More updates to blog, switching to GPL theme

Bismillāhir Raḥmānir Raḥīm

Alḥamdulillāh, I’ve decided that, after upgrading WordPress, I should do a little housekeeping.  As usual, I find a list best presents the ideas I wish to express:

  • I upgraded to WordPress 2.8.2 (mentioned here).
  • I fixed some posts that had some typos (I usually am good about this, but these had slipped by).
  • I deleted some links that really weren’t relevant to me anymore (i.e., Ruby on Rails) and I added some new ones.
  • I changed to a new theme (comments welcome!).

I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the last point above, since it merits some discussion and the action is rooted in something I care about deeply.

Previously, for quite some time, I’ve been using the theme “Vidiyal“.  I’ve actually stuck with it for quite some time because of it’s simplicity, elegance, & beauty (in my eyes, at least).  However, a post by the author of the theme really made up my mind for me.  To put it shortly, despite the obligation to release derivative works of WordPress, such as a theme, under the GPL (as that is what WordPress is licensed under), he insists he does not have to.  I’m not so concerned with the legal issue, to be honest, but the insistence not to release the code as free software is what unsettled me.

To be honest, I didn’t really check before using the theme, and I guess I didn’t really care before this.  But now that the issue has been brought to my attention, I have to stick with what I believe is right.  So, I’ve stopped using all non-free (as in freedom) themes, and will only use themes that I know are free software.  I feel this is the better way to go.

I do hope that Sadish and others see that free software, both practically and, more importantly, fundamentally, are important concepts for protecting our freedoms as human beings.  Software freedom is something we should stand up for, and not tolerate being abused or disregarded.

So, with that, I close my rant and resume pretending to be productive.

4 Replies to “More updates to blog, switching to GPL theme”

  1. Thanks for writing this post. I am not against freedom. I have created and shared so many free themes so far. The only thing I am saying is “I should be free to choose the license for anything I created. Believe me, it requires a lot of time and effort to create good looking usable themes, that output valid XHTML and css and looks good in all major browsers. I am just saying I should not be forced towards GPL.

    Again, you are completely free (as in freedom) to use my themes, but all I ask for is, keep a link to my website on your footer. I can not ask for this, if I release the theme under GPL. That’s why I am against it.

    Thanks
    Sadish

    1. Thanks for writing this post. I am not against freedom. I have created and shared so many free themes so far. The only thing I am saying is “I should be free to choose the license for anything I created. Believe me, it requires a lot of time and effort to create good looking usable themes, that output valid XHTML and css and looks good in all major browsers. I am just saying I should not be forced towards GPL.

      Again, you are completely free (as in freedom) to use my themes, but all I ask for is, keep a link to my website on your footer. I can not ask for this, if I release the theme under GPL. That’s why I am against it.

      Thanks
      Sadish

      You’re welcome, Sadish. And, thank you for also taking the time to respond to my points personally directly on my blog.

      I think the disagreement is rooted in a simple misunderstanding. Let’s put aside the issue that your code is at all related to WordPress, and you release it according to something we call the SPL – the Sadish Public License – version 1.0. 😉 The terms of this license, as far as I can understand what you’re asking are the following:
      This product may be used freely for whatever purpose, but if you use it on your website/blog, then you must preserve the link back to my site that is already there.

      (Please correct my understanding if that is in any way not what you are asking for.)

      Would it then be okay, by you, for someone to take your code, make a derivative product of it, and in their changes, remove the link back to your site? I think it’s very clear that that would be a violation of your terms as well.

      The very same can be said about the GPL v.2 that WordPress is licensed under. The WordPress developers have released WordPress under the terms of the GPL v.2 license which, to summarize, basically states:

      You can use the software however you like.
      You can view and/or study the software (via source code) however you like.
      You may distribute the software however you like.
      You may modify the software however you like (which includes making a derivative work), and distribute this modified version.

      By not licensing your themes, which you distribute and which are derivative works of WordPress (they include and run WordPress code, which is what makes them derivative), you are, in fact, preventing people from the rights which WordPress originally granted them, and which the GPL was designed to protect. In other words, the GPL is meant to keep free software and its derivatives free at all times, and not allow someone to make it nonfree (other licenses don’t necessarily do this, such as the 3-clause BSD license).

      So, to put it simply, the additional clause you have added has taken away the right of people to modify your theme, a derivative work of WordPress, because they may want to remove that link for whatever reason (the GPL does not limit people to any reasons for their modifications). Other aspects of the theme, such as the images and stylesheets, are not derivative works of WordPress, and thus need not be distributed under the GPL – only the code the links with WordPress.

      Now, after all that technical discussion, Sadish, there’s no reason you cannot still get credit for the work or have people link back to your site – how many people really modify their styles (I’m talking percentages, not “a lot”). I know I never did. If I found something objectionable on someone’s site, then I usually ended-up not using their theme at all. And I think this is the case for most people.

      If it’s the money you make from distributing the non-restricted versions of your themes, then that is a business model that is based on violating the rights of others (namely, the WordPress authors), and I don’t you morally would like to continue that.

      I hope that this explanation cleared some things up, and if I got something wrong, please also point that out & correct me. I do really love your themes, and I would love to resume using them and seeing more produced by you.

      1. Thanks again.

        The main thing I differ from you is, a Theme or Plugin is not a derivative. A derivative, in my understanding, is the one that runs on its own. If somebody makes another blogging software by taking portions of the WordPress code, and if it runs on its own, then it is a derivative.
        or if I release a theme, bundled with WordPress software itself, then it could become a derivative.
        Now people download WordPress separately and then the themes.

        So in my view, a Theme is an add-on to the WordPress and so it does not have to follow the licensing of the WordPress.

        Money is not a big concern for me, and if needed I know I could use the “commercially supported GPL” themes such as Brian Gardner or Woo Themes.

        What I am basically saying is, “a theme author should have the freedom to release their work under whatever conditions they want to release them”, because a theme is an add-on and not a derivative.

        Thanks
        Sadish

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