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Brian Gardner’s Revolution Theme Goes Open Source

Brian Gardner’s Revolution Theme Goes Open Source

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.

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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.

View Comments (15)
  • Thord, wow that was fast – talk about covering a story quickly. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this, and you are pretty much spot on with your post. I will say that some of the themes we initially release will have similar code/functionality, but the overall design will be completely different than existing themes. One of my biggest concerns is protecting those who have purchased a current theme, so moving forward we are doing our best to protect them and their designs.

    Once again, thanks for the story!

  • I’ve been very impressed with Brian’s themes, and I run a couple of variants on two of my own sites (not my personal site, I hasten to add, before anyone worries at the quality of Brian’s work based on my own! :) )

    I’ve played by the rules, in that I’ve paid to use the themes each time I wanted to. I’d be dismayed if there was no legitimate way to install one of Brian’s (old) pro Revolution themes on a new site, as I like the look and would probably replicate it across other web properties I own.


    * what happens to those who’ve paid for unlimited use of themes?
    * could existing customers still pay for additional use? If not, the only alternative would be to copy the theme – there’s never been anything to physically stop users doing that.

    I’m not bothered about new, free themes being too close to the Rev Pro, and I’d be surprised if they are, as surely that goes against the reasoning for discontinuing the Pro themes in the first place?

    Whatever happens, I’m pleased with the purchases I’ve made. It took a ton of pressure off the much needed redesign, and I’ve a theme that I think will last a good while.

  • Andy, thanks for the kind words. I actually just updated my post to include this, which will hopefully clear things up:

    For the current All-Inclusive members…
    I wanted to add that anyone who has purchased or upgraded to the current Revolution All-Inclusive membership, you will automatically inherit the ability to receive the aforementioned theme package benefits at no additional cost. This is our way of saying thanks for what you’ve spent already.

  • Andy, to answer the other question, I really don’t have any problem with those who have purchased a single-use license to use it on multiple site from here on out. You are right in that there hasn’t been a physical restriction on it, and we’ll have to trust the system and use the honor code here.

  • As a recent paying customer of one of the themes my first reaction is anger and “that pisses me off”. But that lasts for a few seconds and then I’m over it. We made a decision to pay for the theme and I hope the money is well spent. We love Brian’s work and hope to be able to get updates for the theme.

    And personally I love the open source idea and promote it whole-heartedly. In this instance we couldn’t find what we wanted for in the open source world so we went for one of Brian’s themes. We’ve not done that much to it either, it’s very nice to work with so he’s done a great job.

    We wish him all the best in this new direction he’s taking and we hope to be able to follow along on the ride in some small measure.

  • Magnus, I understand what frustration you might have – the intent here is to still produce high quality themes and the best support. Not much changes in the business model other than the licensing of the themes. If using the Pro Media theme saved you more than an hour’s worth of work, then I’d suggest saying that it was money well spent. ;)

  • I too recently purchased one of Brian’s Revolution theme’s for a group blog. I love it and little had to be done to personalize it, using someone that Brian recommended to do that work.

    I get bored and/or frustrated with theme’s easily, and will not have a problem going to one of Brian’s new GPL themes if it suits my fancy. Its the best theme I have used on my site to date. Thanks Brian, love your work! ;)

  • I have no vested interest in the issue, but I sort of see themes like dynamic linking in Linux, and that you really are not altering the source code of WP proper, and therefore are not bound to use their copyright terms for your code. At least that is how I would see it.

    It gets tough since you are placing the theme files inside the directory tree of WP itself. But I suppose one could see the wp_themes folder as kind of like an API or interface a program makes available to use. In these cases in open source, you really are not altering the code of the original work, and are not bound to license your work the same as it.

    But I suppose one could argue agasint that given the theme files are place in the directory tree of WP itself…

  • Unless I am missing something…

    Brian and Chris Pearson and any other premium theme vendor is squarely on the wrong site of GPL and therefore of Automattic… and Matt has said as much.

    Where is the doubt about this?

    Ian Stewart over at Themeshaper has a quote from Matt about this that is clear, simple and explicit… I just can’t find it right now…


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