That’s a great point! I had a similar discussion about that topic with @ineagu from CodeinWP.
The GPL license tells that you can use GPL licensed code anywhere you like. But the GPL license doesn’t have any restrictions on the way plugin / theme shops can price their commercial products. Or how they can add logic that will enforce the licensing.
So yes, if you purchase a single site license, you can “hack” it, remove all the license related logic, and legally install it on another 2,000 sites But there’s nothing illegal in the pricing of multi-site licenses.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a lawyer. Though I spent MANY-MANY hours reading and understanding the license. So this is my interpretation.
@est73 - 100% agree. I’m a premium plugin developer and sell multi site licenses. We have quite a few users that use it on many different sites and only pay for one. But after they can’t update once and it breaks their site, they contact support for an unlicensed domain which we can choose to support or not. I think a customer of mine recently said it best.
I’m GLAD I had to pay a little bit to get the exit-intent functionality I wanted for my popup. It gives me confidence that Popup Maker has the funding to invest in support, upgrades, and improvements. I worry that some free plugins will wind up disappearing (or stop being updated by their developers) when they don’t see enough income to make it worth their attention. At that point I’d need to search for an alternative to deliver that functionality and then install and implement it on my site – which could be a huge drain on my time. Again, paying a little bit for premium features means I can be confident Popup Maker has the resources to keep its plugins operational and up-to-date. https://wordpress.org/support/topic/best-popup-plugin-ive-tried?replies=2#post-
Specifically about the license for products on ThemeForest and CodeCanyon (I work for Envato), you have to check whether they are 100% GPL or not. If they are they will say so in the section under the price. Unfortunately most aren’t…
If they are, you can do what you like with them. At the moment, it still says (under the price, above the 100% GPL statement) that it can only be used on one site, which is inaccurate and which we will need to look into.
Related… a lot of plugin and theme shops (outside of ThemeForest) that are 100% GPL limit support and theme updates to X number of sites in order to cover the ongoing costs associated with these things. So you’ll see pricing like: 1 Site $49, 5 Sites $99, 20 Sites $149. In situations like this, what you are purchasing is a license for those services plus access to the download. This is unrelated to the GPL. You can still use the plugin on unlimited sites, fork it, etc. but you won’t get technical support or one-click theme updates for sites not covered by your purchase.
The plugin seller is also free to ask people to pay them for each website use even if the customer doesn’t technically have to do that for permission under the GPL.
On the original topic, not much I can say that hasn’t already been said by others. Basically, it’s not breaking the GPL for a business to restrict support and updates per site however they see fit, just as long as the distributed code itself is GPL-compatible.
I do think that some businesses can be a bit misleading with their sales copy which can cause confusion as to whether or not it’s really GPL, but that’s a different issue.
The Foundation doesn’t like that much, which is why they don’t allow themes / plugins that aren’t 100% GPL on WordPress.org, etc, but they accepted it’s legal.
Authors who sell on ThemeForest or CodeCanyon can choose whether they want to sell their products as 100% GPL or split license (PHP under GPL, the rest under the Envato license which is 1 site only). Anyway, if you buy something from ThemeForest, check whether it says it’s 100% GPL Compatible if that’s what you’re after.
Of course, the majority of authors choose split license… Frowning because I’m big supporter of the GPL (all my plugins are 100% GPL) and would like more authors to choose that license.
That is my understanding too. License your derivative work under the GPL and it’s all good. But use a different license, and you’re violating WordPress’ license. HOWEVER, I never understood what the actual “penalty” is for this.
Lets say someone releases a WordPress plugin or theme and it does not use the GPL license. And then it turns out to be a very popular money making machine.
I’m sure the WordPress Foundation would not be super happy about this, and not support the plugin. WordPress.org surely won’t list it in their repos. But then the author could just say “well too bad, but I’ll just keep selling it on my own site”, despite public opinion about the license model used.
So…what’s the big deal then? Plugin doesn’t follow rules, but then what? Or can someone actually take the author to court and have the judge say that the plugin or theme can’t be sold anymore?
Note: I do support open source software more than anything else, and I’m not planning on breaking the GPL rules myself at all, but I would like to know the “repercussions”.
A bunch of old membership plugins like WishList Member are non-GPL with obfuscated code and have operated like that for years, as well as a lot of sketchy “autoblogging” type crap. It’s just not stuff we typically hear about in this subset of the WordPress community.
There haven’t been any legal judgements against anyone for “violating the GPL” in the WordPress community, as far as I know.
That’s what I thought too, but I never got an “official” confirmation on this. Of course the Thesis situation came to mind, and that’s why I wondered about it. From what I understand, the WordPress Foundation can’t really do anything against Thesis not following their GPL rules, so they kinda use other methods to show their disapproval. Let’s call it that.
It’s like selling unauthorized iPhone protection covers or earbuds (or whatever iPhone accessory). Those are not endorsed by Apple – but what can they do, besides refusing to sell them in Apple stores? Not like that’s such a big deal for the seller, is it?
At WooThemes you can buy our themes or extensions single license but you will not be able to activate the key on more than one site. Since it’s all 100% GPL, you can install it on as many sites as you’d like and even give it away but you will not receive support or updates on anything more than the website you activated the license on. That’s typically also how it works with many other marketplaces.
Edit: sorry, meant that as a reply for the original poster.
I’m not sure I understand. You have to pay for updates. Whatever name you use doesn’t matter. Licenses are activated per-site too. If you have a one site license, you can only activate the license on website domain. It prevents you from activating it on other domains. You can choose which domain you want the domain to be activated on our website too.
Not really anything, unless you were really blatant about it, like posting your support license key in a public place. Then the seller could just terminate your account, because there’s almost always a clause that is explicitly against that.
Maybe experienced theme/plugin sellers have tricks up their sleeve to detect such activity, but I’m not aware of any. As far as I know, it’s pretty much the honor system.
As @leland pointed out, nothing is stopping you from sharing the plugin. That’s the freedom of GPL. Many terrible websites exist that resell plugins that includes updates. It’s extremely unethical and hurts the development of the extension. There’s some heavy discussion on that topic somewhere else.
It’s important to note that resellers often break copyright laws. The extension is GPL but the branding is still copyright.