Recently, Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress, and Chris Pearson, developer of the premium Thesis theme, have been at odds about whether or not Thesis needs to be released up the General Public License (GPL) like the open source WordPress program. Matt claims that since themes use WordPress, they are derivative works and require that they be released up the GPL. Chris, on the other hand, says that his Thesis theme is not subject to the GPL.
I’m not a lawyer, and quite frankly, I don’t care all that much about the legal nuances of the arguments on either side. What I care about is keeping WordPress moving forward as smoothly as possible. And, as a user of Thesis, I prefer the support offered through the robust Thesis user community and have no problem whatsoever paying to purchase Thesis and its support. I’ve found the folks on the forums at the Thesis user community to be extremely helpful in developing websites using WordPress and Thesis.
What I hope is that the arguments can be settled quickly and the status quo restored so I don’t have to worry about the Thesis community, or the WordPress community, being splintered into a number of different factions supporting one side or the other. These types of disagreements are usually argued in the court of public opinion, with very little basis in law, and generally devolve into flame wars and name calling.
Whether Thesis is forced to go to a GPL or not, I’m still going to purchase my licenses for sites I develop using WordPress and Thesis because I like the comfort of the support community around Thesis, and I like the way Chris and his team have continually moved the Thesis theme forward, adding new features and functionality as the theme has matured. I’m comfortable with Thesis, and a protracted litigation is non-productive for both Thesis and WordPress.
Let’s hope this gets resolved quickly so the WordPress community can move forward, knowing that premium theme developers can still make a living doing what they love – creating high-quality themes that enhance WordPress, the best content management system around. I have the utmost respect for both Matt and Chris (although I don’t know them personally). Now it’s time to put the “big boy” pants on and work this out.
Further reading about the brouhaha: