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May 27, 2011

Copyright, Trademark and Blog Design

Automattic LogoAlmost every blogger knows that blog design is important when trying to build a successful site. How your site looks and feels not only sets the tone for your blog, but it also is a big part of what separates it from similar sites and gives it an identity of its own.

However, just as with the content and the domain name of your site, there are ethical and legal issues that come with the theme of your site. Specifically, both trademark and copyright law protect or may protect the theme you’re using right now. But unlike the content that fills your pages, most bloggers don’t create their own theme, at least not from scratch, putting them in the position of using someone else’s work on their site.

That being said, the ways in which copyright and trademark impact Web design is not nearly as simple and as straightforward as with other types of content due to how the laws overlap and what they don’t protect.

So, if you either want to protect your blog’s design or make sure that you’re on the right side of the law with your blog’s theme, here is what you need to know about copyright, trademark and blog design. read more

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April 15, 2011

Content Licensing 101 for Bloggers

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As we talked about last week, whenever you post a blog entry, upload a photograph to your Flickr account or post a video to YouTube, you’re creating copyrighted work and sharing it with the Internet.

As the creator and copyright holder of that work, you have certain rights and protections over it, including the ability to bar others from making unauthorized copies or publicly display/perform the work.

However, you might not want to enforce all of those rights. For example, you might be perfectly happy to let others copy your work and post it on their sites provided they give attribution back. Or, you might be happy to have them print out copies for their personal use so long as they don’t attempt to sell them.

This is where content licensing comes into play. It’s the means by which you give someone (or everyone) a certain amount of rights to use your work even though that use, without your permission, would have been a copyright infringement.

As such, it’s important to understand the basics of copyright licensing and what some of the options are out there. This is so you can maximize what you get out of your writing and, equally importantly, prevent misunderstandings and accidental infringements by others.

With that in mind, here’s a basic rundown of what you need to know to be savvy about content licensing on the Web.
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July 15, 2010

Inevitable: WordPress To Sue Thesis Founder

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Another day, another impending lawsuit brews on the horizon. While no briefs have been filed yet, it looks like WordPress is probably going to have to sue a successful theme developer in court in the (not to distant) future.

Andrew Warner of Mix Energy fame was able to interview the founder of WordPress (Matt Mullenweg) as well as Chris Pearson (the creator of Thesis) over whether or not Thesis needs to embrace the way of GPL (or General Public License for you non-geeks).

After watching (or rather listening) to the video for almost an hour, it looks as if the only ones who are going to win in this upcoming battle will be the lawyers who once again will go home full of food and cash.

Update: video added below. read more

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September 29, 2009

WordPress MU, GPL and Paywalls

wpmu-logo

It started with a 16-word comment, a reply to a commenter on Weblogs Tools Collection that had lamented not being able to afford a WordPress MU plugin that was being offered as a premium service by WPMU.org for $79. The comment simply said the following:

It would be nice if someone entered in the contest plugins that do everything theirs do.

However, the comment came from WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and that caused a hailstorm of controversy, including a blog post from James Farmer the founder of Incsub, a WordPress MU community, Edublogs, a blog hosting platform based upon WordPress MU and WPMU.org, a WordPress MU community site with free and premium elements.

Farmer accused Mullenweg of wishing that the company would “bust” and the heated exchange continued in the blog comments.

The case shows exactly how heated and volatile the mixture of open source and business cane be sometimes. When community-driven projects meet with business interests the relationship is rarely smooth and perfect, even though the two need each other to survive. read more

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July 28, 2009

The GPL and Your Work

HeckertThis is final part of the Blog Herald’s Guide to the GPL License series. You can read part one, part two and part three here.

Over the course of this series, we’ve taken a look at what the GPL is, why using GPLed blogging software is important and how the GPL impacts some of the more common peripherals and add-ons to most blogging software. However, one of the most critical aspects of the GPL remains to be looked at, what is one’s own requirements under the GPL when they use such licensed code.

Of all the elements of the GPL, this is perhaps the most important. The idea of free software means little is users are unable to use GPLed code or build upon it. However, with those rights does come responsibilities that must be addressed.

An understanding of this is especially vita with blogging software as changes are more easily made, even by novice programmers, and the desire to customize and improve ones blogging platform is almost ubiquitous among those managing their sites. This combination leads to a large amount of tinkering, but by those often unaware of their obligations under the GPL.

However, in this post we’re going to talk about what your obligations are under the GPL and, make it simple to follow both the letter and the spirit of the license. read more

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July 21, 2009

The James Farmer Interview: Part 1 of 2

James Farmer is one of the big names in the WordPress MU sphere. He’s one of the guys behind the WordPress MU focused agency Incsub, and also the founder of the poster site of poster sites for the blog hosting platform: Edublogs.org. Sure, I guess wordpress.com is both bigger and probably better technically than Edublogs.org, but this is the mother of all WordPress MU installs, the one that proved that this software can be used for real. If anyone doubted that, that is.

So what are his thoughts on the platform, all the new projects that Incsub has rolled out, and so on? I certainly got them in this mammoth interview, split into two parts. This is Part 1.

First of all, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, Incsub?

Incsub is about my 4th professional incarnation, before that I was an editor at theage.com.au, lecturer at deakin.edu.au and teacher at stacks of different places.

Essentially, while I was in the lecturer mode, I started Edublogs.org to fill a need that I had – providing blogs for people – and it grew (really quick) so people started asking me about making similar sites for them.

Luckily I had also got to know Andrew Billits via the WPMU community by that time, he’s a damn great WPMU coder, and hence Incsub was born.

read more

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The GPL and Themes/Plugins

HeckertThis is a continuation of the Blog Herald’s Guide to the GPL License series. You can read part one and part two here.

One of the more common misconceptions about the GPL is that it is “viral” in nature and can “infect” any software that touches it.

While it is true that the GPL does have a viral component, it is only to ensure that derivative works based upon GPLed code are also released to the GPL. It is possible, and even common, for GPL applications and proprietary ones to co-exist side by side. For example, there are many proprietary programs, including Skype and MyDropBox, that run on Linux, which is GPLed.

However, when one delves into plugins and and themes, something of a gray area begins to emerge. Though a WordPress theme, for example, might not be based upon a GPL theme, it relies upon a GPL application to function. As such, it has been widely held that they are GPL-licensed, even if they haven’t been explicitly licensed as such. read more

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July 15, 2009

ThemeForest GPLs All WordPress Themes

Envato’s web template marketplace ThemeForest is changing its WordPress theme licenses. As of August 4th, all WordPress themes will be sold in two licenses: GPL and Standard License. The latter only applies to CSS, JavaScripts and images, not the actual WordPress themes files. Anyone not OK with this should remove their items prior to August 4th.

Why do they do this? In their own words:

1: Technically, we have to. :)
2: It’s important to respect the spirit of WordPress. This is the way it was intended.

Most resellers of premium (commercial) WordPress themes have gone this route, if nothing else but to be included on the wordpress.org featured page is my guess. You might want to refer to our guide to the GPL license for more. You can purchase ThemeForest themes here.

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July 14, 2009

Why GPL Blogging Software is Important

HeckertThis is a continuation of the Blog Herald’s Guide to the GPL License series. You can read the first part here.

It is easy to see why GPLed software would be of great interest to developers. GPL software, though not always free in terms of the money charged, always has to come with its source code and the ability to edit and customize the work.

This means that, if a developer obtains a GPLed application and needs to fix a bug or add a feature, they can do so. They are then free to distribute the fix under the same terms and, in doing so, are ensured that all future modifications are treated the same way. read more

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July 7, 2009

The Basics of the GPL

HeckertThere has been a lot of talk and a lot of confusion in blogging circles, especially among WordPress users, about the GNU General Public License or GPL as it is more commonly known.

When most people think of the GPL, they immediately think of Linux, Firefox (which actually uses several licenses, including the GPL) or other well-known programs that use it. However, several blogging platforms are also GPL including WordPress and Open Melody, a fork of Six Apart’s Open Movable Type project.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at the GPL, what it is, what it means and, most importantly why it is important to bloggers and those who are running Web sites on open source platforms (including, for example, phpBB).

To start off, we’re going to talk about some of the basic premises of the GPL, what the actual license says and what your freedoms and rights are with GPLed software. read more

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