Tuesday Trainings: Why is it so important that contributors use GPL?

This year we’ve changed the format of Tuesday Trainings to better get directly at the issues that seem to be on the minds of folks in our community. How are we doing that? Great question. We’re either seeking to answer commonly asked questions or address commonly heard complaints, concerns, and confusions.

If there’s a question you’d like to see answered or a topic you’d like to see discussed, please share it in the comments or email me at support@wordcamp.org with the subject line Tuesday Trainings. Now onto this week’s topic.

Before this week’s question, an important clarifying question: What is GPLGPL GPL is an acronym for GNU Public License. It is the standard license WordPress uses for Open Source licensing https://wordpress.org/about/license/. The GPL is a ‘copyleft’ license https://www.gnu.org/licenses/copyleft.en.html. This means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD license and the MIT License are widely used examples.?

GPL or General Public License is “a series of widely used free software licenses that guarantee end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software.” WordPress is released under the GPL v2 license. This is important because the license gives software users what is commonly referred to as the “Four Freedoms”, detailed on the GNU Philosophy Page, which allow users to use the software in any way they wish, to modify the software (if desired) for their purpose, to redistribute the original software to help others, and to redistribute modified versions. 

This week’s question: Why is it so important that contributors use GPL for their derivatives?

We talk a lot about the technical end of GPL. How to determine if a license is true to the GPL, and how to talk with sponsors, speakers, and organizers, about bringing their license up to expectations. If you’re curious about that, check out this great past post on the topic.  

Recently I realized that we haven’t talked much lately about the why of it all. ANd sometimes the why really matters. In this case it really really matters to me so I’ll share.

We ask any involved in an official capacity with the WordPress Open SourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL. project in an official capacity –especially at events like WordCamps and MeetupMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook.– to uphold the principles of the WordPress open source project, including the GPL. This helps protect the user/attendee, who might not realize that by using a non-GPL pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party or theme, they are giving away the rights that WordPress provides them.

I want to repeat that because in all the years I’ve been doing this work, this line has stuck with me when other things seemed to fade away.

We ask anyone involved with WordPress to release their derivatives as GPL because it ensures users the same rights that WordPress itself provides them. 

Wait that’s it?

Yes. That is in fact that. I know these posts tend to be longer and more drawn out. And I can certainly babble with the best of them, but in this case that’s all there is to it. 

If you have additional questions about GPL, either the why, the how, or any other question please share it in the comments. And as always if you have a question you’d like to see answered in a future Tuesday Training let me know here or at support@wordcamp.org