Some very, very interesting happenings in the WordPress community over the past two days. I’m late to the game, as great post with fantastic comments have already covered most of the topics.
Lets back this up and talk about licences. WordPress, the blogging software that runs this blog, is open source under GPL. GPL is a licence that is ‘copyleft’ in that it gives you rights as an author and user.
The licenses for most software and other practical works are designed to take away your freedom to share and change the works. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change all versions of a program–to make sure it remains free software for all its users. We, the Free Software Foundation, use the GNU General Public License for most of our software; it applies also to any other work released this way by its authors. You can apply it to your programs, too.
You can read more about the WordPress licensing here.
So let’s imagine that you are about to travel the world, and every country you can visit has different rules. You can go to anyone, and when you by choice enter, you should abide by the rules (like speed limits). If you go to South Africa, the speed limit is 100kmh and if I go 150kmh I will most likely get pulled over and told ‘hey, your breaking the rules.’ You can respond to this by saying ‘I had no idea, so sorry, will go 100kmh now’ or ‘screw off, my car goes this fast and I feel like it.’
From what I can tell that is what is happening with the WordPress v. Thesis debate. Wordpress is a country, has its own rules, has citizens making money while living there, has a population, and says that you can build on top of it freely and openly as long as you adhere to some rules. Thesis is a citizen that doesn’t want to follow the speed limit or respect the country or the others that have built it. It is being pulled over by a cop right now and told ‘hey, you are breaking the rules’ and responding ‘screw you, DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?’
A fantastic analysis of the code base was done by Drew Blas and shows pretty clearly code that GPL code was used in the theme.
There is a painful lack of humility, which might be the biggest error of all, from the theme author. The WordPress community is massive, and when someone is framed as clearly disrespecting the collective work, the response is swift. In the past 24 hours WordPress’s founder Matt Mullenweg has commented by blogging, doing a live interview (a must watch), tweeted a ton, and even reached out of flickr photos. I would be surprised if we don’t see a lawsuit.
I need to donate more time to WordPress, a project that I love and want to see continue to thrive. A very interesting discussion that boiled over in the past week, and will continue to be interesting to watch.