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WordPress versus Thesis: My Take | Kestrel's Aerie

WordPress versus Thesis: My Take | Kestrel's Aerie

WordPress versus Thesis: My Take

There is currently a VERY heated debate going on within the WordPress and Thesis (#wordpress, #thesiswp on Twitter) community regarding whether or not Thesis is subject to the GPL under which WordPress is released. As a reminder, Thesis is the premium WordPress theme I use and shill for on this site.

The big sticking point appears to be the Thesis license, which is not GPL, and which prohibits promulgating Thesis to other sites without paying extra for the privilege.There are some strong arguments on both sides (and since this IS the Interwebs, a lot of emotion founded on idiocy (or vice versa)), but I’m starting to consider alternatives—including the (very, very slight) possibility of moving to Movable Type. Let’s just say the principals and their supporters on both sides could stand to temper some of their public comments.

There are other premium themes, but once you pay for them, there are no similar restrictions on using the theme on other websites. To illustrate (with considerable simplification): If I wanted to create a Thesis theme for a friend’s site, I would have to pay $77 to upgrade to the developer version of Thesis, then pay an additional fee ($35 or thereabouts) to put Thesis on her domain (no restriction my own individual domain). However, with other premium themes, I pay a one-time license fee, then I’m free to distribute the theme(s) to as many sites as I desire.

Now, why a premium theme in the first place? Most of them are designed from the get-go to maximize SEO (not something I particularly care about, but of course commercial sites do). They are also (generally) fairly easy to modify: That’s how I got my theme to look almost identical to the theme I had on my site before I got Thesis. They generally provide a simple way to hook into WordPress’s functions so you can insert content before and after sidebars, for example. Or in the case of Thesis, have a “multimedia box” (which is where I stick the code for the static ads on my site), that can provide loads of flexibility.

Since I’m an inveterate tinkerer, but not a creator, Thesis (or similar themes) give me the ability to play around a lot, without being a “real coder.” I’ve found that every free theme I’ve used has either been very poorly (read: improperly) coded, or is just too difficult to modify, or both.

For the time being (however long or short that is), I’m going to stick with what I have. However, if I become convinced that Thesis does run counter to Automattic’s implementation of GPL, I will abandon it in favor of a compliant theme. Or, if I really get fed up with the rhetoric on both sides, I may just toss WordPress altogether.

Full Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Thesis, and as such, if someone buys Thesis through one of the links on my site, I do receive a payment. So far, I’ve received exactly one such affiliate payment. Thus, my livelihood is in no way or degree dependent on that affiliate relationship. (In fact, what I’ve received may pay for a different premium theme if I decide to go that route—as long as I pick a relatively cheap one.)



7 Responses to WordPress versus Thesis: My Take
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ben Greenberg, Steve Hall (Kestrel). Steve Hall (Kestrel) said: New at Kestrel's Aerie: "WordPress versus Thesis: My Take" – […]

  2. Grimmtooth
    July 14, 2010 | 17:21

    First of all, I’m not big on Thesis. Just taste, but I say so to emphasize that I have no reason to say this: unless Thesis incorporates bits of WP into it, it doesn’t violate GPL.

    Only an experienced PHP code monkey would know for sure, of course, but as I understand it, Thesis is just a theme. In that respect, it is to WP as a script file is to, say, Python.

    Python is an open source programming language. Programs are “script” files (uncompiled text files) that do nothing until run through an interpreter (python.exe on Windows).

    I can create script files and sell them, close-source them via obfuscation programs, etc, and not violate the license that comes with Python. My script files are MINE, and I can distribute them however I wish. This has been made abundantly clear by many people, including the Grand Poobah himself, Guido Whom We All Adore. :)

    So, from the cheap seats, I really think Thesis, and yourself, are OK with respect to the GPL.

    And yeah the rhetoric from open source and gpl freaks is pretty toxic at times. I suggest not reading those fora or whatever for a few months and let them move on to the next bright and shiny object.

    • Kestrel
      July 14, 2010 | 18:06

      That’s pretty much how I understood the GPL, too. However, Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress) is arguing that any WP theme (including Thesis) is a “derivative work” under GPL terminology, and therefore must also subscribe to the GPL.

      A fairly cogent argument is made here, and Mullenweg even has an opinion from the Software Freedom Law Institute (sounds pretty impressive, but I’ve no idea of this organization’s bona fides).

      • Grimmtooth
        July 14, 2010 | 18:24

        I’m thinking if Matt had a case he’d be able to take it to court – a REAL court, not the court of public opinion. I can’t see it being right – he can’t be proposing that WP flies at the whim of the author of PHP, after all.

        No, if it goes that route then anything written in Python, Perl, PHP, Rexx, and including our friend LUA – all have to follow the interpreter’s license. Ain’t gonna happen. All other arguments aside, that’s the way it is.
        Grimmtooth recently posted…A couple of follow-upsMy Profile

        • Kestrel
          July 14, 2010 | 22:32

          Matt basically threatened Chris with a lawsuit today. And Ars Technica, in an article, welcomed that possibility, if only to clear up the very grey legal area of what, exactly, is a “derivative product,” under the GPL?

          Derivative software, unlike, say, derivatives of books, plays, or music, is not very well defined. Part of the reason is the lack of case law; the other part, sadly, is the ignorance of judges.

          (IANAL, I just play one on the Interwebz.)

          • Grimmtooth
            July 14, 2010 | 22:55

            Exactamundo; as I say, “put up or shut up.” I’m fairly confident in what will come of this in a legal environment, assuming how similar cases have gone.

            So Matt needs to stop posting and start filing.
            Grimmtooth recently posted…A couple of follow-upsMy Profile

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