Brian Gardner’s Revolution Theme is one of the more successful premium WordPress themes out there. While I have no idea how many licenses have been sold, the praise and amount of websites running it is testament enough.
No more, says Brian on his blog:
As of 12:00 midnight, Friday October 31st, the themes that are currently available at the Revolution theme site will no longer be available. Ever. This was a decision that I made in order to protect the integrity of the current themes and the conditions under which they were released.
I didn’t see that one coming, but it does makes sense. The whole idea with the premium themes model is that you’ll have a small number of sites running the same design, more or less, and not thousands of look-a-likes, as you might have should you just download a popular theme. Wanting to protect your users makes sense. But there is more.
On November 1, Brian will relaunch the Revolution Theme site in partnership with Jason Schuller. There, they will release new themes, licensed under GPL, free for anyone to download. For people who want more, there’ll be support packages and additional help, which will cost money. Also, Brian promises to maintain support to current Revolution Theme customers.
So what does this mean? We’ll see, but I’d say it is an interesting step for the Revolution Theme, which will get a lot of new users this way. Current customers might grumble a bit, should the new themes offered for free be too close to the ones they paid for, but I kind of doubt that. Time will tell.
I am a bit curious as to whether this is a first step in a new direction for premium themes overall. This, from Brian’s post, got me thinking:
I contacted Matt and Toni to see if they would be gracious enough to carve out some time to meet with us, so we could ensure that our business model was in compliance with standards set forth by the authors of the GPL license as well as with WordPress.
So does this mean that the current premium theme model, in which you pay for using a theme that might or might not inherit the GPL license of WordPress, is something that Automattic dislikes, and might even fight in the future? I’m reading between the lines here, and there’s been a lot of discussions around the blogosphere regarding premium themes and their legality, with no obvious consensus. While I’m not sure Automattic, or anyone else, could force a premium theme publisher to release their work as GPL just because it builds upon the GPL’d WordPress base, I personally wouldn’t want to fight about it, if it was my business model.
We’ll follow up on this for sure.
Meanwhile, what do you think of this decision? Share your thoughts in the comments.