Matt Mullenweg has, in an attempt to clear the confusion with themes and the GPL license they might or might not inherit from WordPress, contacted the Software Freedom Law Center, who was instrumental in creating the GPL version 3 license. The reply, which is presented as a whole in the wordpress.org blog, basically says that while CSS and images might not be “tainted” by the GPL license, the template files surely are since they load WordPress functions and rely on them to work.
This from the response, bold text added by yours truly:
In conclusion, the WordPress themes supplied contain elements that are derivative of WordPress’s copyrighted code. These themes, being collections of distinct works (images, CSS files, PHP files), need not be GPL-licensed as a whole. Rather, the PHP files are subject to the requirements of the GPL while the images and CSS are not. Third-party developers of such themes may apply restrictive copyrights to these elements if they wish.
The discussion is of course alive and well, but it focuses more on the ramifications of having a license like GPL. Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software thinks it is limiting the development of projects, simply because of the fact that most developers wants to be compensated for their work. This is true, I’ve heard that criticism on a lot of companies I’ve been working with over the years, but then again that was the old media and breed, this is the new transparent open one. They might disagree? The discussion will continue, and it is an interesting one for sure.
To help clear up the confusion, we’ll launch a series on GPL tomorrow, here on the Blog Herald of course. Stay tuned.