WordPress Theme Thesis Now GPL'd

Thesis is now under the GPL. That is, the PHP code that forms the bulk of the WordPress theme Thesis is now under the GPL, the same free software license as WordPress itself.

A week ago, I posted on the Thesis licensing controversy, closing with the wish that it wouldn’t go to court. Well, that wish was granted. I am “glad that Pearson saw fit to respect the GPL and that no blood was shed in the process” (to quote Jolie O’Dell, who has moved to Mashable from RWW).

Why should WordPress themes (not just Thesis) be GPL’d? WordPress core developer Mark Jaquith made a thorough argument that: Theme code necessarily derives from WordPress and thus must be licensed under the GPL if it is distributed. There’s lively discussion at Mark’s blog and at Reddit.

WordPress, the GPL, and Thesis

WordPress is open source software, licensed under the GPL (as its About page tells us). The question is: does the fact that WordPress is under the GPL mean that WordPress themes must also be under the GPL? This question of WordPress theme licensing has come to a head recently, as what Mitch Canter calls the great Thesis vs. WordPress theme debate.

Thesis is the flagship theme at DIYthemes. It is one of several WordPress themes developed by Chris Pearson. It is not under the GPL, because Chris doesn’t want it to be, and doesn’t think it has to be.

Why should a WordPress theme use the GPL? One way of making the argument is to use the following quote from the GPL FAQ. Combining two modules means connecting them together so that they form a single larger program. If either part is covered by the GPL, the whole combination must also be released under the GPL. A WordPress theme is a module that combines with WordPress core and with plugins to form a single larger program.

That’s the argument advance in a comment on the above-referenced great debate post. The comment is by Dougal Campbell, whose own post on the issue includes a good collection of links. Talking of links, my way in to this discussion was a post by Chris Cameron at RWW. That post focuses rather more on a specific exchange between Chris Pearson and Matt Mullenweg than on the wider issue.

I lean toward the view that WordPress themes (and plugins) are modules that combine with the core code. So they should be under the GPL, and hence free (as in freedom). If that makes a developer uneasy, well, maybe they should have thought of that before developing modules that combine with GPL’d code.

On the other hand, I think that reasonable people can disagree on this issue. So how to resolve it? Through the courts?

I have a few questions about the legal route. First, who has the best standing to bring suit? Would it be the WordPress Foundation (an organization of and from which I’ve heard little since its founding)?

Second, is this particular case too clouded by issues specific to Thesis to provide a good test of the basic question of theme licensing? (I’m thinking of statements that Thesis includes some code lifted from WordPress core.)

Finally, would a lawsuit be a good use of anyone’s resouces? I strongly suspect not.

WordPress Foundation Founded

Founder Matt announced the founding of the WordPress Foundation with – what else – a post on a WordPress blog. I saw the news via ReadWriteJolie, whose post is a mix of reporting and rejoicing.

Rather than covering the same ground, I’ll add that:

  • The theme for the Foundation’s blog is Twenty Ten, “The 2010 default theme for WordPress.” It’s good to see Kubrik giving way to a far cleaner theme.
  • Matt acknowledges that we expected to see the WordPress Foundation say “Hello World” a while ago. He does so with phrases such as slow cookin’ makes good eatin’ and ducks in a row. If I were a duck, I’d be nervous.

GPL: Flavors and Numbers

Palamida maintains a watch on GPLv3 adoption. Over 2000 projects are now using v3. After reading the current PalaPost, I had the following questions.

  • Who are these Palamida people?
  • Why are they using Blogger, rather than free/open source software, for their blog about use of the most prominent free software license?
  • What about AGPL adoption? (Pala’s post mentions AGPL, but doesn’t provide numbers.)

Matt Asay, via whom I saw this, shares my interest in the last of these questions. In researching the first two I tried to get to Palamida.com, only to encounter a Drupal mascot and an “unable to connect to database” error. I guess Palamida is trying to use free software…

ASUS GPL Violations

Cliff Biffle has a post on the ASUS Eee PC that’s as impressive as his name, and more impressive than ASUS’ regard for free/open source software.

ASUS is bound by the GPL to make the sources for the software they’re distributing available… ASUS has posted a 1.8GB ZIP file on their website that they claim is the sources, but it’s not.

I’m inclined to apply Hanlon’s razor and so to view ASUS as a fool rather than as an evil penguin-molester. Hence, still stands my plea: Eee PC for me!