Matt, the lead developer for WordPress, has come up with a post saying “WordPress Themes are GPL too“.
I have created several popular WordPress Themes, ever since WordPress started supporting Themes.
I do not agree to him saying “WordPress Themes are GPL, too” and I will put my thoughts about it in this post.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open source software that is released to the public for free, under a GPL License.
People download this software, and install it on their hosting servers. The software helps people manage their website’s content and its ‘look and feel’.
I do strongly believe it is one of the most versatile and powerful CMS out there as of now.

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress Theme, is a collection of PHP files, CSS stylesheets and images. These files are packaged into one zip file and is offered as one “WordPress Theme”.
A Theme basically defines the look and feel of a WordPress-Powered site.
In simple words, we could say that WordPress offers the bare bones of the website and a Theme offers the skin that covers the skeleton.
You can learn more about what is in a WordPress Theme at my other site.

How does it work?

People can download these WordPress Themes, from many of the websites.
They can then install the Theme to work with their WordPress installation. One website can have multiple WordPress Themes and people can pick and choose any of the Themes that they have installed.

Why I think a Theme need not inherit GPL License?

I am just trying to put my thoughts on this issue here. I do understand WordPress has been created and maintained by lots of hard working and passionate people at the Development team. I am not in any way trying to belittle any of their work.

1. Theme’s code is not written by WordPress Dev Team.

WordPress provides the hooks for the WordPress Themes. A Theme developer basically uses these hooks and presents the content in an elegant manner, through the theme.
WordPress comes with only two themes bundled with it. Those are called “WordPress Classic Theme” and “WordPress Default Theme”. If Matt wants to dictate what license a theme should be inheriting, he can only say it for these two themes or any themes that inherits from these two themes.

2. A Theme is not released as one package bundled with WordPress.

If someone releases a WordPress Theme as one package, bundled with WordPress software itself, then he/she has to inherit the license of WordPress itself.
But, as far as I know, a theme is released on its own package and nobody includes the WordPress software itself along with the theme.
So I actually do not see any reason for a Theme to inherit the license of WordPress.

3. Themes based on a free CSS Template

I have created some of my themes, based on a design by Free CSS Templates. If the author of that template says the footer links to his website should not be removed, then I have to make sure people using my WordPress Theme, do not remove them.
If WordPress wants to force a theme to be GPL, then I will not be able to create any WordPress Theme based on such templates.
We may not have a Fall Season at The Green House for sure!

4. A Website’s design is not solely controlled by StyleSheet and Images

Matt and his team mentioned that any stylesheet and/or images in the theme do not need to inherit the GPL license. Well and Good, but transforming a design into an actual website, is not achieved, just by touching the stylesheet and images. A Theme developer has to write the code on the index.php ( and other .php files in the theme as well)

Suppose my theme displays a calendar like look for each one of the post as you see in my Pal Nila Theme.
To achieve this look, I put the following code inside the loop in index.php file.

<p class="post-date">
<span class="month"><?php the_date('M');?></span>
<span class="day"><?php the_date('d');?></span>
</p>

WordPress does not give me this code. It only tells me that I can use the_date() function with the right parameter, to get to the data that I want to display.
If a .php file has the code that I wrote (and it is not copying code from the default or classic WordPress themes), then I should be able to define the licensing terms on that, isn’t it?

Final Note:

I do understand that people’s views and opinions can always be different.
I am not against GPL and of course I am going to make some of my work to be GPL too, but I want to have a freedom of choice to decide which license I should release my work under.
I do not like the licensing to be forced on something that I created.

That’s all Folks! Let me know your thoughts.

If you are using my themes in any of your website, please read my licensing terms.

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