Legitimacy and fairness for charging for free plugins


(Rob) #1

Hello,
I’m trying to get clarity on licensing of free plugins that are listed on WP.org or plugins elsewhere that are licensed under GPL, which I believe is the common.

I would like to offer users sub-sites on my WP Multiside Network. All plugins would be managed by the Super Admin, not the admin of the sub-sites. So the sub-site admin/customer would have to ask for a plugin to be installed/enabled.

I would like to charge for this but not sure if that’s ok or legal. Please keep in mind that I am only referring to free plugins. If there’s a paid plugin or a paid version of a free plugin that will later be upgraded to on a specific sub-site I would make sure the plugin owner receives their fee of course.

If the plugin is free can I charge to:
A) install it?
B) a monthly fee just for having it installed?

Hope I don’t step on any toes with this question but I simply don’t know what is legal and what is fair when it comes to free plugins.

The customer can of course create and install the same plugin on their own WP installation. I would simply do it for a fee on my WP Network.


(Leland Fiegel) #2

Yes to both.

The price of the plugin doesn’t matter. You can totally charge for your time (installing it) and for infrastructure (having it installed on your hosted network).

Technically, it would even be legal to straight up sell other people’s GPL code. But that’s when a debate of “ethics” comes into play. It sounds like you don’t want to do that anyway, just mentioning to illustrate what you want to do probably has zero legal consequences.

The only thing I’d be careful about is trademark issues. If you’re charging to set up and host a form plugin, for example, I’d probably avoid going into specifics as to which plugin it is. People might get confused and think they’re buying the plugin to download from the creator.


(Andy McIlwain) #3

Further to @leland’s point: If you’re charging for time and resource usage, I believe you’re in the clear, ethically speaking.

To put it a different way: You’re charging for feature access/upgrades on your platform. Your platform just happens to be built with WordPress and WordPress plugins. :slight_smile:


(Richard Best) #4

Hi Rob. I’m a lawyer who writes about WP and legal issues at wpandlegalstuff.com. Leland is correct. From a GPL perspective there’s no problem with what you propose to do.

Re trademark issues, there are unlikely to be problems there, not only because very few developers of free plugins would obtain trademarks for them but because you can avoid potential problems there - if you wish name the plugins as opposed to their functionality - by making it clear you’re not the author / developer of the plugins. Rather, you’re providing a service by installing / activating them for your customers.

All the best.
Richard