaar (http://mixergy.com/woothemes-adriaan-pienaar/) they make $2+ million a year and have had some of their code incorporated back into WordPress by Automattic. This should assuage any fears about GPL themes being commercially viable and of Automattic taking a dislike to others making money off of WordPress.
In a hurry, not enough skills, buy a theme. Skilled with the time to make your own, then roll your own.
You have a choice, you are not compelled to pay for a theme if you don't want to. The software will continue to work regardless.
Unless there is some kind of legal stalking horse that could affect the GPL, I don't see the point of all the fuss.
I use both Wordpress and Joomla and I see the same kind of thriving ecosystem around both projects. Commercial and non-commercial plugins and themes for both. Seems like a good thing to me and I don't see why it has to be an either/or situation.
If I am missing something then I would like to hear it.
I think it's unlikely they'll do anything about this as legal action would be detrimental to their community; meaning that this won't be decided unless someone who receives a non-GPL'd theme contests it. This doesn't preclude Automattic/Matt from stating their view and raising a bit of a fuss as you put it in the interim.
To be clear - I'm neither a fan of the GPL, a lawyer or a WordPress user so I don't know whether Automattic is in the right and I'm indifferent as to whether or not they are.
All are GPL.
I asked a legitimate question, which given the fact y'all want to be millionaires selling software deserves an actual response.