Know Your Licence

It has come to my attention, that way too many people open source their applications and code, without even knowing the actual consequences.
Always read a licence before licencing your products under it, or you risk giving away rights you’re not really happy about giving away.
Personally, I try to open source as much of my designs and themes as possible, however I like to stand out, which is why e.g. this theme hasn’t been released yet.

One thing motivated me to write this post.
Recently, a user entered #wordpress and exclaimed that his theme—the default theme for Drupal 5—had been mercilessly copied to before Drupal 5 had even seen its release.
He was most displeased, and wanted to talk this matter over with Matt Mullenweg, the primary developer of WordPress.
He was mad that his theme had been copied to WordPress, ruining the surprise of the theme on Drupal.
Obviously, he should’ve considered the fact that Drupal is—and has always been—open source, and by developing a theme for it (and releasing it with what I’m assuming is either SVN or a beta), he agrees to let anyone use any content, as long as the user promises to abide by the guidelines specified in the GNU General Public Licence. Obviously, the person who converted this theme to does this.

Shortly after, a discussion was posted on the WP-Hackers mailing list.

So, what’s your opinion? Were the developers in their right converting this theme to WordPress?
I’d love to hear your opinion.

Lasse Havelund on December 15th, 2006

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5 responses to “Know Your Licence”

  1. themak responded on December 15th, 2006 at 9:19 pm | permalink

    Pretty much no.

    Technically he has every right to port the theme to wp. But a developer has every right to be notified if his work is going to be included in another work.

    Also this theme was supposed to be a suprise, so there is a good chance that it wasn’t in a public SVN and thus might not be GPL.

    In summary I beleive that the developers showed no respect for the drupal developers by copying look and feel. In a world where people encourage there ip to be used to foster creativity it paramount to respect certain aspects of creativity and timing.

  2. Lasse Havelund responded on December 15th, 2006 at 9:45 pm | permalink

    It was most definitely public, as Matt notified wp-hackers before the theme was ever ported.
    And the default theme of WordPress has been ported to a ton of other platforms.
    Why would this be any different?

    Edit: It seems, that Matt has already apologised, and the theme is disabled until Drupal 5 is released.
    Nonetheless, I still don\’t see the issue.

    Edit 2: …or not.

  3. that girl again responded on December 16th, 2006 at 3:15 am | permalink

    The original designer was emailed by Automattic, asking for permission to port his theme to WP.

    He asked them to hold off until Drupal 5 was released.

    They went ahead and did it anyway. Matt even claims credit for the theme in the dashboard.

    OK, so the GPL pretty much deprives you of any rights over the distribution and crediting of your work, but just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. You have to be a pretty rabid fanboy to defend that behaviour, but fortunately for wordpress it has a lot of rabid fanboys who ‘don’t see the issue’.

  4. Matt responded on December 16th, 2006 at 5:00 am | permalink

    “But a developer has every right to be notified if his work is going to be included in another work.”

    No they don’t. People use WP code all the time and don’t notify anyone.

    “In summary I beleive that the developers showed no respect for the drupal developers by copying look and feel.”

    Actually it’s a big compliment that we considered something in Drupal cool enough to want to use it. Most theme authors are thrilled when we put their theme on

    “Matt even claims credit for the theme in the dashboard.”

    Why on earth would I want to take credit for it? Over time what we’ve started doing is putting the link to the person who ported it as the author, because otherwise the original designer gets support questions about the WP theme which they didn’t want. Anyone who uses the theme has names and links to the original designers very clearly in their footer. So our current policy (in core too) is to put person-doing-theme-updates in the style.css Author field and credit the designers in the notes and footer.

    If I had said “Designed by Matt” and linked to my site, I could see your objection.

  5. Gustaf responded on December 25th, 2006 at 2:47 am | permalink

    While WP has every legal right to port it (as long as they act in accordance to the GPL), it might not have been the most morally sound decision. Especially not if the “real author” explicitly asked that the theme would not be ported before the new drupal release.

    I do however agree with — what I read as — the consensus of the post: you should never release something under a license that you do not know the ins and outs of.

    And now to something completely different: The textarea is way too small :)

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