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GPL Question re upcoming plugin release


  • D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    Hi there,

    Apologies if this sounds either uninformed or inflammatory, but I have a few queries regarding the correct license to release the group wiki plugin under.

    I want the code to be under a license that:

    a) Makes sure that if the code is re-used anywhere, it is done so only for free (not ‘premium’) plugins. For instance, I wouldn’t want somewhere like WPMU Dev Premium to be able to package it up with a few tweaks and then start charging users for it…

    b) Complies with the requirements for WordPress & BuddyPress licensing. I believe that this is a simple “Must be GPL if you’re using WordPress functions) but I’d happily take advice on this.

    c) The usual/obvious one where I want credit for myself and the other plugin authors to be maintained.

    I’m sure to most people on here that the answer is blindingly obvious and I should be using GPL, but I just wanted to double-check that I’ve not made any incorrect assumptions.

Viewing 22 replies - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)

  • Jean-Pierre Michaud
    Participant

    @nexia

    here is the best place for you to choose your license: http://creativecommons.org/choose/


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    That looks really useful, thanks. Is it as ‘legal’ as the GPL? i.e. enforceable?

    edit: *reads the FAQ/etc* I need to stop being lazy :)


    Jean-Pierre Michaud
    Participant

    @nexia

    i didn’t want to insult you at first, but yeah, stop being lazy… ROFL…

    ;)


    Boone Gorges
    Keymaster

    @boonebgorges

    IANAL. But http://wiki.creativecommons.org/FAQ#Can_I_use_a_Creative_Commons_license_for_software.3F

    I think (though IANAL!!) that CC licenses are generally more restrictive than the GNU under which WP is released. Because GNU licenses apply to derivative works, I think that applying a more restrictive license to a WP plugin would be a violation of the WP license.


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    Yeah, I just noticed that also. GNU GPL appealed to me at first anyhow, so that sounds good unless anyone is aware of anything else that will cause issues :)


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron


    Boris
    Participant

    @travel-junkie

    GPL has nothing to do with code being free (as in beer). Anyone can take code published under the GPL (WordPress for example) and start charging for it as long as all necessary conditions are met.


    Boone Gorges
    Keymaster

    @boonebgorges

    Right, Travel-Junkie – the only restriction is that they have to respect GPL. So WPMU Dev can wrap up and sell any plugin they want, as long as the work continues to be under the original license.


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    Doesn’t the point I link to in the GNU GPL preclude people releasing ‘improved’ versions of the software and charging for it?

    If no, it seems almost worth using a more restrictive license and charge people 1 pence to download the plugin or something.


    @mercime
    Keymaster

    @mercime

    Hi DCartwright. I would say that the GPL even allows anyone to take WordPress core and release an ‘improved’ version and charge for it as long as it’s released under GPL as well. You know that the WP plugin repo requires GPL, but whatever you decide, you’ve got my 1pence or more :-)


    Boris
    Participant

    @travel-junkie

    The whole point of the GPL is that the code will always be available, even if the developer has given up on it. A more restrictive license might mean that people will not improve on what you have worked on and that your code might just go dormant.

    If someone takes your code, improves it a bit and then sells it, the improved code will still have to be GPL. This means that you could then take all the changes made and incorporate it back into your plugin. You wouldn’t even have to buy the improved plugin, just get the code from somewhere. Or just reproduce any new features.


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    That sounds reasonable.. I’m more than happy for people to modify it as much as they like, so long as they release those improvements to the community.

    Apologies if it sounded like I was being pedantic and/or overly-demanding. I guess I’ve just been burned by ‘premium’ plugins in the past and wanted to make sure I could avoid the issue.


    Jeff Sayre
    Participant

    @jeffsayre

    You will have to license your work under some version of the GPL that at minimum offers the freedoms that the WP GPL offers.

    What others have said above is basically correct. The GPL does not say anything about free as in cost. It is about freedoms of the end user. In fact, the GPL does not discourage developers or theme designers from making money off of their work or someone else’s work.

    However, the GPL is very specific in how this is to be done: either by charging a distribution fee, a support fee, or both. So, in effect, you are not charging for the code itself. The vast majority of Premium plugin shops simply charge a distribution and support fee. If their plugins are not GPLed, then something is wrong.

    Here are two great links from the GNU website that explain this very clearly:

    Selling Free Software

    The Free Software Definition

    By the way, IMO there should not be a double standard in the WordPress community. Premium theme designers abound. Premium plugin developers should also be afforded the same respect and opportunity. The crucial point is that their work, like premium themes, must remain licensed under the GPL.

    Of course, as Matt Mullenweg has stated on numerous occasions when discussing the issue of premium themes, although the PHP must be GPLed, the CSS and JS of the theme can be copyrighted. The same holds true with plugins. But, in my opinion, doing so is just too picky. I prefer to GPL everything–the PHP, CSS, JS, etc.

    Now, you could choose to license your work under the AGPL, which is considered to offer more freedoms to the community. The basic difference from the GPL is that any changes made to your plugin, even if for private use, must be returned back to the community. Under GPLv1 through GPLv3, it is acceptable for any code changes to a plugin to remain private if the plugin is never distributed.

    One final thought. I’ve stated this before in other places. Many people in the WordPress community seem to be moving beyond the spirit of the GPL, to a more utopian, share and share alike vision. There’s nothing wrong with that if it happens. But the GPL has never been about free as in cost.


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    AGPL sounds good to me. Thanks for that, Jeff Sayre.

    I have nothing against the idea of premium plugins (despite what I said earlier, lol) but my experiences with WPMU Dev Premium have perhaps unfairly prejudiced me against them.

    Either way, AGPL sounds good to me.


    Jeff Sayre
    Participant

    @jeffsayre

    You’re welcome.

    By the way, here is a succinct explanation of what the GNU AGPL is all about:

    http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#UnreleasedMods

    As you can see, there may be a few circumstances where modified code may not be required to be released back into the community under AGPL. But those exceptions would basically mean that the plugin is not being used on a live site, perhaps only on a localhost environment.


    thebloghouse
    Participant

    @thebloghouse

    Really interesting thread guys.

    We are a few weeks away from releasing our first and potentially very lucrative plugin (WP not BuddyPress) and thought about selling our plugin and making some cash per user download but the main inhbiting factor for us was that we would be limiting it’s reach by it not being available in the WordPress repository.

    In an ideal world we would also like to do the ‘nicer’ thing and go down the GPL route for everything we do without thinking twice but at the end of the day after many months of development your first GPL plugin is the hardest one to get out the door as it is a complete mind shift from the old closed software model we have been used to!


    Xevo
    Participant

    @xevo

    Lots of different opinions about this, but lets face it, will wordpress sue you if you don’t use GPL license on your plugin/theme? Anyway, I haven’t found any legal evidence that your forced to use GPL on your plugin/theme, just speculations and opinions.

    Vladimir Prelovac gave solutions of this problem on his blog a while back.

    The solution exists and is technical in nature. For plugins you can develop your whole code as a library under your own licensing model. Then you would have the wordpress plugin which will call functions from your library. The plugin itself becomes GPL but the library not and you are free to slap any kind of license and restriction to it.

    For themes it is a bit of a different story. Having read the GPL FAQ carefully this is my interpretation. First solution: You do not need to call any WordPress functions in your theme, but you can connect to the database directly and get the information you need. This method is possible but not elegant at all.

    Second solution is to have your theme in external php files and one WordPress index.php. This file will use WordPress functions and only include() your files as neccessary. Again index.php would fall under GPL, all other files won’t.


    Jeff Sayre
    Participant

    @jeffsayre

    @thebloghouse

    …thought about selling our plugin and making some cash per user download but the main inhbiting factor for us was that we would be limiting it’s reach by it not being available in the WordPress repository.

    I believe it is important to give back to the community–especially if you directly profit from using any of the WP ecosystem products. That is why many people prescribe the freemium model where you offer a standard version of your plugin for free (this is the one you host on the WP repo) and then offer your premium version on your on site or another hosted site.

    It is important, in my opinion, to offer real value in the standard version, not just fluff that whet people’s appetite and then makes them trade up to the “real” plugin. With regard to this point, along with additional functionality, one of the differentiating factors between your standard and premium versions could be support level. You offer basic support for the standard version and more robust support for you premium version. It is up to you to decide what standard and robsut support actually means.

    Again, in my opinion and the opinion of many others in our community, themes and plugins must be GPLed. There are certain exceptions like the few I outlined in my first post in this thread. Another exception is if you call a propritary algorithm hosted on a remote server via an API–much like the Akismet service’s code is not GPLed. However, I am not a software attorney (or any other type of attorney for that matter), so if you do want to sell non-GPLed themes or plugins for use with WordPress, I suggest you contact one before doing so.

    Since a lot has been written about the GPL issue, I suggest searching the Web for more details if you’re interested.


    thebloghouse
    Participant

    @thebloghouse

    @Jeff

    I completly agree it is important to give back to the community – please don’t miss the second part of my post about doing the nice thing and think our company is out be evil :)

    I was just saying I can totally see how a small company would try and hide all their code and try to get something back per plugin but as we realised early on the freemium model is the only way to be successful within the WP community long term.


    Jeff Sayre
    Participant

    @jeffsayre

    @thebloghouse-

    No worries! You’ve been very clear about your good intentions!

    I just wanted to make sure that you realized a freemium approach can allow you to have one version of your plugin hosted on the WP plugin repo and another version hosted somewhere else. If both versions offer real value and are GPLed, there should not be any issues.

    Also, since there are a number of people who are closely following this thread, I was providing a general overview of the freemium process and an assessment as to how I think it should be approached. So, I apologize if it seemed like I was singling you out. I was not.


    D Cartwright
    Participant

    @aekeron

    This has all been extremely useful information and very informative. I would also like to thank those people that have taken the time to PM me with additional info (you know who you are) :)

    I (probably naively) didn’t realise that this was such a hot topic of debate in the community – it’s interesting to get all this background information, especially as someone that until recently hadn’t released a wordpress plugin.


    Bowe
    Participant

    @bowromir

    I’m also pretty new to WordPress and did not know the history that surrounded Premium plugins and the conflicts which occured in the past. I’m used to paying for plugins/3rd party extensions for software so I was kinda suprised by how the WP community sees this. I’m still not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing, but it’s one of the things that makes WP special.. I haven’t felt more at home then in the BP community so it says something about the general atmosphere around here :)

Viewing 22 replies - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
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