Frequently asked questions about the GPL

Anyone involved in a WordCamp in an official role is representing WordPress. Because of this, it is important that organizers vet each person/company that wants to be an organizer, speaker, sponsor, or volunteer to make sure they meet the requirements for promotion by a WordCamp/WordPress.

I build themes for clients; can I still be involved in a WordCamp? I build themes for clients; can I still be involved in a WordCamp?

If your WordPress derivative is not distributed (a plugin you build just for yourself and do not distribute, or a theme you build just for a client), then there is no expectation related to the GPL because you are not distributing (whether for free or for payment) the WordPress derivative.

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Can a company that sells proprietary software still sponsor a WordCamp? Can a company that sells proprietary software still sponsor a WordCamp?

The GPL expectation relates only to WordPress and derivatives of WordPress.  Hosting does not relate to the WP license, as it is not a WordPress derivative — same goes for software owned and distributed by Microsoft, Apple, etc. If a company were to start distributing WordPress derivative software like a theme, plugin, etc, then we would expect that derivative software to carry with it the same freedoms that WordPress itself provides to the user:

0 – The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
1 – The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish; access to the source code is a precondition for this.
2 – The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
3 – The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others; by doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

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What about plugins and themes with a “Premium” or “Developers” license? What about plugins and themes with a “Premium” or “Developers” license?

The freedoms above mean that WordPress plugins and themes can be loaded onto as many sites as the user wishes, for as long as the user wishes. Many theme and plugin developers sell support and facilitated updates in a year-by-year and/or site-by-site basis, and this practice does not violate the GPL, as it does not limit any of the above freedoms — the GPL does not require that a user get free support or that the software author facilitate the user updating this software.

Requiring that a user buy a license to use a plugin or theme on a certain number of sites or for a certain amount of time *DOES* violate the GPL as it limits the four freedoms of the user, listed above.

Note: If a company’s terms and conditions state “all plugins (or themes) are 100% GPL” but then they limit the user’s 4 freedoms another place in their license, then the derivative is not actually GPL. 🙂

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I have more questions. Who can help me? I have more questions. Who can help me?

We have sponsorship office hours every week on Wednesdays at 17:00 UTC in #events on Slack for real-time communication. You can also email support@wordcamp.org with any questions about licensing or trademark issues.

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Where can I learn more about WordPress and the GPL? Where can I learn more about WordPress and the GPL?

Here are some great resources:

WordPress and the GPL
Themes are GPL, too
Why WordPress Themes are Derivative of WordPress