GPL – The beauty of WordPress

WordPress is quite incredible. From humble beginnings as a blogging platform it has slowly evolved into a massively capable and flexible platform. Something like 24% of all the websites online today use WordPress, from personal blogs through to sophisticated news or ecommerce sites. The success of WordPress has created a multi-million dollar satelite industry of theme and plugin developers, site management companies and so many other things.

Surrounded by the immense market that has grown up around it, people forget that WordPress was created to be free, for everybody, forever. To guarantee that, WordPress is supplied to users with a GPL (v2 or later) license. The GPL license was created to guarantee your freedom to share and change software and to ensure it remains free for all users. Put it this way; if Bill Gates had released Microsoft Windows with a GPL license, he’d probably be doing his shopping in Kmart and cutting discount coupons out of magazines…

WordPress plugins and themes need to use the WordPress architecture and coding to work, and so are considered to be ‘derivative works’. As outlined in the GPL licence, derivative works, such as plugins or themes, inherit the GPL license.

You probably didn’t realise it, but almost all WordPress plugins and themes you’ve ever used or thought of buying have a GPL license. This licence, if you read it, says that whether an author distributes copies of a theme or plugin for free or at a price, they must allow the buyers or recipients of the theme or plugin the exact same rights that the GPL licence provides.

WordPress and GPL

What does that mean, in simple terms?

In simple terms, if you buy or download a theme or plugin with a GPL licence, you can modify it, change it or redevelop it, use it on a thousand websites or give copies away to everybody you meet in the supermarket on Saturday, as long as you pass on the GPL licence which allows them to do the same. That’s the freedom GPL gives you.

All the WordPress themes and plugins that we make available for our members to download are under the GPL license. Once you download WordPress themes or plugins from WPDepository, you can modify it, change it or redevelop it, use it on a thousand websites or give copies away to all your ‘friends’ on Facebook, as long as you pass on the GPL licence.

Of course, this doesn’t mean plugin and theme authors have to give their products away for free. The same as producers of any product, they can give them away for free or sell them. It’s their choice. Quite sensibly, most authors prefer to sell their work! But this can make building a WordPress website quite expensive, even if WordPress itself is free.

GPL and WPDepository

Having paid to obtain themes and plugins, GPL licences allow us to share these same themes and plugins with our members even if, quite understandably, developers would prefer that we didn’t. The simple difference is we charge a lot less but don’t offer support or automated updates.