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  • Justin Tadlock 4:19 pm on August 15, 2015 Permalink |  

    Themes should be 100% GPL 

    If you haven’t heard, we love the GPL (and other open source licenses) around here. We take this love of open source pretty seriously. Sometimes, we even have crazy, all-out Internet brawls that last for months about it. :)

    On a more serious note, I was sent messages by three separate people in the past week noting either GPL violations or the policy that all theme/plugin code must be under a 100% GPL or compatible license. The other admins and I discussed this privately and opened it up for some discussion in the meeting.

    We hold theme authors to a high standard, and we hold them to the highest standard when it comes to licensing.

    An educational issue

    From what we’ve been able to gather, most of the issues reported were largely sorry-I-didn’t-know issues. And, most have been cleared up quickly.

    This post is going to address this because it’s the most important thing the Theme Review Team should be looking at. If you have questions regarding licensing, now is a great time to ask.

    GPL themes in the directory

    Perhaps the most common issue is not adding copyright and license notices for third-party resources. @chipbennett wrote an awesome tutorial for everyone last year. Make sure to read that. It lays things out pretty clearly.

    For the most part, our reviewers have done an awesome job catching these issues, and theme authors have quickly corrected them. So, great job! Let’s keep it up.

    Promotional tool for non-GPL themes :(

    This is where we’re hitting problems, particularly with a few upsell themes. In several cases, upsell versions of themes were including proprietary-licensed code that is not compatible with the GPL.

    Even though these are a separate product, WordPress.org is being used as the promotional vehicle to sell users code that goes against the WordPress philosophy.

    In a nutshell, if you want to have themes in the directory, all the WordPress themes/plugins on your site need to be 100% GPL or compatible. No split licensing with part of the package under a more restrictive license.

    Restrictive terms and FAQs

    The other issue we ran across were additional restrictions noted in TOS and FAQ pages, such as the following examples:

    • You can’t use Example Theme on more than one site.
    • You can’t resell Example Theme.
    • You can’t distribute parts of Example Theme.

    That’s a problem. The following four freedoms cannot be restricted in any way:

    1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
    2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
    3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
    4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions, giving the community a chance to benefit from your changes.

    To simplify that, you can’t place restrictions on use, modification, or distribution (modified or unmodified).

    To theme reviewers

    We need to step up our game. Before ever beginning the review of any theme, make sure licensing is taken care of. If you have a question, ping any of the admins on Slack or CC us on a ticket. We’re here to help.

    Consequences of violations

    Most of us don’t want to do anything drastic if we can simply solve issues quickly. We understand that it’s often simply a mistake or misunderstanding and will work with you to correct any problems. If we can get things squared away quickly, we’ll be OK.

    However, any direct GPL violations on themes distributed from the repository will most likely result in suspension until the issue is cleared up. This is not a punishment. It’s simply that we need to keep the theme from being downloaded until it’s licensed appropriately.

    • kevinhaig 4:46 pm on August 15, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      The Restrictive Terms is exactly the problem at Theme Forest, so why are those themes approved?

      I realize it is Themeforest that is not properly displaying the license and the Author intends 100% GPL, but it is still there and misleading to the buyer. In the past I was informed that is not the authors fault but Themeforest’s fault.

      However the author has chosen to upsell on Themeforest.

      • kevinhaig 5:04 pm on August 15, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Here is a typical Themeforest listing :

        “Use, by you or one client, in a single end product which end users are not charged for. The total price includes the item price and a buyer fee.

        License details | Why buy with Envato

        This item is licensed 100% GPL.”

      • Jeff Chandler 5:37 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        This post is specifically about the WordPress Theme Directory and the theme reviewers have no say as to what goes on at ThemeForest though I agree that their wording for licenses is confusing at best.

        One of the biggest things to take note of is the fact that the guidelines go above and beyond the official theme directory. What you’re doing and selling on your own site also has an affect on whether your theme is approved or not.

        • kevinhaig 10:27 pm on August 24, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

          I’m not sure you understand the context of my response.

          I am referring to cases where a theme is listed in the .org repo, then the up-sell version is sold on the Themeforest site. The Themeforest listing of the up-sell version does not comply with GPL because of the Restrictive Terms.

    • Carolina Nymark 4:33 pm on August 18, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Great write up, thanks

    • George Stephanis 5:38 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      > In a nutshell, if you want to have themes in the directory, all the WordPress themes/plugins on your site need to be 100% GPL or compatible. No split licensing with part of the package under a more restrictive license.

      Personally, I’d expect this to only apply to either 1) Themes that are upsold in the free version, or 2) Themes sold on the author’s website if the free theme includes some advertisement for going to buy said themes.

      Is the implementation here that — just like WordCamp speakers/volunteers/sponsors, if you sell anything non-GPL anywhere, your GPL licensed stuff is unwelcome in the .org theme repo entirely?

      • Justin Tadlock 7:41 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Not exactly. We don’t police the people. Specifically, we check Author URI, Theme URI, and any links the theme outputs such as upsell links. We’re just talking the links that WordPress.org is promoting.

        Now, if you want to go sell some non-GPL stuff elsewhere, TRT isn’t looking for that. Just don’t link to that through your theme.

        • Jeff Chandler 8:22 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

          For example, if I submit a 100% GPL Licensed theme to the directory and the Theme URI points back to my site but my site has a banner promoting Thesis, would the theme still be allowed on the directory?

          • Justin Tadlock 9:59 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

            If you were the Thesis theme author and adding Thesis Lite on WordPress.org, we’d want Thesis and Thesis Lite to be 100% GPL. That’s one of the exact types of situations we’re trying to clear up here.

            Checking up on other people’s products you’re advertising is not something we’re in the business of doing. That’s a bit of a slippery slope.

            Basically, we don’t want people using the free traffic from the WordPress.org theme directory to upsell people themes under a proprietary license. And, that’s what was happening. Nearly every author I’ve talked to has cleared this problem up quickly and without fanfare. We haven’t had to suspend a single theme because of this, which I think has been a really good thing. Theme authors have responded pretty well.

            This isn’t anything new. It’s right there on the theme upload page:

            Themes from sites that support non-GPL (or compatible) themes or that don’t meet with the theme review guidelines will not be approved.

      • Lara Littlefield 8:14 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        WordCamp welcomes paid brands of all types… so I’m uncertain on that end of things.

  • Jose Castaneda 6:46 pm on August 11, 2015 Permalink |  

    Meeting: August 11 notes 

    Slack link: https://wordpress.slack.com/archives/themereview/p1439315950003363

    Great meeting!

    Items discussed:

    • Testing against Alpha/Beta/RC
    • Licensing conflicts?
    • Front page loophole?
    • Meta tickets for next week
    • Theme rips ( upload commercial/premium )

    Future posts:

    • Licensing and the directory
    • Front page and better understanding


  • Jose Castaneda 12:38 am on August 5, 2015 Permalink |  

    Weekly meeting notes August 4 

    Link to Slack archives: https://wordpress.slack.com/archives/themereview/p1438711121002303

    Rather short meeting about tags. It is looking like we have narrowed down to just a handful:

    • Accommodation (changed from “Hotel”)
    • Blog
    • Business ( changed from “Corporate”)
    • e-Commerce (combined with Retail)
    • Education
    • Entertainment (combined with Gaming, Music, Video)
    • Food and Drink (combined with Restaurant)
    • Holiday (combined with Seasonal)
    • News
    • Photography (combined with “Photoblogging”)
    • Portfolio (combined with “Creative” and “Art”)
    • Sakin Shrestha 1:38 am on August 5, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Thanks for the notes. This looks cool and finally we are updating Subject filter tags :)

    • Carolina Nymark 6:15 am on August 6, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      How would you feel about adding “family” (like mommy bloggers) and “sport”?

      -Most importantly, what are the most common search phrases?

      I think accomodation is easy to misunderstand, why not use “travel”? (And if you need a realestate theme then look under buisness themes for example.)

      If you are looking for a theme to showcase photography you can use like 4 tags, but if you are looking for say fitness, health or a theme for a football team, then you dont really have any tags to choose from.

    • Tom 6:51 am on August 8, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Would multi-purpose themes who can accommodate most of these tags be allowed to use them, or can they only be used if your theme is specific to that tag?

  • Justin Tadlock 8:00 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink |  

    Theme Directory: Tags/Filters: Round 2 

    Last week, we got some useful feedback on updating the tags/filters for the directory.

    Feel free to “+1” or “-1” anything from the following lists. We need as much feedback as possible.

    Layout Tags

    A “Grid” tag was proposed as an addition.

    There seems to be confusion over the existing layout tags:

    • Fixed
    • Fluid
    • Responsive

    Theoretically, a theme could have these combinations:

    • Fixed
    • Fluid
    • Fixed + Responsive
    • Fluid + Responsive

    Maybe we should simplify this. It’s my belief that most users when looking for “fluid” layouts are really just looking for “responsive” layouts.

    Tags up for removal

    • The current color tags.
    • “Blavatar” tag.

    Subject Tags

    The main focus was on “subject” tags. The following is a list that I’ve broken down into some major categories (we’re not worrying about sub-categories right now) based on feedback. What we need to do is cull this list into something manageable. There’s room for additions as well if needed. The goal is to balance flexibility and simplicity.

    • Animals
    • Art
    • Blog
    • Corporate
    • Creative
    • e-Commerce
    • Education
    • Entertainment
    • Food
    • Gaming
    • Holiday
    • Hotel
    • Magazine
    • Music
    • Nature
    • News
    • Outdoors
    • Photography
    • Photoblogging
    • Portfolio
    • Real Estate
    • Religious
    • Restaurant
    • Retail
    • Seasonal
    • Video

    Sorry if I left anything out. Just let me know in the comments.

    • NateWr 8:14 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Looks great. Nice work boiling down to a simple list. Out of the list you’ve proposed, the following are confusing to me. Maybe others see clear use-cases or distinctions. I’m just throwing out a gut reaction with my “end user” hat on:

      Animals (pet shops? shelters?)
      Art/Creative (what’s the difference?)
      Holiday (like, travel deals and bookings?)
      Nature/Outdoors (difference?)
      Retail (I feel like there is probably a distinction from eCommerce, I’m just not clear on what it is)

      Also, I wonder if there will be a lot of overlap between Portfolio and Creative, maybe?

      And finally, what about filters for compatible plugins? I promise I’ll stop bringing it up since no one else seems very interested (except @Ulrich who mentioned something similar). But I thought I’d chuck it into the ring one more time. :)

      • Justin Tadlock 8:53 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        We’re going to look into plugin-specific filters. I’m intentionally leaving them out right now so we can tackle some low-hanging fruit. They’re on the radar though. I think that’s something that needs its own, separate discussion.

      • Justin Tadlock 8:56 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        For the “Holiday” tag, it’s been around for a long while. It’s traditionally meant for holiday-specific themes. For example, Christmas themes fit into this.

        • Donna Fontenot 9:53 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

          Holiday and Seasonal might be lumped together, but Travel needs to be in there (which would presumably be thought of as holiday in some parts of the world).

    • codeinwp 9:51 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I would have removed the layout tag completely and have basic responsive mandatory and that’s all on that part.

      On the subjects I think you might mix subject with style which is not ok, for example magazine can be seen as a style I think.

      Also where things like : One page themes goes ? According to my stats this is the most popular search at the moment, along with magazine themes .

      • Justin Tadlock 10:18 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        At this point, we’re not requiring themes meet specific design guidelines. We’re actually trying to avoid adding new guidelines. Making responsive themes mandatory is probably going to be a non-starter.

        We have very few one-page themes in the directory at the moment. Actually, I only know of one offhand that was approved just the other day.

    • sarah 10:02 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Layout Tags

      Having “fixed” and “responsive” makes the most sense here to me. I don’t think there’s a good consensus, even amongst reviewers of what constitutes “fluid”. This means that less technically-inclined users won’t understand it. Most non-technical people understand what “responsive” means at this stage.

      Based on experience with WordPress.com users, I think it could be beneficial to add:

      • One-column
      • Two-column (content + sidebar)
      • Footer widgets

      Tags up for removal

      The current color tags. +1 for removal.
      “Blavatar” tag. +1 (there’s a tag for this?)

      Subject Tags

      There are a lot of these. I suspect a lot of theme authors will just add all of them in the hopes of getting more visibility, which may negate the purpose. It may make sense to split into subject and style (ie blog, magazine, corporate, portfolio may be styles rather than subjects—since you could have a blog or a magazine (style) about fashion or art (subject).

      That would also serve the goal of having smaller, more digestible lists—brains don’t do well with groupings over 9.

      Animals (Feels too specific. Are there that many animal-themed themes?)
      Creative (combine with art)
      Holiday (combine with seasonal)
      Outdoors (combine with nature)
      Photoblogging (might make sense to combine with the above)
      Real estate (Like animals, this feels very specific.)
      Religious (Again, feels like a very narrow market.)

      • Justin Tadlock 10:25 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        We have one-/two-column layout tags at the moment.

        +1 to “Footer Widgets” tag.

        I like the idea of splitting subject and style. If we completely drop the colors tags, it opens up an extra focus area.

    • kenjigarland 11:34 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Another +1 on removing “fluid,” but why not go a step further and remove “fixed” too? If a theme is responsive, then it gets the “responsive” tag, and if it’s not, it doesn’t. Do people actively seek out non-responsive themes?

      • Justin Tadlock 3:52 pm on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I’m +1 on removing both fluid and fixed while keeping responsive.

        To answer the question about people seeking out non-responsive themes: Yes, there are some folks out there. I have people who will use some of my old themes because they don’t like responsive themes.

    • progmastery 7:26 am on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Is there a limit for the number of Subject Tags?
      I thought about what would happen if there would be 50 subject tags available. Theme authors would be tempted to add as many tags as possible. This is true now for color tags. If most of the themes have all the tags, this makes tags useless.
      Many themes can be customized to present content of very different subjects. However I think that the purpose of subject tag should be to show the primary subject of the theme, not what theme can also be used for after many customizations.
      So it would be great to have some limit on the number of tags (i would consider a number about 5 tags).

      • Justin Tadlock 3:50 pm on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        There’s no limit now, but I imagine we’ll try to keep the list at no more than 10. So, we need to narrow the list down.

        Also, TRT reviews the tags a theme has. If it has a tag that the theme doesn’t support, the theme author must remove it. Nevertheless, we’re attempting to take a new approach and not treat folks like they’re going to do something bad before they actually do something bad. We’ll deal with people gaming the system when we see it happening. Until then, we’re going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    • Justin Tadlock 4:00 pm on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Here’s an update on the subject tags based on feedback thus far.

      Updated List:

      • Blog
      • Corporate
      • Creative (combined with “Art”)
      • e-Commerce
      • Education
      • Entertainment
      • Food
      • Gaming
      • Holiday (combined with “Seasonal”)
      • Hotel
      • Music
      • Nature (combined with “Outdoors”)
      • News
      • Photography (combined with “Photoblogging”)
      • Portfolio
      • Restaurant
      • Retail
      • Video

      Removed for being too specific:

      • Animals
      • Real Estate
      • Religious

      Removed for being a “style” rather than subject:

      • Magazine
    • Emil Uzelac 5:11 pm on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think that we can rename Hotel to i.e. Accommodations or something similar just to get a wider range so that we can include all of them like Hostel, Motel etc.

      Also, Gaming and Entertainment should be one.

      Additional maybe: Sports?

    • Justin Tadlock 8:31 pm on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Based on the feedback thus far and a good round of boiling this down in the team meeting, here’s where we’re at with the subject tags now:

      • Accommodation (changed from Hotel)
      • Blog
      • Business ( changed from Corporate)
      • e-Commerce (combined with Retail)
      • Education
      • Entertainment (combined with Gaming, Music, Video)
      • Food and Drink (combined Food and Restaurant)
      • Holiday (combined with Seasonal)
      • News
      • Photography (combined with Photoblogging)
      • Portfolio (combined with Creative and Art)
    • jameskoster 9:36 am on August 7, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Any indication of when these tags might go live?

  • Tammie 6:44 pm on July 28, 2015 Permalink |  

    Theme review team weekly meeting notes

    The logs are here:

    • We have voted to allow themes to require temporarily the REST API plugin. If you want to make a theme that needs this, you can now do this and we will allow it in the repo. This is a one off exception as this is going into core.
    • @greenshady is working on tags and filters first for the directory.
    • This weekend is a queue push weekend. Key reviewers and admins lets get those admin approval queues down. Anyone else is welcome to dive into the review queues.
    • @jcastaneda is going to look at what theme check needs to auto approve new themes. What checks should be in there as a minimum?
    • Child themes came up and how to tell when something is ok or not to be one. We are all keen to not add more requirements at this time of change. As a result we will continue using judgement and cc’ing in admins. The ticket brought up is going to be updated by @greenshady.
    • CotswoldPhoto 8:45 pm on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      “This is a one off exception as this is going into core.” I am unsure whether such a bold statement has thus far been made. All previous comments have been more vague. Still, this still does not say when. Or am I wrong? Pointless thought. In core ASAP gets my vote. And this idea gets my vote x 10.

      • Tammie 8:59 pm on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Not sure it’s bold really, we’re making an exception in this case. Could we have other exceptions at some point? I’m personally not against that but we’d have to have a team vote again. I also think it’s an exception, case by case thing for now.

    • Thomas Griffin 11:39 am on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      In regards to #1, I know there is a planned roadmap for TGM Plugin Activation as a feature plugin for core, and it does exactly the thing that you mention here. :-)


      • Samuel Sidler 1:07 pm on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        While I know that it’s been proposed, there isn’t a “planned roadmap” from the core team for inclusion, just general discussion about dependencies.

    • Chip Bennett 2:18 pm on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I missed the meeting, and I know the decision was unanimous, but I would like to late-register my vote AGAINST making an exception for the REST API plugin. I do not see the benefit of facilitating the use of an immature core API. I present a few examples:

      1. Post Formats UI (added during development of WordPress 3.6, but yanked at the last minute, at the Release Candidate stage – causing no small headache for Theme developers who were preparing to support the API in the final release of WordPress 3.6).

      2. Shortcodes API (never properly documented, leaving a wide-open implementation, that eventually resulted in some very upset users and plugin developers recently, when what was formerly a perfectly valid use/implementation was overnight deemed to be inappropriate, due to the security risks inherent in the implementation).

      3. Admin Pointers API (we still don’t allow Theme developers to use this API, because core has never formally opened it to “public” usage, and has not defined/documented its proper usage).

      I simply don’t think it is in our best interests – and more importantly, I don’t think it is end users’ best interests – to facilitate usage of an API that has not been matured in core. The API being mature and safe enough to reside in core should be a minimum standard.

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