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Is the WordPress GPL Being Abused?

The GPL licence, which is the foundation of WordPress and all plugins in the WordPress repository, is a great licence, no doubt. It has permitted WordPress to become what it is today, and have such a wonderful community form around it. I'm however seeing a small surge in the number of people who are taking advantage of the GPL in an arguably unethical way. I'm talking of the WordPress plugin stores that are cropping up and selling plugins developed by other people. We're not talking about ripware sites here, but rather of new and real businesses built solely on the selling of products which they themselves did not develop.

The GPL licence, which is the foundation of WordPress and all plugins in the WordPress repository, is a great license, no doubt. It has permitted WordPress to become what it is today, and have such a wonderful community form around it.

I’m lately seeing a small surge in the number of people who are taking advantage of the GPL in what many consider an unethical way. I’m talking about the WordPress plugin stores that are cropping up and selling plugins developed by other people.

We’re not talking about ripware sites here, but rather of new and real businesses built solely on the selling of products which they themselves did not develop.

This raises a few questions:

  • Is it ethical to profit in such a way on another developer’s hard work?
  • How will we make sure end users know that they need to make this decision between buying from the original developer or a third party?
  • What kind of support can such reselling companies offer?
  • Are these companies sustainable, how long will they be around?
  • Isn’t it bad for customers that some of these companies operate anonymously?

You will find strong opinions both in favour and against in the WordPress community. From my observations the proliferation of these stores has not had a negative on the bottom lines of the plugin and theme shops concerned. In fact, most of the developers I spoke to are not concerned about them and don’t really spend time chasing them. They prefer to focus on improving their product and on their paying customers who are happy to continue paying every year for the support received.

The people behind these companies (most of them anonymous, no doubt because of the stigma), will argue that all they are doing is doable within the GPL licence, and they are moreover doing a ‘Robin Hood’ act of making plugins and themes more affordable.

Here are some of the most famous sites that fall under this category.

GPL Vault

gpl-vault-premium-wordpress-plugins-and-themes-100-original

GPL Vault is one of the newer sites and looks very professional. This is the most trustworthy site I’ve come across, with several plugins and themes from leading WordPress companies. It also has the cheapest plan with no restrictions on downloads.

GPLGuru

gpl-guru

GPL Guru provides you with access to products from WooThemes, WooCommerce, Gravity Forms, Elegant Themes, iThemes, WPMU-Dev etc. You can get a number of premium plugins, themes, addons or extentions starting from just $5. It provides simplified pricing with regular updates of the products, as well as further discounts when getting a club membership, 6 months plan or a yearly plan.

CMS Market

CMS Market offers around 3400 themes & plugins for WordPress, which is probably the largest collection on any website of the sort. They offer premium themes and plugins for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal & OpenCart at affordable prices. These products are advertised as having unlimited domain use, 24/7 support & free updates.

Use the discount code 9pszh to get 10% off your first purchase.

GPLPlugins

GPL Plugins

Memberships at $19/month or $99/year. Includes a ton of WooCommerce plugins and themes as well as many other premium plugins like WP All Import, WPML, AffiliateWP, Advanced Custom Fields Pro, WP Job Manager and Gravity Forms.

Andy Sozot

Andy Sozot

Membership at $15/month. Individual purchases also possible. Includes WooCommerce and other plugins. Some examples: Advanced Custom Fields Pro, Events Calendar Pro, BackupBuddy, Gravity Forms, iThemes Security Pro and more.

WP Null

wp-null

A Russian website offering a huge collection of themes and plugins. One of the best in terms of its vast collection of WordPress themes. It has a points based system for downloading files.

Ultimate Woo

UltimateWoo

This is quite a different take on the whole GPL plugins market. The owner of this site has decided to package 72 WooCommerce modules into one big package.

There are three pricing levels as shown below, together with a Lite (free) version including 15 WooCommerce extensions.

UltimateWoo pricing

UltimateWoo also provide support and automatic updates for their plugins, which again is very different from most other vendors who only provide the plugins and no automatic updates or support.

GPLDL

gpldl

Another well organised site offering more than 700 premium WordPress themes and plugins. The main focus is Woo themes and plugins however there are also many plugins from other vendors. Some of them are WPML, Events Calendar Pro, ACF Pro and several plugins from Elegant Thems and OboxThemes. This is the only plugin I’ve come across that features WPMU Dev plugins (the whole set).

GPLDL is currently FREE.

WPSpring

WPspring

Access to the member’s club and access to all plugins available at just $15/month. You can also purchase a club membership that includes not only all plugins but also all themes at $25/month.

They also sell StudioPress themes (the whole set) for $10/month. Apart from WooCommerce plugins, this site also features other plugins like Gravity Forms, BackupBuddy, Events Calendar Pro and iThemes Security Pro. This is also one of the only sites that distributes the Yoast Premium SEO plugin bundle.

ThemeCanal

themecanal

Memberships available at $15/month or $60/year. There is a $5 sign up fee too. Individual items can be bought for as low as $5. No automatic updates or support, 1 year access to your account to download updates.

GPL.Life

GPL.life Club

Individual plugins or themes available at just $5. No support offered. Memberships available at $99/year or $14/month.

96Down

96down

Includes all kinds of WordPress themes and plugins. This website adds credits within the plugins so if you’re looking for unmodified plugins identical to those you get from the original vendors this is not the place for you. Plugins and themes here are available absolutely for free.

Sites that are no longer available

Over the years, many GPL clubs have cropped up and been closed down.

Here’s a list of the ones that were available when this post was originally written in 2013, but which have since been closed down.

  • Presidency
  • WooSociety
  • WooGang
  • GPL Club
  • Woo GPL
  • Proserve
  • Owlego
  • Nullnix
  • WP Avengers
  • W3Oasis
  • WooSquad

So what do you think about these GPL clubs? Let’s have a discussion about it…

There have also been three follow-up posts which are an interesting read, and also have some great comments:

More thoughts from the community

Aside from the above, Thomas Maier from the Advanced Ads plugin has also brought up the idea of a private GPL club just for plugin and theme developers. It will serve as a community through which developers can work together on potential conflicts, partnerships and collaborations all in one place.

I’ve also done some more reading about this myself and dug up some interesting snippets.

Here’s what Justin Tadlock, a very prominent theme and plugin developer in the WP Community, says about the subject:

“The act of copying my themes, making no changes, and selling them is perfectly fine. I gave you permission to do so by placing it under the GPL license. Just in case that wasn’t enough, I’m giving you or anyone who wants to do so permission right now. It is not unethical for you to do these things so long as you do them within the confines of what’s allowed by the license.”

BraveNewCode, makers of the super-popular WPtouch Pro plugin (licences available in the range of $49 – $999), state on their website:

“Licenses sold for WPtouch Pro are for support + product updates only. No fees are charged for the GPL software license and its freedoms attributed to this software.”

Presumably therefore they would be perfectly OK with their plugin being resold or re-distributed in the manner discussed above since their value is mostly in support.

For those not very familiar with the GPL and what it entails, here’s a video from Matt Mullenweg himself, in which he explains the GPL and its ramifications in simple terms.

Jean Galea
Jean Galea
Jean Galea is an investor, entrepreneur, and blogger. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and Spotlight, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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272 Responses

  1. I hate the idea of selling other people’s plugin. Those who buy from any of these sites will be in huge trouble when asking for help support.

    ps: Oh I thought WP Avengers has shutdown since WooThemes decided to give an option to their clients (few days after WP Avenger announced their plan)

    1. The people hiding behind WPSpeak will need to hide for the rest of their life because they steal from everyone. They not only distribute other peoples commercial themes and plugins for profit, they steal content and never give credit to the original owner of the work.

    2. There is not trouble at all! Most legit ones (100% GPL) such as https://gpl.press/ mentions clearly that these downloads is for testing and that the user should purchase from developer for better support. I as a freelancer get to check out many plugins to see there functionality on site and most important compatibility with other plugins, such GPL sites makes it possible for me to try out plugins at a symbolic rate. I would break me if i have to buy a plugin and then discover is not the right one or has compatibility issues. I always forward my clients to by from original developer of the plugin once confirmed.

  2. I think it is really cheap to be stealing any developers code irrespective of it being free or paid. That being said, if any user chooses to buy plugins off another developer, they are asking for lack of support.

    1. It’s perfectly within the GPL but I don’t think it’s ethical, and personally I feel that it will add some confusion to the WordPress marketplace. Not all users are knowledgeable enough to know which are the real developers of the plugins and which are those who are just reselling at a cheaper price minus support.

  3. They could make more money selling an affiliate product. I don’t get why they choose to sell a product not developed by them, what’s the deal here? Someone explain the mentality of these people.

    It’s a very sleazy way of making a living.

    1. In the case of Woothemes, they shut down their affiliate program about a year ago. But yeah, I don’t think it’s the best way to make a living, and they are most definitely ostracizing themselves from the WP community by doing this.

    2. I think affiliate marketing is probably a less profitable form of selling. If you think about it, you can find plugin affiliate links on almost any blog about WP or you could just Google what you want to buy. I don’t think many people care one bit whether affiliate marketers make a commission or not. Anyhoo, this is definitely an interesting conversation. I came across the debate after reading a similar article from proserveweb.com (which doesn’t look anything like the image above – earlier design maybe?) and it really seems like a hot topic. I don’t really find anything wrong with these sites but I’m also benefiting from the savings so I guess my opinion is biased.

  4. Unless they are stripping the original authors’ credits, there is absolutely nothing unethical about this re-distribution, the GPL explicitly allows it. This is what it was designed for. The problem is that some companies have built up business models that overlook this reality, that conveniently forget that this is the deal they accepted when they built their products upon the code of others.

    Original developers can easily fight this by providing good support, pricing intelligently and not antagonizing their customers – it is not a coincidence that WooCommerce features so heavily in these sites. The GPL protects users is several ways, including making it more difficult for companies to retain their customers if they treat them badly or raise prices too opportunistically.

    Getting angry with these sites, or perceiving them as a threat, is fuzzy thinking. The vast majority of users who are willing to pay any money will either need or perceive that they need support. None of these sites provide any support at all, they are very clear on that. The likelihood is that many people who use these sites, hoping to save money, will end up having to buy a “real” license anyway.

    A smarter way to interpret these sites is see them as a safer alternative to simply getting the same themes and plugins from torrent sites or whatever (which, by the way, is what the vast majority of users currently do). By charging a small fee, it is in the site owner’s interests to at least ensure that the code contains no malware or hidden links; the guy creating torrents has no such incentive. I have a hunch that a user willing to make the jump from free to paying a few dollars is likely, in time, to make the further jump to buying from the original developer.

    1. Thanks Donnacha. The problem with Woothemes and many others that followed are outrageous prices. In fact, many of the WooCommerce tickets I submit were on bugs in WooCommerce or the extensions themselves.

      Also, having a multisite extension as expensive as USD 299 with a 50% renewal is a killer. A typical WooCommerce store would need about 30 to 40 extensions, costing up to USD 3k and 1.5k ford yearly renewals. If they had reduced the prices of extensions to USD 59 or 69 and charge a yearly renewal, GPL shops won’t pop up.

      As for ridiculous, take a look at NinjaForms. To obtain the same functionality as Gravity forms on unlimited sites, you would need to pay up to USD 800. And add to that a yearly renewal charge of 50%! Who would buy it?

      1. Pricing is always subjective. If people think that a particular product comes with an outrageous price tag, they can always fork it. That’s the beauty of the GPL and the WordPress community, the end user is protected from abuse by vendors.

        I don’t think that somebody should decide whether a vendor is doing a bad thing by charging a particular price, because you don’t know the exact details of how that business runs. Many people think Apple charge outrageous prices for their products, but it’s also a fact that a lot of their income goes into research and development, which allows them to continue to produce innovative products.

        Now in the WordPress community, we have the advantage of being able to fork a product. So if you think you can run a profitable business without charging those amounts, you are free to do so by forking the plugin/theme.

        As for Ninja Forms, if they can be profitable at that pricing, why should we attack them? People already have a choice, so they can just go with Gravity Forms in that case.

      2. Ninja Forms is no doubt more expensive than Gravity Forms depending on how you look at it. I’m not going to even get into how extremely powerful our individual extensions are. Many really can’t be compared to the features in other forms plugins.

        That being said we are working with a very different premise than other form plugins.

        First of all Ninja Forms is a framework. That means anyone can build almost anything off of it and even contribute to make it better. The core plugin is completely free. Anyone can help shape it to be better for everyone.

        Second, our customers don’t need everything. Some do and gladly pay for the functionality we’ve built while others just need one feature without all the other stuff getting in the way. Some of our features are just not even possible with any other form plugins. We offer the unique opportunity for people to buy just what they need and in some cases something they can’t find anywhere else. Based on our sales and support satisfaction our customers love what we offer. We aren’t planning on changing any time soon.

        As to the actual topic of this post I stated this on Twitter but I will share it here as well.

        “Having the right” and “Doing right” are not the same thing.

        1. James, I only speak of the competition and especially directly by name when they do so first. So please remember this in the future because I really don’t like getting into some stupid “My plugin is better than your plugin” discussion. But when you mention our product by name, i’m going to respond.

          I think it’s a bit, actually more than a bit it’s actually hugely disingenuous to imply that your individual extensions are more powerful than the other form plugins or that other form solutions are not frameworks.

          The majority of your Add-Ons are for 3rd party integrations, which we also provide. Between our own Add-Ons and the numerous 3rd party Add-Ons available for Gravity Forms all the same 3rd party integrations can be found for Gravity Forms that you provide for Ninja Forms.

          As far as as other Add-Ons go, things like Conditional Logic goes, Multi-Page Forms, and File Uploads? Well those we don’t have Add-Ons for because all of them are core features and built right into the base plugin itself.

          I’m sure you could point to one of those and go, “Well our XXX Add-On does this and Gravity Forms built in features doesn’t” but we could certainly do the same. To use an example, you could say our File Upload field doesn’t support multiple files from a single field and I can simply say it’s coming in Gravity Forms v1.8, which it is, and will be available later this month.

          Another example you could point to would be Front-End Posting. Gravity Forms only creates Posts. It can do custom post types but only via 3rd party Add-On or available hooks. And I would simply say just wait until Gravity Forms v1.9 when the Post Fields will be deprecated and WordPress content (not post) creation will receive a complete overhaul that will see it provide more powerful functionality than any existing form plugin or post creation plugin out there.

          Save and Continue functionality is in the same boat. It will also be introduced in Gravity Forms v1.9.

          Frankly, between user facing features that are planned for Gravity Forms v1.8, Gravity Forms v1.9 as well as the developer facing features planned between both releases it’s going to completely wipe away any backlog of features that people could point to Gravity Forms as lacking and do so in spades.

          All of this will be functionality available within the core plugin. Not extensions.

          And sure not every use needs every feature. But once they do, it’ll be there for them without costing them yet more money.

          Our Add-Ons have grown beyond simple 3rd party integrations and into more advanced territory such as Poll, Quiz and Survey functionality.

          We have even more advanced Add-Ons in the works which we’re considering referring to as Apps because they simply aren’t an Add-On. They’re an application built on top of Gravity Forms. I won’t go into details, but i’ll just say your statement about not being able to compare would apply to what we have in the works as far as this goes. Only it applies to our competition.

          Which brings me to the comment regarding Ninja Forms being a framework. Gravity Forms is every bit a framework as Ninja Forms and is only going to make bigger strides in this direction over the next couple major releases.

          Your comment implies that Ninja Forms is a framework and anyone can build for it and that’s not the case with Gravity Forms or other form solutions which simply isn’t the case.

          We have more 3rd party Add-Ons available than any other WordPress form solution out there. That is a fact and it’s not even close.

          Gravity Forms can, is and has been used to build all sorts of applications and custom functionality on top of. To imply that Ninja Forms is somehow special in it’s capacity to do so is again very disingenuous.

          The functionality we are introducing in Gravity Forms v1.8 and Gravity Forms v1.9 is only going to further enhance Gravity Forms capabilities as a framework and platform to build applications on top of and that will be reflected within the Add-Ons that we will be releasing.

          Now… I have no interest in mudslinging. I replied because of the comments you made.

          I have no issues with your business model. It’s the business model that we use but it’s one that many people, including WooThemes with their WooCommerce plugin use and that’s their choice and your choice. There’s nothing wrong with it. But don’t point to it as being superior. It’s not superior. It’s simply a different business model.

          We’ve butted heads before when you’ve made similar statements and it got heated. I would have hoped you would have come away from those past exchanges with enough respect for us as your competition to not call our product out by name and proceed to make statements that imply that Ninja Forms is superior because of your advanced Add-Ons and it’s ability to be used as a framework. Obviously that isn’t the case.

          You could have easily commented to the users comment without referring to Gravity Forms by name and making statements that your Add-Ons, features and ability to be used as a framework simply can’t be compared. Because that is simply bullshit.

          You could have easily explained your business model without even mentioning the competition and certainly without making superiority statements.

          I wish you would have done so, because then I wouldn’t have had to comment.

          1. Carl, I didn’t mean to imply anything disparaging about Gravity and my most sincere apologies. I was only making the reference as it pertains to pricing which the comment mentioned us both and then tried to shift gears speaking of how we see our model but I can most definitely see where it came off the way you feel you needed to respond so strongly.

            It’s awesome to hear about all the awesome things you’ve done and have planned in your new releases. The things you mentioned publicly that are coming to Gravity sound great. Some of these we are developing as well. You don’t need it but I still wish you all the continued success possible.

            So let me go on the record and say that I was not implying that any of Ninja Forms extensions were better than functionality that Gravity includes specifically as I have not used Gravity Forms ever. That’s not to say they are or are not. I can in no way make such a claim as I’ve not experienced them. I was not implying that people could not develop on top of Gravity. Obviously people have been doing it for years with much success. My comment on being a framework was simply a remark about how we see Ninja Forms not that others can’t be used that way. I now see that might have been a blurred line. My overall comment was solely about why we have the model we have and that it’s working for us and our customer.

            Like Carl, I have no time or desire to get into any “my plugin is better than yours” drama. And I apologize to Carl and the community if my comment demonstrated anything to the contrary.

          2. Thanks for your replies @James Laws and @Carl Hancock. I appreciate both your companies for the hard work put in and yes, you’re doing well due to us, the WordPress community appreciating your product.

            As such, speaking from a consumer point of view, like what I wrote in reply to Christopher Ross below, we don’t mind price increases, or to pay more, but then, does it fulfill the following criterias?

            1) Constant work / innovation is being done to improve the plugin
            2) Constant work is being done to fix vulnerabilities in the plugin
            3) They don’t just go about changing prices as and when they decide to. At least give us time to adjust. (Studiopress does this very well)

            Also, just like Thomas Griffin and the Soliloquy Slider, we’re keen to have developers who do the following if they’re keen on price changes
            a) Reduce prices, but change it to yearly
            b) Increase prices, but have it on lifetime
            c) Do both

            One good example is the newly launched OptinMonster by Syed Balkhi and Thomas. We can either pay USD 300 (with a 20% off coupon) or pay yearly. Both are good options. We will never say it’s expensive.

            Also, wrt Gravity Forms, we’re amazed that they even came up with a Zapier Add on! That’s real innovation. And for USD 199/year, it’s worth the price! Of course we hoped the Zapier add on was in the basic addons instead =)

            But yes, if everyone is selling for USD 100-200, please do not price your add ons to be almost USD 1000 for unlimited sites. And if you introduce yearly renewals, most of us will just go for alternatives.

            In the same way, with WooCommerce and iTheme’s Exchange. Why pay USD 4k for starters and 2k/year for renewal? We all love WooCommerce, but it becomes a major barrier for entry for mom and pop shops aka. small businesses like us. Especially if our currency exchange rates are much lower.

            In Malaysia, for USD 250/year, we could have a full fledge, well supported ecommerce store. (http://www.easy.my). Well, lacking some of the features, but it’s good enough for many. Plus hosting is taken care of.

            Look a little further, and we can pay USD 14/mo for Shopify and upgrade as and when needed. And like what Andrew Bleakley said, in the long term, it’s easy to switch between shopping carts. Be it Prestashop, OpenCart or WooCommerce.

            Most of my friends are already Prestashop / Opencart users. And its much cheaper yearly than WooCommerce.

            And yes, as consumers, though we talk about your business model and say your product is expensive, we’re not directly attacking you. Is it wrong to call a spade a spade? Just like when WPMU did a review on theme providers / theme shops, and concluded that WooThemes was expensive, some loyal customers of WTs took offense and called WPMU biased. But
            1) were they biased, especially when we do a comparison with the other shops out there?
            2) Was it wrong to call Woothemes expensive? Especially with their tiered pricing and yearly renewal packages that can cost you an arm and leg?

            For example. For Squeeze pages, we could either go for
            1) Premise by Studiopress, USD 147/lifetime (97 during discounts)
            2) Leadpages, USD 199/yearly renewals
            3) OptimizePress, USD 295/yearly renewals
            4) WP Enlighten, USD 299/lifetime

            Now, if I were to write a comparison review, I would definitely call Premise value for money. Not just are they backed by StudioPress, but they kept innovating and improving the plugin.

            How then should we compare OptimizePress or LeadPages to Premise? Expensive?

            And let’s say if Thomas / Pippin / James Laws / Adii – decides to start one as well, calling it Ninja Pages, offering the base plugin as free, but extensions going all the way up to USD 1200, what would you say as a reviewer / 3rd party / customer?

            Should we say that Ninja Pages is much better than Premise? Or that it just has a different model? I mean, we’ve to call a spade, a spade.

            And if we called Ninja Pages (the new squeeze page with extensions going up to USD 1200) expensive and are riled because if we can’t afford it, we better shut up, then the person who says that is either really smart or a mindless loyalist.

            And yes, appreciate your feedback =) I’m not here to argue. Neither am I a developer myself. Just a small time online store owner running off WordPress.

            As much as we would like to see your company sustainable, we also need to be sustainable ourselves =)

            Cheers

      3. @leokoo “A typical WooCommerce store would need about 30 to 40 extensions, costing up to USD 3k and 1.5k ford yearly renewals.”, how is this unreasonable?

        $3,000 is a small price to pay for quality programming and support, and $1,500 a year is barely a drop in the bucket for ongoing support/upgrades. If you factor that cost over 36 months, that’s a $166/month investment for an ecommerce store. Personally, I’d say that if a merchant isn’t willing to spend more on an ecommerce store than their cable package, they shouldn’t be in business.

        1. I perfectly agree with this analysis Christopher. I think people should stop attacking developers for presumed high prices, everyone should run his own business and make decisions based on his situation.

          There are too many variables in the world to attack a vendor purely on their pricing. If that’s the pricing they need to stay in business, then so be it. If people cannot afford that (and you have to consider that in some economies that is indeed unaffordable for many businesses) then they have to find alternatives.

          1. Sorry guys, I’m going to have to disagree with that. You not factoring in the cost of hiring the developer/designer to implement those plugins, set them up, and create a site for the client. With those type of yearly expenses being passed on to the client, it can definitely be much more than $3,000 or $166/mo. Don’t forget hosting.

            If you’re an above average web professional, then you may end up charging 4 – 5k to build the site, now you have to pass on yearly costs to the client as well, in upwards of $3k/year. A good size business may have no issues with this, but a small business is going to most likely find some issues paying a large upfront cost and a yearly cost in the thousands to maintain their site.

            So with that said, they would definitely need to find alternatives, or Woo would have to decide who their audience really is. Is it Joes’ eCommerce Store setting it up himself, or the Developer that’s charging for a service and using Woo as their tool of choice? If it’s the developer, then it’s definitely on the pricier side of things.

          2. @Jonathan, I still think we shouldn’t be attacking developers and putting them in a bad light just because they decided to raise their prices. They are not forcing anything on us.

            Since their code is GPL, one can fork all their plugins and even support them, running a parallel business which results in lower cost for the users. That way everybody is happy. People can choose to purchase the original plugin or the forked one. What are your thoughts on that?

        2. @Jean, I personally don’t like that at all. While the high prices may suck, someone taking someone else’s work and selling the same exact thing at a cheaper rate will only hurt everyone in the long run.

          Say the cheaper company starts selling more and more. No one is getting support so if something goes wrong, you’re screwed. Plus the main company isn’t making anything in return either, so their business is going to suffer.

          Undercutting is not a legit business model and I think people do it just to earn a quick buck to say “Hey Look, you get the same thing but cheaper” and I don’t agree with that at all.

          If the only outcry of not using a GPL license is because WordPress will get mad at you, then I say change the license. If it’s deeper than that, then expect the under cutting to happen.

          It sucks that they cut their affiliate program… maybe they could do a club like wpmu does, or even have an application based affiliate where discounted rates are offered to developers, or people interested in making a buck. I dunno.

          Bottom line, I don’t like the business model of reselling someones hard work and undercutting that actual author who is the one doing all the building, but, we live on Earth, and it’s going to happen so expect it or change the license.

          1. So the recurring conclusion is that it’s perfectly legal but not likeable.

            Having read Justin Tadlock’s post, I am however moving towards the opinion that there’s nothing wrong about these websites in reselling other plugins. That’s what the GPL allows and so everybody needs to work around it or else leave the club (i.e. sell under a different license).

        3. @Christopher Ross @Jean- Hey Chris & Jean.

          First and foremost, I really appreciate WPMayor and reading what you write on the site =) It’s been an eye opener and I look forward to reading daily.

          Thus said, here’s my reply
          ——————
          I wouldn’t comment about the prices if we haven’t invested time or money into the WooCommerce system. The fact is, WooCommerce, while approaching maturity, still has some areas where a few more extensions is needed.

          The problem is, when you’ve already built your shop on WooCommerce, and are left to need to buy new extensions just because you need certain functionalities. And the price increase was abrupt. Most of us couldn’t purchase what we needed.

          I really appreciate the work done by Adii and Woothemes, but if I knew from the beginning of the upcoming price change, we either wouldn’t have used Woo, or would’ve grabbed every extension out there on the Unlimited Sites package.

          As such, you don’t see me talking about Gravity Forms as expensive. I think it’s well worth the money based on the following criterias
          1) Constant work is being done to improve the plugin
          2) Constant work is being done to fix vulnerabilities in the plugin
          3) They don’t just go about changing prices as and when they decide to

          In comparison, out of the numerous WooCommerce plugins I have, there are some that are still on version 1.0.x even after 6 months or more of release. Some have very basic functionalities, but costs from USD 79/single site to USD 199/25 sites.

          In that sense, I would rate Gravity Forms as a much better choice. And iThemes’ Exchange has lots of potential. For only USD 199/year now, it’s unlimited sites and unlimited add-ons. If someone were to ask me which should they build their shop on, why should I recommend Exchange?

          I wouldn’t say I’m attacking Woothemes for this. But as a long term customer, who’s already locked into Woothemes and WooCommerce, it’s not a very nice situation. But I would say, what’s wrong with saying these are outrageous prices, especially when we could be on Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce or others with that price or less?

          If functionality wasn’t an issue, Shopify starts at USD 14/mo, and by the time we’ve enough customers, we can either go for a custom developed site or something =)

          Also, previously we were willing to pay prices of USD 99, 199 or so for unlimited use licenses (and no, we’re not developers), but that’s with the understanding that it’s for lifetime.

          The issue is now, WooCommerce decided to increase the prices of the extensions AND make it a yearly renewal thing, PLUS not improve nor innovate on the extension.

          If they had
          a) Reduced prices, but changed it to yearly
          b) Increased prices, but have it on lifetime
          c) Do both, no one will complain
          or if they

          d) Increased prices, drastically improve extension and change to yearly, why not?

          Don’t go around saying we’re attacking WooCommerce. It’s like you’re in a long term contract to buy a certain speciality ingredient from this supplier and have already committed. And then he jacks it up 300% and expects you to continue buying. Isn’t that crazy? And you can’t really switch, as you’ve already spent time and money to build your menu on this ingredient.

          You can either then
          a) Rebuilding your menu with other speciality ingredient, but lose time?
          b) Suck it up and pay the 300% increase.

          And the sad thing is, if you’ve bought from the other supplier, he only charges a fraction of this first guy.
          –> iThemes Exchange vs WooCommerce : USD 199 vs USD 4000

          And when you tell people your supplier’s expensive, they tell you, if you can’t afford to pay, get out. Shut down your business.

          Sorry, but that’s not good thinking.

          1. Thanks for clarifying further Leokoo and for your comments about WP Mayor, such feedback is very motivating for us. With regards to WooCommerce, I can understand the feelings of many customers who were affected by the price changes, and of course there was a whole discussion about that on Woo’s blog (http://www.woothemes.com/2013/08/a-sustainable-woothemes/).

            When I wrote the post I didn’t have any particular product in mind, my main question was whether these websites are able to do what they are doing, and to investigate how this will impact the community. Some of the sites (such as WP Avengers) have indeed sprung up in retaliation to Woo’s pricing changes, but not all of them. Some of the others are just redistributing a number of plugins, not necessarily due to any changes on the original vendor’s part.

            1. Thanks Jean. As mentioned, at this stage, it’s way too late for us to change to another cart. We’ll prolly work our way to get Techgarage.my to be a leading ecommerce shop in our country and around the South East Asian region.

              But if Adii had made it clearer, either from the beginning, or gave us a grace period to purchase the needed extensions, it would have helped much. To me, that was uncalled for. Woothemes is a multi-million dollar business, as in tens of millions/year. And with the new changes in pricing, it’ll be generating much more from now.

              Why wouldn’t they give their loyal customers the opportunity / grace period?

              And yes, we were severely tempted to go for GPL shops, after this incident. After all, it was a dishonorable behavior from you know who in the first place.

              And yes, there’s a need to also consider mom and pop shops. Small time business people like us who are working hard to carve a niche with an ecommerce store.

              Still love WooCommerce, but I can’t recommend anyone to them for now.

      4. I can relate to this. I recently built a site for a client that needed a total of 14 premium plugins/extensions. Total annual cost: $1,898 (USD). This is a small business that does less than 25k a year in sales. So an overhead that high, just to have your site do what you need it to, would be impossible to this customer and many others like them. They have other overhead costs that have to be paid. These sites allow this and other clients of mine to run their business with a website that does eat nearly 10% of their revenue.

        I believe many of these plugins are way overpriced, and if the pricing was more fair, businesses like this would have no footing in the first place. $200+ per year for a forms plugin that allows me to integrate with stripe, that I will use on only one site is rediculous.

        Which brings another point. These costs cover (in most cases) unlimited sites. But if I am only using gravity forms and the stripe addon on 1 site, why the hell would I want to pay over $200?

    2. I think that is a “fuzzy” way to think about it. Essentially you are suggesting that developers make plugins that are hard to use to ensure that end users need to buy a support license. A good theme or plugin should be easy and intuitive to use and ideally support should not be required.

      1. Things aren’t so simply black and white like that. There is a number of conditions on anyone’s specific website hosting limitations,database, theme, plugins and other factors that cannot be 100% predicted and tested on a developers plugin to assure it always works 100% of the time for anyone. It’s always require. Things just do end up going wrong and need support.

    3. I am with you on this one. Fqct is that if you realease under the GPL, you essentially authorize these comanies to do this.

  5. I have started to pick up a majority of my plugins this way. I used to pay from the source but the truth is I can’t afford it anymore. I’ve been priced out of that market and pushed into this one. Would I rather go to the source and support the people putting in the work? Of course.

    1. It’s also true that while plugins tend to be affordable in many of the world’s economies, there are other economies where the mean income is much lower, and it’s not easy to afford many plugins on a yearly licence basis. Thanks for bringing up the point.

  6. Thanks for a great article Jean 🙂

    I think you’re right that new consumers have a hard time distinguishing what’s legitimate or not, but hopefully many realize that they probably shouldn’t trust an anonymous company, especially while building a business that could be their livelihood.

    Yes, it’s legal by the GPL. But to say that automatically it’s ethical because it’s legal is a weak argument. You could have said the same of slavery in the US 150 years ago and it still wouldn’t be right. I think that a disclaimer is the least that is required to state that the code was developed by someone else so as not to confuse new users.

    However, I doubt these sites will have repeat customers once people realize that support is probably essential for using plugins, especially when more than one is installed and compatibility is an issue. Chris Lema wrote a good viewpoint on this, and I think he’s right that it will never turn into a business.

  7. Thanks for publishing this article Jean, it’s something that the premium WordPress community really needs to think about.

    @donnacha You seem to understand this on a level that many others don’t. The authors’ products we resell at GPL club are only possible due to the freedoms the GPL license enables, without the GPL these businesses would simply not exist.

    We don’t see ourselves as a detriment to the WordPress community, in fact quite the opposite. Current pricing models are fundamentally broken, especially at WooThemes. “Original developers can easily fight this by providing good support, pricing intelligently and not antagonizing their customers” I couldn’t have said it better myself! At present the majority of customers subsidise the few who require support, the recent changes at Woo have rocketed the cost of standard WP eCommerce functionality to $1000’s, and with yearly renewal costs! It’s opportunistic pricing at it’s worst. If you’re a customer of Woo you’ll understand how awful the premium ‘support’ is.

    We’re providing a much needed service in the premium space, where web developers, designers, agencies and small business owners want to increase the functionality of their websites without paying the massive premiums.

    @Ajay @ Beka Rice. As previously stated there is no stealing or theft of code going on, it’s explicitly allowed within the GPL, it’s what makes WordPress possible. And a comparison with slavery is offensive at best.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation Dan.

      Just as a quick note, what I’m asking for is a real argument that can be compelling for the ethics of the practice. I used slavery as an example that breaks the legal = ethical argument, as I think it needs premises that would support it without a leap in logic. Let’s understand one another fully rather than trying to be inflammatory as a diversion from the actual conversation. I’m not comparing it to slavery in any way, but rather asking for a real argument.

  8. Hi everyone. I just wanted to chime in on this because I’d like to point out exactly what ProServe is all about.

    First, thanks to @donnacha for making some great points. Also, the primary service offered through my business is web design. Premium plugins and themes are offered as a secondary service to those who want to save money. Like @Dan from GPL club mentioned (and many other WordPress users), there are WordPress tools that are very pricy. One of the main reasons to using WordPress if you’re designing your own website is to avoid high costs of design. Personally, I don’t see how there is much difference between paying a designer $1,000 to install plugins that they themselves are “reselling” and directly purchasing the same thing from a third party source. There is also no theft as the GPL allows anyone to do anything with the source code, as long as they make it available without restriction.

    To answer some of the writer’s questions:

    1. How will we make sure end users know that they need to make this decision between buying from the original developer or a third party? All products on my site explicitly state that they are purchasing the product from ProServe and not the author/vendor. I also state that if automatic updates and support is needed from the author, then to consider purchasing from them (I even include a link to their site to make it easy). I never make any claims to be the original author. I want my customers to know what they’re purchasing and to know the difference between buying from me vs. buying from the author. I would argue that forking a plugin or theme by making slight alterations and then passing it off as your own is unethical.

    2. What kind of support can such reselling companies offer? I pride my business on customer service. My members gain access to support that helps them with using the product to it’s full potential out-of-the-box. Customizations are not supported but no author offers this service as part of their support. However, as I mentioned before, I make it clear to my customers that support is provided by ProServe and not the author.

    3. Isn’t it bad for customers that some of these companies operate anonymously? Anyone who visits my site will have no problem contacting me. While some may act anonymously, I certainly do not.

    The reason I decided to start offering premium WordPress products at discount pricing was because I know there are many people out there who don’t have the money to drop on expensive designers and need a low cost way to build a quality website. If someone wants to think this type of operation is sleazy then they are entitled to their opinion. However, I have quite a few customers that are not only happy that they saved money but are even happier that they received so much help (a few have even spoke poorly of the support they were receiving from the author). So I disagree with @Beka Rice and anyone who argues that the support and service is inferior just because the products aren’t provided by the author. My #1 goal is to provide a quality service and that’s what I’ll continue to do.

    1. I agree about the extortionate pricing and the serious blow of having to renew WC extensions every year. However, what I like most about WooThemes is the ability to update extensions from my WP dashboard.

      Can you do that with your service Proserve?

      Why do I prefer to purchase from the original developer? They put a lot of time, effort and mental energy to produce high quality kick ass themes/plugins. I for one want to support that.

      Whereas you sell discounted products which you haven’t developed yourself or worked your butt off to deliver awesomeness.

      1. No one is forced to buy from me or any of the other third party sources that provide discounted products. If you don’t agree with it and want to support them then you’re more than welcome to. I’m not arguing people shouldn’t purchase from the developer. I only offer a choice that some people would rather have. To answer your question about whether I offer auto-updates from the dashboard, my answer is no. Not everyone wants to pay the high prices and would prefer to exchange this feature for lower pricing. All it is is choice.

        1. I agree. This is how a free market economy works. People create goods and services, and they’re sold to willing customers. Shunning plugin marketplaces would be akin to expecting Campbell Soup to sell their own cans, and being angry when a grocery store tried to sell them.

          1. Having no support and possibly limited updates makes them an inferior product, and I’m pretty sure many users are not aware of this.

            I think users who go to sharing sites and download a plugin for free from there are very much aware of the trade-offs they are making. On the other hand those buying and downloading plugins from the sites mentioned above are probably not aware of the trade-offs.

    2. Somethng people fail to mention with these sets, including yours, is the fact they cause customer confusion and the fact you are using the Gravity Forms brand name for financial gain without our consent. That along with API/SaaS issues and the fact that it plays against security best practices make what you are doing bad for the community and users.

      First the customer confusion. The average user who finds our product though our site will make the assumption that hon have com kind of relationship with us, such as a reseller agreement. They assume there is a legitimate business relationship between us. The is not. They they acquire the flutie from you or done of these sites and when there is an issue they contact us for support and when they are too they’d have to buy it from us in order to receive support, they get upset. In a lot cases thy understand and rather thancbify upset arch, they are upset at wherever thy purchased it (you). But there are instance where the users is irate and no matter how we explain situation they blame usdavd it damages our relationship with that user in a situation that would not have happened had they purchased though us. It causes brand confusion that can have a negative impact on our band. I know this for a fact because it’s something we encounter regularly.

      Second. Our brand. You are using our brand name for financial gain without our approval. Yes, the actual code is GPL but the name is not. We allow it to be used in situations where fair use comes into play, such as reviews and our affiliate program, but not in situations like this. In order not infringe on our brand you’d need to do wht th GPL really intended in this situation… fork the plugin and rename it, resell it and support it yourself. The fact that the PHP is GPL doesn’t give you the right to monetize our brand name.

      API/SaaS issues. By purchasing through you they don’t get a license key which means they don’t get access to SaaS services such as automatic updates, add-on installer an in the future more an more feature such as email notifications will use SaaS. No key. No SaaS. Are you providing buyers with a key? If so you are violating our term and conditions.

      Best practices say to always keep WordPress, plugins and themes up to date. How do you provide these if you don’t provide a license key which enables automatic updates? Manual downloads? If so I guarantee most users don’t update if that is the case.

      Then there is security best practices related to malware and where you get plugins and themes. Users should be advised to acquire them direct from the developer or WordPess.org in the case of free themes and plugins. Why? Because most WordPress malwar is spread via sites like yours that offer commercial plugins and themes for free or cheaper than their developer. This undemines the communities attempts to promote best practices to avoid malware, etc.

      None off this even touches on the fact that those that do this to undercut the actual developer for their own financial gain will get no respect by the devlopment community as a whole.

      Want to do this and not ruin your reputation? Fork them. Rename them. And support them yourself.

      1. Good points Carl, I think forking is the right way to go in this scenario.

        And since you mentioned it, we also need to discuss the issue of brand misuse. So now the article switches from legal but possibly not ethical to one where there is a possible illegal usage of brand names.

        Will plugin developers be suing companies like GPLClub and WPAvengers on this point?

        From a few conversations I’ve had with plugin developers, it seems they’re not really that concerned about people reselling their plugins in this way, from a financial point of view. The impact on their profitability seems to be minimal for now. But what if these resellers become much more popular?

      2. I was wondering about this… It seams that these sites are using images and names that are copyrighted. Seriously, if you want to take someone else’s work and sell it, then at least fork it, change the name, and replace all of the copyright items (images are not included in the GPL license) with your own. Put in at least some work.

    3. @Proserve, thanks for replying to my concerns.

      Here’s some follow-up.

      1. When forking you still keep the credit to the original author, so there’s no issue of claiming that another’s work is your own. You do a good job of helping potential buyers make an educated decision, others don’t.

      2. Glad you also offer support, again others don’t do this. Maybe another case for forking the plugin?

      3. Agreed on that one in your case, definitely not anonymous. Applies to other vendors though.

      The only remaining concerns I have in your case:

      – Misuse of company branding, may lead to issues with the original vendors (see Carl’s comment).

      – Difficulty of updating. As Carl mentioned, you cannot just give users a licence enabling the auto update feature, so they’d presumably keep checking your site for new updates, or receive an email when an update is available, then login to download it and upload to their site. Not the most streamlined process. Especially for plugins which are updated frequently (e.g. once a week).

      – Community backlash. You’ll probably have a hard time presenting at a WordCamp, for example. Then again you might not mind this, but many want to have a good standing within the WordPress community.

      And of course, there’s also the argument of potentially driving the original vendors out of business . If they don’t have enough income to support their products and continue to improve them, who will? But I guess the market would eventually take care of that situation.

      1. @Jean,

        Thanks for acknowledging that what I offer isn’t a product with a lack of updates and support. I’d also like to point out that the product offered is not inferior. Updates and support are services. The code itself is the product and it’s materially identical to what is purchased from the vendor. One may argue that the “service” is inferior but I would disagree, especially for the cost.

        Anyway, I’d like to follow up again to address your additional concerns. First, my decision to resell these products rather than fork them is because, ultimately, I’m not trying to replace any of these products. I only offer what I’ve used and what I’m comfortable in offering support for because other people want to use them as well but may not want to spend the additional money for whatever reason. Something I feel that is seriously lacking in the WP community is the ability to “try before you buy”. Many vendors tie updates and support into their products to charge higher amounts. This is perfectly fine because it’s their business. But the option to purchase the download and decide later if it’s something for which you’d like to invest in updates/support is not something that really exists. My business is to provide this option.

        On the concept of brand misuse, I am simply letting people know what they’re purchasing. As I conveyed before, transparency is very important to me and I want people to make educated purchasing decisions.

        Regarding community backlash, I understand that those who disagree with my opinion on this subject may not appreciate my business. However, I disagree that I’m doing a harm to the WP community. I’d argue that the developers who try to control the use of their GPL product (or at least discourage its use without paying annual fees) are doing a disservice to the community. Justin Tadlock wrote a great post on his similar opinion. I enjoy helping others with WordPress and helping them to achieve their goals. I fully embrace “open source” and everything it represents so if there is any backlash from what I offer, it’s from a business standpoint and I’d hope that business and the WP community don’t overlap to that great of an extent.

        Lastly, I don’t foresee ever driving anyone out of business. If that was my goal, I’d fork the products and make them available for free while marketing them as “the closest thing to …”. The only way I see my business coming close to doing that is if the vendors fail to provide a service that makes them profitable. If that happens, then the market will dictate as the cost will outweigh the benefit.

        I’m glad this conversation is being held because I think it’s wrong to slander another’s business as “sleazy” or as being a distasteful way of making a living without understanding the full picture. I wrote a post on my blog that addresses my beliefs on the ethics of this. I’d love it if you could take a look and offer some additional discussion. If you don’t mind, I’ve posted a link:

        http://proserveweb.com/ethics-wordpress-premium-plugins-gpl/

        1. Thanks again for joining the discussion Proserve, I’m thoroughly enjoying working through all the concerns and clearing things for everyone involved. Discussions like this one are what makes the WP community so open and interesting.

          I had already posted your reply in my update to the original post, and in fact also included Justin’s post.

          In my previous comment I expressed my concern about updating, how do you go about that? Most plugin developers now include automatic updates to their plugins (usually based on a licence check being done before the update is downloaded). Related to this point, it is very possible that developers might implement the extra measure of preventing usage of the plugin if a valid licence is not entered (have already seen a number of plugins operating in this way), what would you do in that case?

          1. If that were to happen, it begs the question as to whether the product is truly GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowRequireFee). Perhaps it’s against the GPL since the code is made available but some may argue it is because it requires a license key to use. That’s where I think things would get really grey. But if that is to happen then I think the forking/reselling model will become even more popular. I can’t say for sure if I would get into this but I am certain that others would.

            1. Indeed, I had forgotten about that, thanks for pointing it out. Again, thanks for participating in the discussion, I for one certainly see things clearer now as a result of all the comments here.

          2. Jean, I forgot to answer your question about updating products purchased from my site. Any customer that joins my mailing list is notified when new products or updates are made available. I do not provide a license key for anyone to access updates directly from the developer. So., as you mentioned in a prior comment, manual updates are necessary. I agree that this isn’t the most efficient but the point is to simply provide the plugin so that it can be used. That’s why I recommend purchasing from the developer if the FULL service (dashboard updates) is needed.

  9. I think the question really is.. are these major developers that release plugins that have high function such as a store plugin or a theme with many options or targeted at a vertical market such as real estate developing plugins that they want to sell or are they creating a market to provide support.

    Are they Software Developers or are they Support Specialists?

    If you have ever looked at the prices for VIP WordPress Support from Automattic then you realize that a single job that they take is as much as the average American income They charge Tens of Thousands of dollars for Support. … but they give away WordPress for free.

    So is Woo or another large and very needed plugin for most WP Users developing for sales of the Plugin .. or are they expecting to charge HUGE Sums of money for support because they are probably the best at it..

    The fact is .. Being the best at support does not always mean you are making money…

    Automattic can charge insane prices relative to the rest of the market because all of their customers are huge companies that simply write everything off…

    On the other hand Woo or someone at a lower level than WP.com can’t charge anything but the going rate for support.

    And with small to medium sized companies more than happy to go to Developers and Support staff in India or elsewhere for their support where undercutting is the way they do business then Americans and Europeans or anyone that needs a paycheck finds it difficult to make a living wage.

    It has got to the point LA Times and NY Times and HUGE Publishers are laying off their in house Artists and expecting their reporters to become Photo Editors and Designers.. and themes are being outsourced and addins are single purchases …

    This is not how the Publishing Business worked even just 15 years ago….

    The fact is .. this business is dead for anyone trying to make income unless they have a special hook like the hundred or so people that work for Automattic.. .. for the rest of us we struggle and will never see that type of success ..

    But remember WordPress its self was another Project that was taken over by Matt .. and turned into WP..

    So is it fair? probably not.. is there a way to get around it and secure a dependable income for the future? probably not…

  10. Supporting a plugin is onerous at small scale (I know because I’m a commercial plugin author), but the support argument is rubbish. If Woo was genuine, they’d offer at least two tiers:

    * No-support (about one third the cost)
    * Support (full cost)

    TA-DA!!!

    Until Woo offers people like me (a plugin author myself) a much cheaper no-support option, I’ll happily purchase elsewhere from anyone obeying the law.

    The ethical argument is also lame. There are lots of conventions that aren’t written down in law. For instance, if you’re married then you’re supposed to not cheat on your partner without their knowledge and consent.

    Developing under the GPL is different. If you develop under the GPL you have explicitly agreed to be ‘cheated’ on.

    Ignorance of the implications of the GPL is not a rational or objective reason to be outraged, nor is naive faith in the goodness of others.

    1. How about forking the plugins though, rather than offering a plugin branded by someone else? Carl’s point above is very valid I think. That way you’ll be acting much more in the spirit of the GPL, while not damaging/influencing another company’s brand.

      1. While I’m not certain of the law in that regard. My caveat about ‘obeying the law’ was a tilt towards the points above about branding etc. Forking and re-branding the projects seems like a reasonable bare minimum to me. If that’s what the law requires then I’d be in favor of it, and would support those re-forkers who do so.

        The argument about confusion in the market place is less convincing though. ‘Confusion’ seems like a euphemism for ‘less profit’ to me. Again, if Woo cares so deeply for its easily confused customers, charge less, provide support in a more efficient way, or charge for support separately. They could even create video tutorials/FAQs for their less able clients… that is, of course, if they were serious about solving the support problem.

        Forcing people to buy ridiculously overpriced support along with the plugin itself is hardly different to record companies that used to like forcing us to by 10 bad songs along with 2 hits per CD (showing my age now…).

  11. At first I would like to thank all original plugin/theme developers of “premium” plugins who can still keep their cool whenever the next GPL-discussion comes up.

    Remember you can not and MUST NOT sell code licensed under the GPL.
    Providers of GPL-software can only make money by charging for support and/or access to services like automatic updates.
    Why would you deny developers who keep a product secure and compatible with the ever-(fast-)changing WP ecosystem the ONLY LEGAL way of generating revenue?
    Premium GPL (plugin) businesses create jobs for a lot of devs and help them to provide for their families!!

    Even Automattic could never “sell” the source code of WordPress because it is derived from GPL code. It is the same with Red Hat. But who would finance the majority of WP core, wp.org (and the free code making CentOS and Fedora) possible?

    So they charge their big clients high amounts which is paying for making WP core better and give all of us free access to WordPress core, plugin and theme downloads.
    Does anyone of you want to pay for the traffic generated by everything on *.wordpress.org?

    1. “Remember you can not and MUST NOT sell code licensed under the GPL.”

      That’s not correct. Anyone can sell code licensed under the GPL, whether it’s the original developer or someone else who obtained that code. You might even take a free plugin from the .org repository and sell it (distribute it) at a price. It is hence perfectly legal to sell a plugin without any support offered.

      Just thought I’d clarify that.

      1. Hi,

        This is an excerpt of the Optimizepress License saying what ‘you may not do’ – interested in your opinions given that it is built off of WordPress, which is of course GPL’d:

        “- Copy the Documentation,

        – Copy the Software except to make archival or backup copies as provided above,

        – Modify or adapt the Software or merge it into another program in any way,

        – Reverse engineer, disassemble, decompile or make any attempt to discover the source code of the Software,

        – Place the Software onto a server so that it is accessible via a public network such as the Internet,

        – Sublicense, rent, lease or lend any portion of the Software or Documentation.

        – Share login details for the software to others (you are granted to share your logins with Virtual assistants provided they are working on your behalf)
        – Allow client access to the software.

        – Use the software to host client material (videos or audio) If you wish use the software for client files then you will need to purchase a new copy for each individual client.

        – Allow multiple people to use your installation (this includes but is not limited to use on any WordPress Multiuser/MU installations)

        Transfers

        You may transfer all your rights to use the Software and Documentation to another person or legal entity provided you transfer this Agreement, the Software and Documentation, including all copies, updates and prior versions to such person or entity and that you retain no copies, including copies stored on computer or web hosting. (You may do this once. After this you will need to purchase another copy)”

        1. That practically means it’s not GPL. I took a quick look at their site and I can’t find any indication of what license they are using.

          1. Yes, they are being obtuse about the licensing issue, as I am sure they know what they are doing is wrong. In fact if it were Microsoft rather than Automattic running WordPress, they would be surely be pursued for damages, as it would be considered an illegal practice, as they are breaking the terms of an explicit software license. And unlike an end user, who might have difficulty with licensing terminology, they cannot claim ignorance in doing so, as they are software developers and use libraries and other code modules regularly, which requires at minimum acknowledgement of copyright for the original coder.
            They also implicitly claim to be software professionals. What profession would accept the non-professional behavior of breaking licensing terms? It would be considered contrary to a professional code of ethics, and probably sufficiently serious to warrant expulsion;
            They are also using code obfuscation to hide their code. Which is also against the GPL’s terms.
            The fact that they are not the only business doing so should not be accepted as an excuse either.
            I could go on and on with the number of things they are doing which violate the GPL. But it’s all rather pointless, as nobody who is in a position to do anything about it (Automattic?) seems interested in doing anything to stop the behavior!
            I believe that these companies profit from the ignorance of their user base with respect to licensing, and the inability of end users to create suitable software for their own needs. I think that they can only survive by ignoring users implicit rights to the software they provide.
            I also understand, and accept the need to make a living, and the right to run a profitable business, however not by explicitly breaking the license terms of the software that allows them to do so!
            Rant over 🙂

          2. Just to balance my argument, I saw this post by the author of s3mediavault and another plugin, DAP, which I assume to be similar. I quote: ” DigitalAccessPass (DAP), which does *not* have a dependency on the core of WordPress. DAP is a separate piece of software, that can be plugged on TOP of wordpress, and only needs a simple, light-weight “Plugin” that acts as a “bridge” between WP and DAP”
            As I cannot verify this myself, I am assuming that they are implying a ‘linking argument’ for exception to the GPL. Which has been shown to be acceptable.
            Perhaps Donncha could chip in here if he’s still following this thread?

    2. A little off-topic:
      I am no dev selling a premium theme or plugin but I think the Envato marketplaces have a far bigger negative impact on the WP ecosystem. They take a huge part of the revenue generate by premium code with a non-legal license approach (I know it is changing).
      The “normal” WordPress user might purchase through one of these marketplaces and not know they are purchasing a product not compliant with the GPL.

      Too harsh? Only my opinion

          1. Are you saying that people cannot run non-GPL plugins with WordPress? Because that’s not true at all. Licenses are a choice for developers and the GPL is not required simply because WordPress itself is GPL.

    1. But you’ve provided so much to the discussion, haven’t you? I don’t think anyone needs to justify what is allowed. You’d benefit from reading @donnacha’s comment below.

  12. The big problem with GPL discussions is the sheer lack of clue that most people have about what the GPL is, why it exists and what all these commercial plugin makers actually gain when they choose to build their products upon GPL components and a GPL platform.

    I won’t single people out by name, but as these comments have popped into my inbox, one-by-one, many of them have just made me roll my eyes and wonder how it is possible that people can be interested enough in WordPress to follow WordPress-related blogs and, yet, know so little about its most fundamental pillars.

    Reality is an important guide in business and life in general. It does not matter, not one little bit, how much people would like reality to be different, it does not matter how wonderful a business they could have if only reality could bend to their needs, it does not matter how comforting their delusions are and it doesn’t even matter how many other people with vested interests chime in to agree with them. The only thing that matters is actual reality.

    If you distribute code under the GPL, you have already relinquished all exclusive rights to it, both legal and moral, there is no further discussion to be had. If you start to tell yourself that there is something morally wrong with people exercising their rights under the GPL and, even worse, if your business plan revolves around your value being stored in the code itself, well, you need to wake up and familiarize yourself with the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.

    For example: Gravity Forms is a solution to a specific set of tightly-clustered problems. Through a combination of ever-evolving code, a good forum and ticket-based support, it enables developers to create more functional websites. The overall advantage outweighs the cost for a sizable number of developers. At the margins, there may be developers from poorer countries who would rather forego the forum and support in order to safe money but, on the whole, $199 per year is broadly affordable.

    Gravity Forms succeeded because they were smart about building their reputation and their community of users. They knew that this was an integral part of what they were selling, that the code alone was not sufficient. They understood the realities of the WordPress market and were ruthlessly deliberate in what they built.

    If you hope to sell plugins or themes, get acquainted with reality and build your value into your overall offering. Continuously improve your solution so that people understand this isn’t a one-shot deal. Cultivate your users and resist the temptation to screw them over once they have already invested time, money, effort and seem to be locked into your product … again, naming no names 🙂

    So many of the arguments voiced in this thread against these code distribution sites miss the point. Some are just implementation details: there is no technical reason why one of the sites could not put together their own updating system, it’s fairly simple and bound to happen eventually. Equally, the GPL does not require them to fork the code in order to distribute it, that would be completely meaningless. Finally, from what I can see, they are all already pretty clear that they are not the developers, that they are providing the code only and that no support is included – if customers are genuinely turning up at the developers’ sites and demanding support, well, they need pills, not plugins.

    But, look, GPL arguments always attract those with a vested interest in encouraging a mass delusion, and those who are just plain ignorant of the facts. It doesn’t really matter, they are all wasting energy on the wrong things, but if you want to actually succeed, again, focus on the reality and look at the guys, like Carl, who have made it work for them.

    1. Some are just implementation details: there is no technical reason why one of the sites could not put together their own updating system, it’s fairly simple and bound to happen eventually.

      I’ve already got the code for this too. It took me a couple of days to figure out the system and test it, but it’s not that hard to do. I imagine we will eventually see that happen with some of these sites.

  13. I’ve noticed that people choose to be part of Open Source or a GPL then don’t like it when their code is re-used. I don’t think you can have it both ways. I believe the majority of WordPress people have their favorite plug-ins and themes, and re-use them and they are from the original artist but I might be wrong. I’m a bit tired of wasting money on unknown things only to find out they didn’t work that great. Usually if the original author makes improvements it is the best way to go. And I wouldn’t buy from someone if I knew it was copied code. While I do think it is not ethical to take things without permission, the GPL allows you to do it so I guess it is up to the people to be ethical.

    It is the same thing in the US food industry in that they continue to put food on the shelves of our grocery store that is banned in other countries. Knowledgeable people don’t buy it but once they become aware, hopefully they will.

    I don’t know if this helps but I don’t see a good solution to it at the moment.

  14. When buying a plugin, I think there’s a customer expectation that the developer they buy it from is the one who developed it. If it’s not clearly communicated on the marketing site that they forked someone else’s code, then I think it is misleading the customer, which is no way to build a business.

    Quite the discussion you’ve sparked here Jean, nice work!

    1. Misleading customers is clearly a no-no in any context.

      From the discussion above and within the GPL context I think that when done in the right way, reselling is ok.

      Take a look at Proserve’s way of doing it as an example (http://proserveweb.com/wordpress-shop/plugins/gravity-forms/). He provides a clear disclaimer that the product is being resold and even provides links to the plugin developer. Here’s the disclaimer for quick reference:

      “Disclaimer: This product is provided in it’s original, unmodified form. However, it is provided by ProServe Web Solutions and not the original vendor/developer and, therefore, it not supported by the vendor/developer. ProServe will provide non-warrantied support and updates for this product. If you wish to receive support and updates from the vendor/developer, you may wish to purchase from them using the “Read More About…” link above.”

      1. The problem with reselling an unmodified package is that the brand name can be copyrighted and/or trademarked. Additionally, the code itself is covered under the GPL license, but no other assets (including images) are covered. So selling the unmodified package is a violation of GravityForm’s copyright.

        1. I stand to be corrected but I believe all assets are GPL, at least for those plugins that go in the WP repository that’s the rule, and most others follow that guideline.

          With regards to the brand name, Carl from Gravity Forms has already raised the issue above, although till now there seems to be little will to actually sue people on this basis, if indeed it is a legal violation.

        2. “The Free Software Definition’s Four Freedoms
          By the Free Software Foundation’s definition, Free Software guarantees you:

          1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
          2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
          3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
          4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.”

          Under point number 3, the way I see it is that there is no problem with redistributing unmodified packages. There is no question of branding infringement, unless the author claims to be involved with that brand when he isn’t.

  15. I can be mistaken on this one, as I’m not an expert on Linux, but it seems to me that there is an analogy with CentOS and Red Hat Linux. Basically CentOS appears to be the same system sold by Red Hat, but CentOS is free. Obviously enterprise users would go for Red Hat since they are great at supporting such clients, while CentOS makes the system more accessible, removing all pricing barriers.

  16. I realize that any code that is originally GPL must remain GPL. But can a plugin developer use a standard copyright notice on their original code? Or does the user of an WordPress API call constitute acceptance of the GPL requirement for all portions of code?

    Wasn’t this an issue with Envato where their themes were not GPL compliant? That didn’t prevent them from being sold by Envato, it just meant they weren’t compliant with GPL.

    What’s to prevent all of these authors from dropping GPL since they don’t go through the WP repository anyway?

    1. According to Matt Mullenweg, plugins and themes built on top of WordPress need to be GPL since they are using a GPL-based system (WordPress). That means they are a derivative of core WordPress GPL code. See Matt’s explanation for more information: http://wordpress.tv/2009/10/13/matt-mullenweg-wordpress-gpl/. Of course that hasn’t stopped plugin sellers from creating non-GPL plugins and distributing them, but I’ve come across very few of these.

      The question you pose is indeed a valid one, however if plugin and theme developers decide not to use the GPL, then they would pretty much need to move away from WordPress itself.

  17. Anything that uses WordPress code to function needs to be GPL, so naturally most if not all of your plugins and theme will inherit the license. Code/art that is completely decoupled from WP does not have to be GPL, unless you wanted hosted in wordpress.org. In other words GPL code is derivative. Finding out exactly what is derivative is sometimes difficult (javascript for example).

    GPL is a license which covers distribution, copyright on the other hand gives credit to the original owner or owners of the work. Copyright also implies who may adapt, perform and benefit from the work. The Copyright holders choose the license.

    The GPL does expect you to add a copyright notice in your software, and WordPress does this. http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-howto.html

  18. I’m a plugin developer, and I find the “scavenging” of these sites a minor annoyance. Sure, they provide the software for very cheap, but they don’t give any kind of support, which I, instead, provide free of charge with every purchase.
    Considering that one hour of paid support costs 40% more than the licence for the most expensive product I sell, anyone buying from these sites will soon realise that they are wasting their money.

    1. Then why not release the plugins for free but charge for support?

      Seriously, if what you say is true, that would instantly solve the problem and gain you a much bigger base of users, each properly compensating you for your time.

      Woo say more or less the same thing: that the support required for each customer, valued at $5 per hour, justifies the license cost of around $1000 per site per year.

      Support is obviously where the demand is but, strangely, Woo will not separate the cost of support from the cost of the code.

      1. I think the biggest issue in this whole argument is that people are reluctant to make the shift in mindset that the GPL brings about. Traditionally we cling on to the products we produce and want people to pay to use them, but all this changes when we accept to embrace the GPL.

        In Woo’s case, there is definitely a great value in support, not because the product has bugs and the users will email requesting fixes, but because setting up an e-commerce site is always bound to present some questions to the average user, think about support more as consultancy and you will understand things better.

        1. I do, totally, understand that mindset Jean, but I want to encourage developers to embrace reality, rather than remain swaddled in the cosy comfort of how they would like things to be, because I see so many people wasting time on business models that are built upon delusions.

          We all need to be honest with ourselves about what we do, what it means and how the consequences of our decisions are likely to play out in the future. Don’t waste time trying to recreate Microsoft in the WordPress universe, there is a fundamental flaw in that plan and it does not matter how many celebrity developers bolster your delusions.

          The sooner an individual developer manages to cast off all that nonsense, the sooner he will find a model that actually does work.

          I don’t know what the exact answer is, but I do know that the world is big and that the majority of users who have the means to pay a reasonable price will do so. I also know that user’s online ambitions far exceed their technical abilities, so, there will always be money to be made in bridging that gap. A lot of people will choose to save money by downloading commercial plugins for free but many will choose to buy from the original developer if they perceive that it will make things even slightly easier.

          1. I think we also need to point out that when we talk about creating additional value that doesn’t include future product updates, would you agree on that? Because I see many developers saying ok, the plugin is free, but you should pay a yearly license for updates (and support).

        2. I am not saying that providing access to the code itself is not a valid thing to charge for, there is undoubtedly a value in receiving code “from the horse’s mouth”, so, for me, both the original plugin and the updates fall into that same category.

          Updates have no special quality, the original developer only has a slight time advantage in delivering them. The only reason why the other sites are not yet providing automated updates is because their market has not yet matured to that stage, but it will.

          Site offering free or cheap versions have been around for as long as commercial plugins have existed, but it remained an amateur, anonymous and disorganized niche and, actually, I believe it could have remained largely irrelevant for several more years.

          The lightning bolt that zapped life into this niche was the appalling way in which Woo treated their existing customers. If one were to merely read the tweets and supportive posts by other commercial developers, you would have come away with the impression that Woo were taking a wonderful and much-needed step for the commercial market but, if you read the reactions of actual customers, it was pretty clear that a line had been crossed: the number of customers who felt conned was sufficient to feed a serious backlash, and that fed straight into a new generation of these sites, giving them an impetus and justification that they never before had.

          I don’t know what Woo thought would happen, and it does not particularly matter to their profits which have zoomed upwards, but the sad part is that they have now anchored an unofficial channel through which smaller commercial developers will also be heavily distributed.

          A lot depends on how much mindshare these sites gain: commercial developers should probably just ignore them and continue to price their products on the assumption that the customer is not aware of cheaper sources – a substantial proportion are always going to buy from the original developer anyway, and the overall number of WordPress users is going to continue growing anyway. In the same way that the vast majority of installations of every iOS game are pirate versions, you have to focus on the portion of the market that is still willing to buy and trust that the overall market will grow more quickly than that portion shrinks.

  19. Donnacha, charging for support is, in my opinion, the most unethical of practices, as it encourages poor quality. The poorer the product, the more support it requires. The more support is required, the more money comes in. It’s a downward spiral, all the way to the bottom.

    For the same reason, I don’t hire anybody who works only on hourly rates. If they cannot provide a bid on a project, I’m not going to pay them by the hour (the slower they are, the more hours they can bill).

    Ironically, if one knows his trade, billing by the hour is also LESS profitable than charging for a licence, or for a fixed bid project.

    1. I reply to myself to make an example: I’m a strong advocate of the idea that software should be treated like other tangible goods. It looks like it would be much more profitable, for a car manufacturer, to give you the car for free and then charge for every single repair, instead of providing you with a multi-year warranty, how comes that they don’t do it? There are two reasons:
      1- It encourages bad quality, to sell more services and spare parts. Nobody would buy a car, if those were the terms (same reason why I don’t buy software which doesn’t include free support).
      2- If the car is built properly, it’s more profitable to sell it at a fixed price and provide free warranty, for it won’t require any extra labour once it’s sold.

      I apply the above principles to all the projects to which I take part, and I can tell you that it’s a much profitable model (and it often costs less to the customer).

      1. That’s a good argument Diego, but it all boils down to the fact that when working with WordPress, you are accepting the GPL and its ramifications. And under the GPL all software is free, while value should be provided in add-on services, support etc.

        Look at what Automattic does, they distribute WordPress for free, but probably make millions through their WordPress.com platform, VaultPress, VIP support, etc. All of them are add-ons to a freely downloadable product.

        1. Jean, good topic, I’m glad you wrote about it. The GPL is the GPL and we all must accept it.

          That said, there is a clear as day progression of events that this kind of thing will lead to. Individuals and businesses will not be able to support themselves to do business the right way any longer and soon we’ll be back to where we were 6-7 years ago where plugins were coded by amateurs, didn’t follow standards and broke your site.

          Yes, they’re in compliance with GPL. But that’s not the point.

      2. Okay, so, for your particular situation, you have worked out two things that make your business more profitable:

        1. You build your products upon existing GPL code because, although this means that they inherit the GPL license, the disadvantages of that are outweighed by the advantages of not having to write all that code from scratch yourself AND you get to sell into the WordPress platform.

        2. You locate the value of your product in the access to it, rather than support, because, as you say, it is a much more profitable model DESPITE the fact that your choice of using GPL components means that others have an equal right to provide access to your code.

        Given that you had total freedom in making and benefitting from these choices, for you to now describe these sites as “scavengers” is exactly the same as WooThemes attacking you because you make WooCommerce extensions and your site makes heavy use of their trademark.

        I don’t mean to offend you or insult your business, I am just pointing out the general hypocrisy of commercial plugin makers reframing reality to suit their own interests.

        A car is built using metal purchased at the market rate. A product that depends upon WordPress is built upon the hard work and collaboration of thousands of people over many years, the price they demand is that you allow others to benefit from your additions to their work, just as you have benefitted. No gun is held to anyone’s head, you have complete freedom not to use their work but, if you do take that deal, it is dishonorable to then turn around and begrudge others their rights under the GPL.

        If nothing else, feeling that people are scavenging from you will eat you up inside. Justin Tadlock’s perspective, described at the end of Jean’s article, is far healthier. Commercial WordPress developers should print that paragraph out and stick it to the inside of their toilet door.

        1. Probably one of the best models from major plugins is the one adopted by Paid Memberships Pro. Take a look at it and let us know what you think.

          http://www.paidmembershipspro.com/pricing/

          Basically their plugin and addons are completely free, but they have two tiers of premium service. One is aimed at developers and includes the support forum, recipes and videos, while the more expensive one is aimed at non-developers and includes installation and configuration of PMPro on their existing WordPress site. It also includes up to 5 hours of consultation and hands-on development.

          Here’s what they say about their code:

          Our plugin’s code is not obfuscated, runs on as many sites as you want and can be customized to fit your project’s needs. We just ask that you follow the GPLv2 guidelines by applying the GPLv2 license to any altered or unaltered version of PMPro that you distribute. Thanks!

        2. Taking someone else’s work and build on top of it is a very different thing from “dumping” someone else’s work as is. I’m not arguing on the fact that GPL allows it, and I’m well aware of it, but it doesn’t mean that the two things are the same, and should be treated the same way.

          I agree that redistribution of GPL software is part of the GPL philosophy, I seriously doubt that adding no value whatsoever to the redistributed product (and just reselling it cheaper, without providing any support or improvement, to me, falls into the category of “not adding value”) is a commendable approach. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.

          For the record, I don’t begrudge others for redistributing GPL software, nor I that they are stealing from me (otherwise, I would not have gone close to GPL at all). If anything, I would be happy to see that they improved what they got and made an even better product out of it, rather than aiming for the lowest of the low hanging fruits.

          1. Following this discussion here I’ve come to see that redistributing a product at a cheaper price does fall into the category of adding value. As I understand it, the GPL is always in favour of users. So if a user doesn’t need support and cannot afford a particular plugin, for whatever reason (not all world incomes are the same, as everyone knows), then he has an alternative. That to me is value for the user.

          2. That is a point of view, exactly like mine. I still think that simple redistribution is not adding value. Also, I believe that GPL is not always in favour of the user, especially when such practices happen, for they can backfire.

            It may seem a paradox, but, since not all developers fully understand, approve or like such licence, even though they distribute their work under it. Some of them can easily drop out of the market if they feel “offended” by the redistribution of their work (to which, we know, they agreed). As a result, their talent is lost, the product dies and everybody loses. Right or wrong, that’s always a possibility.

          3. But, Diego, don’t you understand that the people who allowed you to use their code expressly insisted, as their payment from you, that you maintain the GPL’s protection for users, not just developers.

            You say that you acknowledge that people have the right to redistribute without adding any improvements, but you also say that this is not commendable, and you imply that it should not be done, as if it is some sort of regrettable side-effect of an idealistic notion.

            In fact, the GPL explicitly encourages, commends and applauds the redistribution of code. This is not some vague philosophy, it is a license that has become one of the most successful in the world because a huge number of developers decided that they wanted their code to be useful to as many human beings as possible.

            They chose to use the GPL because, although they do not begrudge your product piggybacking on their work, they wanted to ensure that your “improvements” did not stand between their work and the rest of the human race.

            If you think that these sites are just picking the lowest of low hanging fruits, get your product higher up in the tree – Jean’s example of PaidMembershipsPro is a terrific demonstration of how to do that and I have a hunch that is the direction that successful commercial developers are going to move in.

            If I was planning a commercial product today, I would think very carefully about the ancillary needs that my customers might have, and how I could specialize and streamline the provision of those services. If you stand back and really think about it, there are some obvious ways in which you can turn pirated versions of your products into mere adverts for “the real thing”, but we all need to clear our heads first and start thinking in terms of what people can and are doing, rather than what they should or should not.

          4. @Jean I’m someone who thinks that choice is a good thing because it promotes a competitive market. I whole-heartedly agree with you that making things available at a lower cost is adding value. This subject will probably be debated for years to come but I don’t think it’s arguable that sites like mine fail to increase accessibility. Some may not appreciate that I offer these downloads at reduced prices but I am working to make them more accessible to anyone who wants them. I have a number of customers from other countries that are thankful they can afford to access the plugins I offer.

            @donnacha Thanks for continuing to make such great points.

            @Diego It’s nice to read your opinions and see that you’ve been getting involved in this discussion (including on Justin Tadlock’s post). While you may not appreciate sites like mine, I’d like to point out to you that I offer support for the plugins that I make available. I just finished restructuring my pricing model to include a membership subscription that strictly gives users access to support for the plugins available from ProServe. I also edited the product descriptions and Terms of Service to reflect this change and make it as simple as possible for people to understand because there seems to be a lot of discussion going on where people are indicating these sites offer NO support. It’s important that my site is not included in statements like this because it’s not true of me. The support provided to my members includes getting set up with the plugin/theme and using it to its full potential given the “out of the box” functionality. What it does NOT include is support for customizations that require additional coding and/or fixing errors caused by users editing the plugin’s core. While I can’t speak for every developer’s support (I’ve met those that go well beyond the call of duty and those that cannot be reached), my support is comparable to what you get with a lot of commercial plugins.

          5. @Proserve – I have a strong hunch that offering any form of support is big mistake: ultimately, no matter how crappy Woo support actually is, they have the authority of being the creators of their plugin, and they have a sufficient mass of high-paying customers to make it possible to maintain a deep knowledge of their products among their support team. You cannot really compete with that.

            The sad reality of any form of technical support is that a substantial portion of all clients are functionally retarded. People who should not be entrusted with lace-up shoes suddenly get it into their heads that they are going to start the next Facebook or Amazon and YOU become solely responsible for all their problems, from their inability to login to their new hosting account, right through to their frustrations that Godaddy won’t let them register the domain Store.com.

            Woo are in a position to kick those morons to the curb but, in your case, any and all disgruntled customers will have their cause taken up, by pretty much everyone in the commercial WordPress community, as an example of what a conman you are, offering support for a plugin you don’t even understand.

            Trust me, you do not want to get into that nightmare, and you certainly don’t want to further blur the lines. The people attacking you for not offering service are completely clueless anyway – the whole point is that you provide a legitimate option, but people are still free to go to the original sellers if they want the full package.

            Of course, you can offer specific, predictable paid services, such as installation or guided configuration without risking a backlash, but avoid generic, blanket “My Website Just Exploded” support, leave that to the original sellers.

  20. @donnacha Thanks for your input on the support. This is definitely something I plan to consider over the next few days. Although I try to make it clear that I only offer basic support, I realize that this may not be fully understood by customers. I appreciate the thought.

    1. I would agree with Donnacha on this point Proserve. It’s one thing offering support on those plugins to a few select clients, but when you’re opening it to the whole market then it becomes unsustainable.

  21. @Jean @donnacha Thanks for your advice guys. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last couple days and I’ve decided to scrap the support as a paid service. I’ll always be willing to answer questions but I completely agree that the expectations may be different if it’s a paid service. Since I’m still in the startup phase of this aspect of my business, this kind of feedback is very useful.

    1. Hey Proserve! It’s nice to read your thoughts on this topic. I thought you did offer support (you helped me a lot)??

      Todd

      P.S. Your website looks a lot better now than that image at the top…. Love the new design.

  22. A type of gpl abuse could be Matt Mullenweg himself not allowing theme developers to protect their intellectual property and still sell it in the WordPress marketplace. It is absolute undeniable fact that your theme code is gpl but your css and images can be proprietary. That has been established by the Software Freedom Law Center. Matt’s little post on the subject (http://wordpress.org/news/2009/07/themes-are-gpl-too/) in 2009 is quite laughable.

    He said he would only allow 100% gpl or compatible themes in the marketplace. Well a restricted license for the css and images IS 100% gpl or compatible. Themeforest has a 100% gpl compatible license for it’s sellers.

    WordPress can “force” you to put your images and css as gpl to be able to sell in their marketplace but they say Themeforest shouldn’t be allowed to “force” you to gpl what you have to but protect what you’re allowed to to sell on their marketplace? Both ways are gpl compatible. And only WordPress bans you for even using the 100% compatible split license on Themeforest for a theme. Themeforest doesn’t care if you sell on WordPress with their version of the gpl and sell on Themeforest with the split license.

    The Themeforest way is 100% gpl compatible but more capitalistic while the WordPress way is 100% gpl compatible but in a more socialistic way. WordPress even bans people from speaking or even volunteering at Wordcamps for not using their approved standard of the gpl. lmao. Themeforest just gets on with business (business, making money, protecting what’s yours. Other things the socialistic minded people can’t stand.) and allows theme makers to protect their property while open sourcing what they have to.

    The facts are facts about the gpl and that both ways of licensing are both gpl compatible. The only problem is WordPress and their licensing supporters are only running on feelings and have an authoritarian bent on making others conform with their version of licensing when a split license is just as gpl compatible.

  23. I have to be honest. I haven’t quite developed an opinion.

    On the one hand, just because something is legally ok based on a contract, doesn’t mean that it’s ethical. There are a lot of things that are legal that are really downright wrong. Personally, I would be annoyed if someone took my work and resold it.

    On the other hand, just because you CAN charge a certain amount, doesn’t mean that you should. Some of these people REALLY overcharge by overselling their crappy support. If you’re going to offer support, make sure it’s GOOD.

    I purchased the full license for Themedy and it was SO worth it. I have yet to question that decision. I post a question in the forums and I usually get an AMAZING response from one of the owners with a 1-2 business days. Even though I’m probably annoying I have never once been made to feel like I am.

    Woo Commerce on the other hand has me irked. I WANT to spend the full amount on their extensions but I’m wondering if there’s any point. Maybe I should just spend that extra money on programmers to help me set it up?

    The problem is that I haven’t had the best experience with their support. I have sent some questions in and have waited 4days+ for a response. When they do answer my question they often don’t do it very well. This is really irritating when I have to wait another few days for a response or information that they should have thought to include.

    I’m also really irritated by their article about how to be a good customer and how ask good questions. I get it. I do! The concept is fabulous (ask your question well and you’ll get a better answer). I just find the tone of it to be a little odd. It makes me feel like their customer service staff makes me feel – annoying!

  24. I’ve been reading through some of these posts and it looks like the creators of Woo have been here. If you are signed up to receive updates on this thread, this message is for you!

    I absolutely love your cart. I’m sure you know this…. that’s how you’ve justified your prices. What I really like is the flexibility, scaleablity and quality. Price, obviously, is an issue. It’s staggering. Like seriously – who is your target market? It’s like you’re going after people with a lot of spare cash or funding OR a company who’s already make a lot of money. If so, I guess anything else I say is moot, because your prices reflect that.

    As a consumer and super small business starting an online store for the first time, I wish to hell WooCommerce would just have a monthly fee – at a cost of around $50 a month.

    As a business person, I can see why that might not fly?! So, here’s an idea that I HOPE you will play with if you haven’t already…

    EXTENSION PACKS!
    – Pick any 5 for $25 a month.
    – Pick any 10 for $40 a month
    – Pick any 20 for $60 a month
    – Pick’em ALL for $150 a month

    The prices might not be quite right, but I actually think you would make more. Most other shopping carts require monthly fees so it would be very acceptable if yours did too. If people could upgrade their extensions packs when necessary, it would also feel very scaleable. As a small business, this is VERY important.

    And ya… your customer service is kinda sucky. Sorry 🙂 Sometimes they do really well, but a lot of the time response times are REALLY long. There is also a wee tinge of annoyance a lot of/most of the time. Are they overworked or does your company have a weird culture of “customers are annoying”.

    I honestly think it’s the second – your culture. Your price increase (without offering grace or special fees for longer term customers) is a reflection that your customers don’t really matter to you. Maybe I’m naive and overly idealist, but that’s really shitty. I don’t like it that business is run this way by a lot of companies.

    It makes it really hard to want to support your business even though I’m an idealist who believes in behaving ethically, even if doing that is more expensive.

    The problem I’m having is that I often people/strangers even before myself and my friends and family. I have recently been hurt by this behavior. My new attitude is this – if they haven’t given me a reason to think that they deserve it, I won’t put myself into physical or financial hardship.

    Right not, I’m not sure if I think that you/your business deserve it.
    The only question that remains is whether or not I’ll put my ethical feelings first or not. Creator rights are going down the drain everywhere, in every niche. I think it’s a real shame and really terrible for the economy.

    This is a tough one for me!

    I really hope that I find another option. I really do!

  25. I am SO sorry. I guess maybe I am one of those annoying customers 🙂
    I had another idea for WOO.

    If you can’t make your money with packs alone you can sell specialized support packs for a yearly and/or monthly fee. This would actually get you premium support with your own specialist.

  26. Woocommerce itself was forked from Jigowatt. So I’d have to assume they are fine with the same happening to their code. Karma?

  27. It’s seems people readily accept the idea of paid/premium WordPress plugins and themes and that model is normalised and considered legitimate. But WordPress plugins/themes link against the WordPress core and are only possible because of the core contributors. WordPress itself is built on PHP platform code and is only possible because of the PHP project contributors. In turn, PHP is built with hundreds of open-source libraries and bindings, and the many upstream code bases.

    WordPress plugins and themes are at the highest layer of abstraction; there’s a whole chain of underlying code which they rely on and profit from without paying a penny to the contributors when they make a sale.

    Reselling or redistributing GPL’d premium plugins and themes is no more or less unethical than what the original authors are doing by linking against WordPress code & underlying libraries in the first place.

    If the WordPress ‘ecosystem’ business model is acceptable, then by the same token the reseller’s business model must be considered equally acceptable.

    1. I think it’s slightly different since in the case of plugins, while they are relying on another platform to function (WordPress) that platform is free and they are not reselling it, just making use of it. Reselling other authors’ themes or plugins as is in my view is completely different.

      1. I have been using GPL’d software for close to 20 years at this stage and I am absolutely certain that WordPress plugins especially have to be GPL’d as they are pointless, and indeed could not function, without the WordPress core system, which they absolutely require to function.
        So, as WordPress is GPL’d, so too are all software elements (plugins) which cannot work without it. Also, the fact that plugins are being distributed means in fact, according to the GPL, that anyone who buys them, can sell, or redistribute the for no cost, without the permission of the original developer, because by default they are GPL’d through their dependence on WordPress. If they were developed by a developer for their internal use and not distributed, then that would not be the case.
        The PHP license, as mentioned is not relevant in this case, as PHP allows redistribution without attribution, or other restrictions on how you use any programs that are developed with PHP. WordPress is built with PHP, but this has no bearing on the GPL license WordPress is distributed under.
        It amazes me that so many people are incapable of understanding these basic facts about the GPL license and WordPress. Or rather, choosing to ignore them when it suits, for profit! I hope someone actually decides to sue for access to the source of these plugins and is backed by a large organisation which either uses GPL’d software, or provides legal support for such. As this is the only way to stop this nonsense.
        Just as well that WordPress is not AGPL!

          1. No, in my very humble opinion, their licensing terms are explicit and fair.
            They state that they are using the GPL, they further state that updates are available for a limited number of site licenses, not that you cannot use the plugin on other sites, but that they are not willing/obliged to provide updates if you do so. I think these are fair and reasonable compromises. Most users will require the updates, but perhaps they will want to use the plugin on other sites where the updates will be needed and thus are able to do so if they wish, and at their own risk.
            [As I don’t use Gravity forms, I am uncertain if they use code obfuscation, encryption, or license keys to stop installs beyond the purchased amount? If so, then I wouldn’t agree with this!]
            I am not advocating that an organization/individual should not be rewarded by, nor have a reasonable expectation of getting some reward from, each user who makes use of their work. Only that they cannot use the GPL and expect to lock a user into using their software a limited amount of times, or redistributing same at their own risk once purchased. The GPL allows reward, and redistribution, but also aims to prevent vendor lock-in through explicit freedoms in the licensing terms. It also allows the end user access to the source code so that they can modify same if they require to do so.
            By providing support, regular updates and bugfixes Gravity Forms probably have a good business model based around the GPL. I don’t understand why other developers have the need to explicitly prohibit distribution, usage and access to code!?

          2. I agree with you Anthony. In my opinion all WordPress plugins should be GPL, if anything to avoid being seen in a bad light. It has been proven by plugins like Gravity Forms that it is very possible to have a sustainable business model with a GPL plugin, there is no need to go for another license that restricts users’ freedoms.

  28. Very insightful, thought provoking article. Although I do support the forking of Jigoshop given what Woo has done, I can see both sides of the fence. You raise an interesting perspective to this whole GPL “hijacking” issue that’s been going on, and to be honest I didn’t think it had much merit before reading this. I can see both sides of the fence though; with such a ginormous user base, it’s attractive and beneficial for Woocommerce users to take these offers. But the support aspect is a huge side of any tech business, especially ecommerce, and that is where companies like Woo should be putting some focus to generate more revenue.

  29. Hi!

    Thanks for this very informative article. Secondly, I couldn’t read each and every comment because of the lack of time.

    The only solution to this can be this. Put the code (i.e. plugins & themes) free to download and only charge for the support and customization.

    1. Yes that is a potential solution that would make these third party sellers redundant. However I suspect it would drastically reduce the income of most plugin and theme sellers, so it’s not likely to happen.

      1. But sellers’ income is already reduced because of third party sellers.

        On the other hand, if the theme/plugin is free to download, obviously, many more users will download it and the reputation of the company will increase. More people will donate and contribute. This is exactly how WordPress itself has grown.

        And those who need help will definitely purchase the support license.

  30. To be honest, before I read your article about GPL abuse I had no idea such a thing existed! I thought ProServe where simply resellers of plugins authorized by the plugin authors. I did wonder why ProServe’s prices where so much lower, but I put it down to special offers.

    After reading your article, of course I am in agreement. Looking at it from both the side of the plugin author and a plugin user, I would think that companies like ProServe are setting themselves up for a few problems. While I do not develop any plugins as you know, I am a user of many “paid” plugins. I pay for one simple reason – support. Now, imagine a company like Gravity Forms being sold through ProServe for a silly price of $10 to $30, then going to the developer for support. I think the developer would be right sending me to “hell” and then I am lumped with a plugin which I cannot use or have no support for.

    On the other hand, as a Plugin developer like yourself, I feel it would be very annoying to be under-cut for a plugin you spent time and resources to create. Worse still, are the ramifications of users who might have bought the plugin through ProServe, expect support and not receive it. They might actually give YOUR plugin and support bad reputation, without considering the fact that they actually bought a “Pirated” version off it.

    After all, let us be realistic here. All these things are, are actually Pirates being re-sold under the guide of GPL.

  31. Ok, I have read through the article and read a lot of comments. I just want to ask a question.
    Can’t you see that WooCommerce is terrorizing the whole community and users with their horrible prices?
    In the past few months when I was creating a site for my client, I required “Subscriptions” extension and when I saw the cost I got terrified… 199$ that is not fair at all.
    I’m running my web design company in India, here 199$ means 12000 INR. And I asked my client to pay me 10000 INR for the whole site work. Thus, I couldn’t be able to purchase that plugin. And reluctant to use subscription extension.
    PS: If WooThemes has a right to ask very high amount for a small extension then I must say that it is completely fair for the sites (mentioned above) to distribute these extensions to people who don’t afford to purchase directly from WooThemes.

    Thanks

    1. I don’t agree with your mentality/interpretation Haseeb. Nobody is forcing you to use WooCommerce, if you think their prices are outrageous you can choose another plugin to handle E-Commerce. For example I use Easy Digital Downloads myself.

      At the end of the day sites which are distributing these WooCommerce-branded plugins are doing something illegal. The correct way to do it is to fork the plugins and rename them, then distribute them as that is permitted by the GPL. However by using the WooCommerce branding they are in effect misusing the Woo trademark and are thus liable to being sued. Other major WordPress plugin and theme companies have already taken action against such sites and it’s probably only a matter of time until Woo follows suit.

      Leaving the legal aspect aside, if I’m doing any work for a client I would always want to buy plugins from the original author so that I could get vetted clean code, updates and support. Building an e-commerce site on plugins for which you don’t have updates and support is just irresponsible in my opinion. It would be better to go for a cheaper alternative but buy directly from the source.

      Think about it, what if it is your plugin, which you have worked on for weeks or months, that is being redistributed in this manner. Would you honestly have no problem with that?

  32. Personally I think it’s in the best interests of sites like Woo to let the GPL exist.

    Adobe purposely made it possible for people to access their product illegally at the start. This got their name out and got a huge community of people who may not have tried it, to try it – and become huge fans. These are people who do pay now and got a whole community of others to as well.

    1. The GPL will continue to exist, and WordPress plugins and themes will always be GPL, it’s actually a case of trademark infringement rather than GPL abuse in this case.

  33. People like Proserve how no credibility whatsoever because they steal from everyone.

    He steals content and passes it off as his own and redistributes other people plugins and themes on anonymously owned websites.

    He resells Woo Themes and plugins, Genesis, StudioPress, iThemes and many others.

  34. w3oasis is a total cheat – took $48 and now he is not at all updating themes and plugins, He announced a sale and asked me to upgrade my membership to yearly by paying $48. I am sure lot of them would have done that – now the guy seems to be absconding.

  35. You people always talk about support, support, support. You people obviously underestimate cheap people. All they care about first and foremost, is to get those themes or plugins for FREE. They can always find someone on oDesk, Fiverr, or Digitalpoint to solve whatever problems they have for $5 or less. They won’t care to go to the “original” author of the themes/plugins.

      1. Your newer comments sound like you got “brainwashed” sometime in the last 12 months. In the beginning you acknowledged that their are many aspects to that topic and now your last answers are very narrow-minded and black/white. Please try to be a little more open-minded again.

        1. Opinions can always shift, that’s why discussions are held. However, asking questions does not mean that I have been brainwashed by anyone. To my knowledge, as of today, nobody is providing automatic updates to their plugins, which is quite dangerous in terms of security vulnerabilities. That alone makes it more worthwhile to get the plugin from the original developers.

  36. For what its worth i thought i would have my 2 cents worth. The beauty of open source licence / software is that it gives people the ability to learn from others in a free way.

    The bottom line with the GPL licence is that it provides the means for people to add-to and re-distribute code (Themes and Plugins) and implicitly states that this can be done for free or for a fee. Developing software under a free licence and then trying to add restrictions outside the GPL to the software is undermining the whole point of GPL. Develop on another platform if you aren’t happy with the GPL licence or setup a business model that doesn’t undermine the GPL.

    The companies that get things right are those such as Woo (who sell their themes and plugins as 100% GPL). What they are selling is their expertise and time and they don’t go getting pissed (like some) when people sell on their themes and plugins for a reduced cost because they are fully aware of what the GPL entails and i suspect owe a lot to the start of their business to ‘forking’ Jigo Shop.

  37. Hello everybody. There is another one site trying to help out those people who cannot afford a license: https://harlond.club/ .

    Let’s face it: does a poor webdeveloper deserve to be condemned to not build better websites just because he cannot afford a couple licenses? There are lots of countries where 40 dollars are a huge amount of money, and I think they deserve the same opportunities too.

    Best regards

  38. Well, when original creators will STOP selling their GPL plugins/theme on a per site basis (abusing so the gpl concept) perhaps those REseller will disappear…
    Support does not change if i have 1 or 15 sites….

    1. This is technically not true. Each site is absolutely a very possible support burden. Are all 15 sites on the same host, the same server, the same version of linux, apache, ngnix, php, MySql, using the same theme, the same plugins, the same possible custom code. Each of those sites is thousands of possible permutations.

      1. Any plugin developer will agree with this. In fact I can even say that these differences account for the majority of support requests for some plugins.

      2. I would happily buy Ninja Forms, Gravity Forms, Genesis Extender and 2-3 other plugins from the developers if they would be offered with limited / without service but with lifetime updates.

        And I don’t want lifetime updates, because I need new and shinny features 2-3 times per year, but solely because it’s the only way to get bugfixes and security updates.

        If the developer wants to save time/effort by only maintaining a single/current version that’s his decision. Expanding the product far beyond my needs (and increasing page load times in many cases) is not in my interest – it is in the interest of the developer to appeal to new customers and maybe earn some money by supporting the implementation of the new features.

        To refuse bugfixes (and security updates are bugfixes in many cases) to customers who payed >$100 without yearly renewals is unethical and against the law in many countries.

        Instead of offering a products in my price range and necessary bugfixes/security updates most WordPress plugin developers offer me expensive licenses (I could life with that, if it was a one time fee). sometimes with a limited feature set (because only the unlimited developer license gets all features) and want me to pay prices that may be a joke for a professional web developer, but too much for my two private websites.

        Thats the reason why I bought Genesis framework (real GPL unlimited license with lifetime updates), Formadible Pro (lifetime updates, 1 year support, unlimited sites for an affordable price) and Microthemer (lifetime license, unlimited sites for an affordable price) instead.

        Ninja Forms, Gravity Forms and Genesis Extender lost a three-figure amount only because they try to dodge the true GPL concept and mandatory bugfixes by forcing everyone to join their “support”-scheme.

        If there was a reputable code-reseller with guaranteed (manual) updates for the next 3-5 years, this could be an true alternative. After all the developers tell us, that the expensive support is forcing them to ask high prices and yearly renewals. Why don’t they offer an alternative for people that have more time/interests/initiative than money?

        For me this is a hobby – so time and troubleshooting is not a real problem. Money wouldn’t be much of a problem too, but I can justify paying 30-50% of the amount of a developer license for some private websites.

        1. This is a common fallacy and impossible to implement as a business with any accuracy. You may feel you don’t need support. I don’t know you or any of the other users at the time that they make a purchase. If given the option to pay more and get support or to pay less without it, 99% of the users will claim that they don’t need support and opt for the lesser amount. Of that 99%, a large portion will submit a support request anyway and get mad that we don’t support our product or that we require an additional support contract to assist them. They will then leave 1 star reviews and complain, stating that we don’t support our products. This is the nature of WordPress business at this time. It’s just the facts of life right now.

          You feel you should get lifetime updates. That does not exist in any other paid software anywhere. Look at Windows. You don’t get lifetime updates. They sunset the OS and release a new version. That’s their model. Guess what? No security updates or bug fixes anymore. Want that stuff… upgrade to the newest OS. That’s just how software works.

          You mention companies like StudioPress. That’s a strategic decision on their part. I guarantee you they lose money on support of many of their customers, (although I can’t speak to that directly). If StudioPress was their only revenue generator I would bet they would change that model. But it’s not. They have all of Copyblogger, Rainmaker, and bunch of other revenue streams. StudioPress is a gateway to many other things.

          I get this is a hobby for you, but for us it’s a business. We have salaries to pay. It takes developers to push those security fixes (not common), bug fixes, and new features and enhancements. If we don’t pay those salaries there will be no updates at all.

          You claim we’re dodging the true GPL “concept” but in fact we honor and support the GPL. There is northing in the GPL that says you can’t charge for the access of the code, support of the code, automatic updates. This is well within our FREEDOMS. In fact, that’s the very freedom that the GPL provides. When you get the code you have those same freedoms. That’s the GPL. No one is limiting you.

          As a side note, our products aren’t for everyone. Pricing is an intentional process in business. If you can’t afford something, don’t get mad at the company, just assume that the product was not built for you. There are plenty of options out there and apparently you found some that fit your needs.

          I can’t afford a Cayenne Turbo S, but I don’t get mad at Porsche. That car was not produced with me in mind. Hondas were.

  39. The gplclub’s website troubled me when I was looking for a woocomerce plugin, I contacted woothemes who’s trying to take gplclub down.

    Anyway I want to prevent people from buying from these kind of websites such as 96down.com ; scrate.pw & crackit.info.

    These groups adds malicious code in the plugins/themes, so more than taking your money, they hack you.

    Regards,
    Mark

  40. Now there is a site at http://gpldl.com that has 500+ highly popular Premium WordPress Plugins, Themes and Woocommerce Add-ons (e.g. BackupBuddy, Gravity Forms, WPML and others) completely free of charge – they just ask for donations… Is this legit?

      1. I will try it out and see if this is really what it claims to be. If it really provides all of the files for free and there is no caveat it could be a total game changer for the WordPress eco-system!

        1. John, keep in mind that they don’t provide updates and support. Hence they won’t be a game changer but an excellent alternative for those who don’t have the budget to buy plugins from their authors.

          You might not need the support but updates are important. Such sites should only be used as a way to test drive themes and plugins. It’s baffling how many premium plugin developers do not yet offer a test drive of their plugins.

          1. Jean, you are perfectly right! If one needs support there is no alternative to buying directly from the developers although I had several unpleasant experiences with plugin devs who did almost nothing in addition to distributing their code…

            The “updates & additions” section on GPLDL shows that these guys seem to push out updates quite frequently compared to other services that charge monthly fees. And the plugins I have downloaded appear to be exact copies of the originals!

          2. Poor support can never be excused. By and large the main plugin authors offer great support though. John, keep in mind that the updates are not automatic, you’ll have to keep an eye on these repositories, download the updates and re-upload to your website. A tedious exercise at best.

            Tim, I agree that these websites are here to stay, and I definitely understand that there are many people in the world who cannot afford to pay for premium plugins, hence these websites are democratising things in their own way. The people who can afford to pay will continue to pay so I believe that these GPL websites will not really harm the original plugin developers that much.

            In the future the original plugin authors might adapt and develop different strategies. My bet is that we’ll be seeing more plugins turned into SAAS. Examples are Optin Monster, Akismet, VaultPress and Nelio A/B Testing.

          3. Jean, you won’t believe the amount of people that want to build better websites and cannot afford the licenses. If you are just starting and cannot purchase premium plugins to build and excellent ecommerce website, I can assure you you cannot prevail. You can use free ecommerce themes, but won’t build anything too complex if you can’t count on those plugins.

            I review GPL websites and most of them are legit, yet sometimes are outdated. And it’s a blossoming niche. Guess why? Because big players aren’t offering demos, freemium nor test drives. Some of then are not providing even a handful of screenshots.

            I run this one (https://harlond.club) and the main customers are people from third world or from places where investing 250 dollars in 2-3 plugins is nearly equal to one or two monthly salaries.

            Sometimes, website owners dont need support, just activate and configure the basics. No automatic updates? Nothing to worry about: just download the updated file manually, deactivate the plugin in the website, upload and overwrite the old files, and reactivate the plugin. Voila. There you are. Manual updates for everybody.

            And, as John said, I also bought original licenses from authors, and sometimes the support quality is…. worrying. There are support guys who treat people as idiots, others even don’t even reply within 72 hours. It’s a hard ecosystem, and GPL clubs are here to stay, until original authors start offering cheaper alternatives/packages. Not to mention GPL clubs are 100% legal businesses.

            All the best!

          4. Yes Jean, I don’t know other GPL club’s owners. But I’m definitely not dedicated to harm anybody. People who can pay, or people who need official support, must pay to original authors, who are already having hundreds of thousands (and others millions) in revenue. So, no harm may be done.

            I see you have been trying to make a point in regards of lack of upgrades, being impossible/difficult to implement updates, and being tedious to monitor changes in your favorite GPL club. Well, let me demistify that. In my case, I provide an RSS channel and a newsletter where I notify members whenever items have been updated. They don’t need to ping the website to be notified. Moreover, I simplified that by placing all of the products in one page, with data of original update, and for the really serious people I provide the links to every official changelog.

            Even if you don’t like to use RSS or to receive email notifications, you can use third party monitoring services, like Google Alerts, Versionista, or Follow That Page.

            You simply download the plugin, deactivate the outdated one, upload and overwrite the files, and reactivate the plugin. It’s not a one-click task, but it works perfectly well, and it’s the only price to pay by not having automatic updates. Not that expensive I think. (Unless you use more than 15 premium plugins 🙂 ). You surely agree that if owners cannot invest on those licenses, just investing some extra minutes once a week, sounds fear enough.
            Even if your hosting have cPanel the entire upload/overwrite process may be done in barely ONE MINUTE if you have speedy hands (my record time to update plugins is nearly 45 seconds). I bet I should upload the how-to to Youtube 🙂

            (I’ll try to add all this to my FAQs)

            Best regards!

          5. Thanks for stopping by Tim. Whether plugin developers are being harmed or not is still a question mark, however I think it’s clear that what the GPL clubs are doing is allowed by the GPL license. I’d also like to point out (being a plugin developer myself) that plugin developers are not millionaires with fat wallets sitting on a beach while the cash rolls in. Sometimes I get the feeling that this is what people think, so I think it should be clarified that whoever has built a successful plugin business has put in a lot of sweat into it and continues to put in hours upon hours of continuous development and support. That’s reality, now whether you want to reward that effort and sustain that business or not is up to you.

            Personally, I use many plugins across a number of sites; having to download each plugin and then upload it to the server would be an administrative nightmare, hence automatic updates are the only way to go for myself and many others who do WordPress on a professional level. As I mentioned in earlier comments, GPL clubs may be lowering the barriers and letting people with lower incomes and those new to WordPress to get their feet wet with premium plugins. Hopefully if all goes well and their website becomes an important source of income for them they will have no problem in purchasing the plugins from the original authors further down the line.

          6. Tim, speaking as a plugin author, I call bullshit on the idea that people want to build sites but can’t afford the license for the plugin. At The Events Calendar we offer a free version of the plugin and if you want to do more advanced things – that would have cost a lot of money to do, you can get the premium – which we give away for FREE to non-profits.

            Look, we pay a team of people to work hard to build a better product and to support the evolution of the WP platform. If someone can’t afford our plugin, they can talk to us and make a case. Or they should find a way to generate more income in their endeavor so that the capital fuels our entire industry.

            But giving away (or especially selling access to) our updates deprives our hard working team of revenue. What’s worse is it confuses our customers. If something doesn’t work they way they expect it to, we want to hear about it and fix it. But not for free.

            When someone visits your site and buys your premium package, THEY HAVE NO IDEA THAT THEY ARE NOT SUPPORTING THE AUTHORS of the plugin.

            Honestly, I can’t imagine for the life of me how someone could produce one of these resale sites and not see themselves as parasites.

  41. Yes, I acknowledge authors have put a great effort on building those plugins, but No, I definitely don’t see GPL Clubs as parasites, we are like NGO’s instead. And here is why: authors **ARE NOT** LOSING SALES because of GPL Clubs. These clubs cannot do harm to original, renowned authors. And that’s because these clubs have three types of customers:

    1) THE CURIOUS ONE, WHO DEFINITELY WOULDN’T BUY from the authors just to explore/learn/test the full features of a plugin without having the certainty that a) authors will acknowledge a 30 days money back if… b) the plugin isn’t useful for their project… and 80% of times it isn’t what they was looking for. And the other 20% are have happy users that really loved the plugin and after having the test drive in a GPL Club and being tired of performing manual updates, he will definitely buy from you guys. And I’m very happy and proud of providing you such a verified happy customer.

    2) THE POOR AND HUMBLE WANNABE WEBDEV from countries like Bhutan/Nigeria/Nicaragua/Burma, who cannot spend USD 300 in a bunch of plugins to make their dreams come true. Doesn’t they deserve to build a website with something better than Twenty Thirteen theme? People like that are shy and won’t ever try to make a case asking authors a free mouthful of any plugin. I honestly wish those people start asking plugin authors a license giveaway of the premium plugins they cannot afford to buy, and I wish authors can consider those cases and embrace them. Either way, I’ll embrace them and help them out. It’s a matter of a human helping empowering another human to improve his/her life. It’s about breaking the breach between poors and richs of this world. Poor people won’t conquer the world because of that, nor will authors lose precious sales, nope, you can trust me. But somewhen, the now poor people could earn a couple cents thanks to having the opportunity of building something cool, and eventually they improve their lifestyle and abandon the GPL Club to switch to a proudly original license owner. Do you have lots of customers in countries from third world? I bet you don’t. Well, 90% of my user base are on this category. Then I’m something like a NGO.

    3) THE KNOW-IT-ALL/SAVVY USER, who already know how the plugin works, and have readed all the docs, and DEFINITELY DON’T NEED OR WANT support, and consider they can do it all, and they probably do… and when it turns to a “probably don’t”, they eventually will abandon using the plugin or purchase a license in order to ask for support. Then I promptly direct them to the authors, who are the only ones owning the solutions (sometimes). This kind of users probably work building websites, and maybe have small clients who cannot afford the licensing costs. But since they download lots of plugins for several projects, sooner or later THEY WILL NEED TO BUY some licenses.

    This said, what I really see as parasites, are those portals offering torrent downloads for plugins and themes where they have edited the original code to insert adware/malware/backdoors. Also having ads pointing to questionable third party downloads. They are an unfortunate problem of the WWW, because people download whatever for free and -generally unconsciously- end up helping contamine their computers and the Internet with all kind of bots. And that’s really a shame.

    Have a nice day and lots of love for everybody.

    1. Ummmmmm…. if people cannot “afford to buy” from the person who put their effort and labor into creating the product… they should just… go steal it?? Not ethical. Not moral.

      It doesn’t matter if I don’t need support. It’s just wrong to get a plugin from someone who didn’t develop it and is just exploiting the developer.

      These plugins would not exist if the developers were not gaining some form of reward for their labor. So, if we want a robust WordPress… then we need to reward the developers who actually do the work to encourage them to do more work… and to create a rewarding opportunity for new developers to enter into.

      Bottom-feeders are not adding anything to the community. They’re robbing the rewards that belong to those who did the work… then pretending they’re a charity.

      Reseller clubs are not charity.

      Not even close.

      Good luck on Judgment Day.

      1. There doesn’t seem to be a realistic way to stop them unfortunately. I would definitely not recommend downloading plugins from there, it’s just asking for trouble.

  42. Is it ethical to profit in such a way on another developer’s hard work?
    Doesn’t Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little did that? Afterall WordPress came from B2/cafelog

    How will we make sure end users know that they need to make this decision between buying from the original developer or a third party?
    Not sure

    What kind of support can such reselling companies offer?
    Nothing

    Are these companies sustainable, how long will they be around?
    For a long time

    Isn’t it bad for customers that some of these companies operate anonymously?
    No

    1. Miroslav, thanks for sharing your thoughts. WordPress was forked from B2 but remained free. The profit for Automattic comes from ancillary services, but not from the WordPress software itself. Here we are talking about premium plugins being re-released for free or against payment (usually in the form of a site membership).

      Sicne you seem to be in favour of such sites, I’d also love to know why you think they are useful to anyone using WordPress. Have you used them yourself?

  43. Sounds like a nice try, although I would make 2 comments about it:

    1) One thing is to redistribute premium plugins for free, that’s very within the GPL philosophy. But building a premium plugin to redistribute premium plugins you don’t own without even paying a slide to every author? That’s naughtiness.

    2) Although this feature may be useful for many people, now WooGPL, its owner, will have to make a good effort to be up to date, because they always used to be several weeks and even months outdated.

    Will be an interesting experiment…

  44. interesting read, when you buy a car you can do whatever you want to do with your car, you won’t get a letter from the carmaker lawyers for misusing their (or is it your) car, i.e. if you get caught speeding, going over red light or drive your car off road up the nearest mountain.

    there are always someone who can fix your car when it breaks, you don’t need to go to overpriced approved reaper shop to have things fixed. but if you have a new car and you don’t, you risk to loose your guarantee.

    you can rebuild the car and sell it for more than what you paid for the car to cover the cost of custom made changes you added. the car will most likely still have the carmaker logo on the car and other stuff that link the car to it’s origin.

    The new owner of the car can then do whatever he like to do without anyone’s concerns.

    Same goes for the GPL code, when you have paid for it, you can do (almost) whatever you want with it.

    this is what i can read out of the comments as I’ve not the time to read the GPL, this threat is already as long and informatic as book about “how to grow tomatoes in the garden of your neighbour”!!

  45. I ran into a site named http://www.pluginfusion.com/ and was not sure what gpl is and if this is legal. I was curious so I dig up more and found a really interesting law point of view on the GPL topic from http://www.verisonalaw.com/ .

    If my business spends thousands developing a WordPress plugin, does that mean that anyone else can use it freely?
    No. GPL is only applicable once the plugin has been distributed by the copyright owner. If the client has been assigned the copyright in the plugin under contract and decides to use the plugin only for his or her website, GPL is not triggered and the developer has no right to distribute it further. However, if the client does distribute the plugin, then GPL applies and the developer has the right to sell it to anyone they please.

    How does copyright work with GPL for developers?
    If you’re a freelancer, you retain copyright to any work you do, unless your contract specifically grants copyright to your client. So if you’re a freelancer and you haven’t agreed that the client will own copyright for the software you write, even if they’ve paid you for your time, then you may freely distribute that software. If the contract DOES grant copyright to the client, then if they distribute it then you also gain the right to distribute it.

    1. Thanks for joining the discussion Mark. I think this is a very important point to keep in mind when ordering custom built plugins. You need to be clear with the developer whether he will or will not be able to turn around and sell the plugin that you paid him to develop.

  46. Just learned about existence of these type of sites, and …. awesome really! Before I had to scour for torrents, warez and nulled scripts (far from legal) to give things a try, to buy it after if I liked something or implemented for client projects. These type of sites are so much better; no longer having to worry about exploited / malware injected scripts, always the latest versions and everything in 1 place for a low price. With the same end result; if I use something commercially I pay for it. And just found another one for the article: http://owlego.com/

    1. I would agree that these websites are better from a user’s point of view than the older style of warez sites, but you don’t necessarily have any guarantee that there are no exploits or malware injected.

      1. Hey Jean,

        Yes, You are correct. However given the circumstances we were happy to comply and they were good to talk to regarding everything and have since moved onto GPL Kit.

        1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing Daniel. Did they have any other feedback regarding reselling their products in general, or was their only problem with having Woo in the domain name?

    1. I take that back, they just replied then. Great service apart from the odd theme having an issue with their plugin, understandable as things are settling.

  47. owlego.com refunded my money on request, didn’t expect refunds really awesome!!. Such websites should always be there. Collection is huge and better than nulled and free scripts, they always contain something in them. My website was once hacked after using a free script from themekiller.com, but thanks to wpengine they cleaned the backup file for free and restored, they also informed me about the bad script. scan your scripts at virustotal.com if you are suspicious but still infected scripts may come out undetected. Ignore result from antiy antivirus it is even showing my purchased scripts with virus. good luck guys!

      1. I took the yearly membership but downloaded only few plugins then asked for conversion to purchase of those downloaded plugins and refund the balance amount.

  48. You forgot http://www.amplifywoo.com — and all of the sites listed above are fully within GPL license. I don’t think it’s unethical at all and developers like myself love sites like this as we don’t need support for plugins and that’s what you’re paying for.

  49. I an wondering why there are so many more sites coming up and why people are interested in them. GPLDL which is mentioned here does the job and for FREE! These guys have won the race to the bottom and there is no need to pay for a subscription anymore. Used to be a customer at sozot.com but now I make a donation to the folks at https://gpldl.com every once in a while and live happily with that…

  50. I am wondering why you have gplplugins.com on the list. Some of the Themes there are not GPL-licensed but have a split license and in my eyes that is a copyright violation and therefore illegal!

  51. Great article. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and appreciate the list of resources.

    I’m a developer myself. If I had the choice I would prefer NOT to release my premium WP software under a GPL license, because that particular license does very little to protect me as the developer who originally wrote it. The license is flawed in this way, and it always has been. It doesn’t accurately represent the desire that many premium theme/plugin developers for WordPress have.

    I want open source, but I would prefer a license that prevents others from being able to come along and redistribute software and even charge others for something that I spent time creating with the intention of making a profit on that work.

    So it’s a developer beware sort of thing. If you’re building software for WordPress you really have to accept the fact that this sort of thing is going to happen. I expect it’s going to become more and more common even.

  52. Hello Jean, very interesting article! Just 2 days back I signed up with a site https://www.gplguru.com & I am quite happy with them. For the price of one theme, I got 1-year access to the entire catalogue of many premium WordPress plugins & themes which are essential to building any e-commerce website or business websites nowadays. I live in a developing country & create websites for small businesses, budgets of our clients are nominal as compared to those in developed countries. But features required for the websites are same. I have some knowledge of WordPress so I don’t require support 99% of the time and at that 1% google comes to rescue. All I need are the plugin or themes files. Though I understand the hard work developers put in creating these products, I can not buy them with the pricing & licensing they currently have. It is not financially feasible for me, so for the time being I would say these sites caters to people like me.

    1. I definitely see your point Ravi, in fact even companies like Evernote among others offer different pricing in different countries, although this is a little known fact in the Western world. Pricing by region or country is not a new thing but within the WordPress industry I haven’t seen anyone do it yet, and these sites are the first crude attempt at such pricing models that cater for the huge difference in spending power between the major economic powers and the rest of the world.

      1. A little late to the party on this debate but most of the points have been covered it seems. Certainly seems to have provoked a lot of argument!

        Since we run one of these sites I would just echo a couple of comments that were made above and make the following observation.

        The WordPress community seems to be awash with great developers but very few great business people. Most of the guys running the theme/plugin shops seem to be developers first – business people second. It’s important to appreciate this because as someone who did go to buisness school I can tell you that the first rule of doing business is to give the customer what they want.

        And yet how many times do you see plugin and theme authors willing to decouple support from the product? Never.

        Why don’t they introduce pricing that reflects the customer location? $100 in the United States is a huge difference to $100 in the Philippines.

        When was the last time you saw discounts being offered to college kids, low waged, retired, unemployed, stay at home Moms (and Dads)? You have a generation of kids that are crazy for tech, eager to build awesome websites and are just priced out the game. That’s not what WordPress is founded upon – is it?

        I could go on, the list is pretty endless. The crucial point though is that by intentionally catering to a small customer base, they create a vacuum into which sites like GPL Vault and others are going to sit. As I see it we’re just giving the customer what they want. Besides which we have antedoctal evidence that some people will use our site as a testing ground for a variety of plugins and themes and will then go support the original developer. I think that’s cool too.

        I don’t want to open up a can of worms by saying this but I do wonder sometimes just how many WordPress developers who complain about the GPL licence actually read the licence terms before they started developing on the WordPress platform?

        My guess is that not all of them did so and had a shock when they realised that the free open source software they used to develop the plugin they now want to charge $200 for comes with a clause attached about redistribution that they now wished they had read the first time around.

        Then you get all the scaremongering about injected code and malware but the truth is these plugins and themes are straight from the developer themselves. It’s basically just a form of crowd sourcing.

        But appreciate the article Jean, these debates are best out in the open, it’s important to let the users decide. Since around 80% of our customers come from developing countries we’re pleased that we’re able to cater for WordPress users that otherwise would be cut adrift.

        1. Charlie, thanks for chiming in. I’m very happy to see someone who actually runs one of these sites take the time to provide a coherent argument in favor of them. I can agree with practically all the points you mentioned.
          Apart from the developer vs business person issue, as you rightly mentioned there is a big issue with pricing people out of the market. Most of the big WordPress companies are based in the US or Europe where people have no problem investing money in plugins and other software that’s required to run a business.

          Having myself lived in several other countries that are still developing I know first hand that such investments are way out of reach of the local population, hence there is definitely a need for fairer pricing. It’s hard for the developers to pull this off however. There would be a serious possibility of abuse, plus we have to keep in mind that support is the major cost of running a plugin business. Since you’d essentially have to give the same level of support irrespective of what the customer paid, you can end up losing money. That’s why for now sites like yours are the only way I see to bridge this gap.

        2. So Charlie, if you’re in a sense saying “we’re helping developers get their wares to people who can’t afford the full US price” what sort of financial compensation are YOU giving to the ORIGINAL developers beyond the single license you purchase. Do you set up tracking so that for every download of X license, you donate an additional $.50 to the person’s who’s efforts you’re profiting off of?

          I agree with some of your business flexibility suggestions, but without giving back to the developers, your arguments just sound like justification for piracy.

          1. Gary, first I really appreciate your loyalty for authors, but it would be unrealistic for the distributor to go back to each developer and say hay here is a $.50 from a sale! Unless a developer decided to build such bridge providing reselling on these terms.

            Ok the important part answering your question “what sort of financial compensation are YOU giving to the ORIGINAL developers beyond the single license you purchase” Sure these sites are helping the developer. PUBLICITY AND POTENTIAL BUYER 🙂 A client who can not afford to buy the a theme and bunch of plugins for few hundred to built his great idea builds a site and the site succeeds and brings back money. The client know having his business in success would naturally want to purchase those scripts from there original author for support and peace of mind. So those GPL sites gave the author publicity and potential client at the same time. I really don’t think that GPL sites really affected authors sales, for one, look at Elegantthemes as there membership users has grown much faster than before the GPL sites trend. If the user affords it they will for the most them buy it from author and those who don’t afford it will not buy it (can’t afford). So why not giving that class a chance. Free use and open source GPL etc… have all already thought about it all and thought very thoroughly about an exact situation as this and if this situation was a threat or abuse, the license would have been addressed differently 🙂 I am not by any means promoting such sites, but also by no means against them, just worried the GPL integrity would be doubted! 🙂

          2. Do plugin authors or theme authors give back pennies to the monetarily free WordPress from each sale out of gratitude for providing the foundation to which they add?

            Watch the video above and see the importance in splitting the whole model into its two parts: (1) the GPL software and (2) the support service.

            Apparently these resellers are doing nothing illegal or unethical under the GPL. They buy a product and resell it. The product maker sells to 1 one 1,000 people. Should a buyer that pays for support also give a percentage of his/her profit to the developer of the plugin/theme?

            Re (2) here’s an analogy: you buy a car from a dealer and they pad the economic cost with support to cover warranties and service wile under warranty. The buyer of the car can sell it to whoever they wish but cannot pass on the warranty or affiliated service.

            I am sure that anyone who wishes could bundle WordPress and all economically FREE plugins and sell it for any price, $1 or $500. That’s the GPL.

            The recourse of those who build on the opensource WordPress with PHP would be to write a new blogging platform from scratch and licence that code under a commercial licence. Who knows? People might leave WordPress in droves to buy into the new system.

            Imagine, even the mighty Microsoft is now homing to open source or free software in the economic mix. Hopefully Apple will do the same–but this is another matter.

  53. Amongst these sources, which one does add new products upon request? I was browsing all these websites and found one of them stating they will add any product if requested. But I am unable to find them now.

    I checked GPLkit, GPL Vault, GPLDL and Owlego and couldn’t find the same text that I remembered reading.

    Could anybody tell?

  54. I come to hear a website, gpldl,com which is offering free WordPress plugins and themes. Can we use plugins and themes from this website ? Is is safe to use?

    1. Not safe ‘connection is not secure’

      I have to the site before and is also not free. Sure they have plugins behind paywall and downloads capped to only few a month. To unlock they want donation that for me is like pay.

      Not honest to say is free. Shows wpmayor site in bad frame to be saying it is free.

      Prefer to pay small fee each month to honest site and get good service.

  55. @Jean Galea

    The sites linked to on this page, and the spam links in the comments, claim they are selling GPL items but less than half of them are properly respecting the license.

    The woocrack one just above this comment is a good example. Claims to be a GPL website but is full of items that are breaching our intellectual property. Not to mention the domain name stamps all over the woo trademark. You might as well go download themes from the Pirate Bay if you care so little about the hard work of others.

    We sell our themes on Themeforest. They’re sold with a SPLIT licence NOT a 100% GPL licence. I’m sure Jean knows the difference even if nobody else cares. Why are you signposting where to steal them from? I know your users could care less but you should care.

    This page has more links to Russian and Chinese null factories than it does GPL resellers. I don’t have time for them either but at least they understand the rules of the game.

    Come on Jean lets have some fair play here.

  56. Is it being abused? NO!

    The same people that say YES, probably have an illegally downloaded YouTube video, MP3, blockbuster movie or even worse, an unauthorized image from the net.

    As SJ, famously said to the recording industry on launching iTunes, you guys have had your head up your arse for too long. Get over it, get on with it.

    And any developer that does enter a flame war or even respond in this thread, are idiots as it just google juices the shit out of it and gives it more ranking keywords.

    My shit gets copied all the time, being the best sales copy writer on earth,(as I am) its just a part of the game. I don’t get angry, I just say, look a billion copped my style and here I am, ahead of the game. My claim to fame is all these idiots followed me. Hahahahahaha hasslehoff!

    I am gonna join every one of these sites, download them all, cancel my subscibe and upload them all to a free site. Nah, but you should.

  57. Because i am not confident of results i can have with plugins or themes and because i am poor, i decided to use GPL website in order to Test/try the plugin. when i am confident they are ok for my website, i buy from author directly (or with the money i make with the website if it is a commercial one)

    I hope it’s kind of ok.

  58. Karan, for me GPLDL has been the most reliable source for WordPress Plugins & Themes for over a year now. I have been a subscriber to other reseller websites but found that GPLDL is better and essentially free. They obviously have no intention to make a fortune but provide the Plugins and Themes according to the GPL spirit. The files I downloaded were all clean – so no modifications like some nulled sites, no malware etc. I trust them.

  59. Thank you for the article. I personly think this is wrong to do. It is hard work to build a plugin and keep it updated. Sure this is legal, but it is wrong to pride on others hard work.

    If you are in a team then all in that team must get paid for their work. Sure it cost allot! But if you are a freelancer then budget for it when developing client website. Tell the client the truth how much it really cost to develop an awesome WordPress Website.

    I will support the theme/plugin developer for their hard work. One of the BEST plugins is Gravity Forms! Those guys spend hours and hours to develop, plus they do this not just for that love of WP but also to feed their families.

    Anyway that is my point of view.

  60. I think what most programmers are forgetting is… “Economies of Scale”.

    I use the principle of it is easier to sell 1000 – $1 programs than 1 – $1000 program. Plus the amount of support doesn’t really change, because if you are having a problem, more than likely, everyone will have the same problem. You have to TEST your software AND provide “system requirements” which I have rarely seen on WordPress plugin sites. And DON’T let your end users be your beta testers… if you do, then your support costs will go up astronomically.

    Most programmers are spanking the end user… 179.00 a year for one plugin that does only one tiny thing on one site. Really? And they wonder why people buy it for $10 somewhere else. If they had it where they charged $12 for one site per year, and have it of you want support with that, add another $20 they would put all the “resellers” out of business. That way site developers who have a clue and don’t need support aren’t paying an arm and a leg for the software. And DYIer’s are paying for support cause most have no clue. (Even though they think they do.) That is what I used to do with my software. Charge less, make more money.

    I know they think that their stuff is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And they spent days, weeks, months writing / testing it… (Been there, done that.) But they need to pull their heads out of their butts like I had to do. And realize that charging an arm and leg for it will get you way less money. One reason… Some people are scared, they have been burned by buying software with a lifetime subscription, only to have the company go out of business or hear the… “Well the lifetime was for version whatever now we are moving to version whatever.” story. (Been there, done that, too.) Second reason… If it is too expensive, it is more likely to get stolen. That is why criminals steal expensive cars and not rust buckets.

    As far as development costs, you may think you are the sharpest tool in the shed, but there are programmers that can dance circles around you or have an easier and faster way of doing it. For example, I was having a problem with a section of my programming. I paid a programmer to help me figure it out. He had it done in one day, after I spent a week monkey farting around trying to get it to work the way I wanted it to. And he didn’t use any of my original coding and it was smaller and faster. And in another example, when I had money to burn, I had 4 programmers and a db admin working for me, and after the lovely Dot Com crash, I had to let them go and take over all the programming myself. I quickly realized that by programming by myself, I was able to actually get more done than the 5 of them and the coding was more consistent. At the time, I was doing technical marketing and sales for the program to one of the top 3 search engines, so as long as it worked, I didn’t look at what they were doing in detail. Big mistake… had to rewrite about 50 percent of what they had done. It was a massive bloatware mess. Functions and crap all over the place. So look at what you are doing and hire a good programmer on a per job basis and don’t rely on your “gurus” or keep an eye on them. There is that old saying, one programmer one month, 2 programmers 2 months, etc. etc. It is true… VERY true.

    What I do now is search for the companies that aren’t raping the end user and buy their stuff. However, I’m tempted to join these “clubs” when I see 179.00 a year pricing on plugins that only do one tiny thing. (For that price I should get kissed first and a reach around at least.)

    On my non gpl stuff, I encode it and to keep the crackers from stealing it, it has to have a license to connect to my servers to work. In addition, part of the core software is on the servers. So they can’t bypass the licensing and still have it work. And I pay for multiple servers in different locations to make sure the “core” is available 24/7. I cost a lot for the redundancy, encoding and licensing software, and even then, I wasn’t spanking my end users.

  61. GPLVault seems ok but I am not sure if they would contain any virus or malware. Can anybody shed some light on this ? Thanks.

    1. stay away from them. there are free alternatives available no need to spend money for example gplproclub.com. personally tested with md5 check as well.

    2. I discovered https://gpl.press couple of weeks ago and have been a member there since just because I fell in love with the design of there website 🙂 There downloads are original and not modified! and they even helped me with couple of issues on my site!!

      I’ve not tried gplvault but tried other sites that claim to be 100% GPL compliant and found ton of plugins and themes there from Themeforest using split license which is not 100% GPL and does restrict copyright. Good Luck

  62. Just about every WordPress website breaches the GPL.

    WordPress-powered websites distribute GPL-licensed client-side code without appropriate copyright, disclaimer and license notices, contrary to section 1 of the GPL.

    The WordPress package is not a single Program or work within the context of the GPL, but rather a collection. In particular, at least two separate Program contexts exist: the server-side Program and the client-side Program context.

    Client-side code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) is distributed by WordPress websites to every visitor who views a page. This means the GPL distribution terms and conditions apply to everyone who uses WordPress on their site.

    The WordPress software includes various files or components that are licensed under the terms of more permissive GPL-compatible licenses, such as the MIT License or BSD License. These licenses are better for client-side code because they are not viral and are generally easier for web publishers to comply with.

    Approximately 200 source files in the WordPress package specify explicit license information in comments; the remaining files are either covered by a directory license document or implicitly covered by the WordPress package license grant.

    In the case of client-side code implicitly licensed under the GPL (files or parts thereof published over HTTP without explicit copyright, disclaimer or license notices), the WordPress package causes its users (website owners) to unknowingly breach a fundamental clause of the GPL.

    With all the talk about following the spirit of the GPL, I would have thought the WordPress core package would at least facilitate basic technical compliance with the GPL for its users.

    Additionally, client-side JS and CSS licensed under the GPL will become the blight of WordPress. It causes the GPL terms to “infect” part or all of the client-side Program context, which usually includes non-compatible code. Most serious businesses refuse to allow GPL-licensed JS or CSS on their public websites, but routinely use open source MIT/BSD code.

  63. I dont know about you but i have checked the ZIP-s from gplplugins.com with the original via MD5 and they are correct. Thumbs up for those guys that provide clean plugins

  64. I’m using Harlond.club and it has original plugins and themes too. I checked several of the ones I already purchased and the files are the same, so kudos to that guy.

  65. I am with your opinion dude. WordPress GPL abuse is the right thing and we all should take care of this to get things done properly in a good way. appreciate your efforts.

  66. I am not in favor of buying plugins from them and always buy the original one before handing over the website to client. Support is a very bog issue as well with resellers.

    However, there are times when I want to try the plugin to know if the functionality offered works well for us. It could turn out to be relatively expensive to buy the plugin which does not suit the requirements.

  67. To be quite honest with you I’m a big fan of these GPL sites. If you don’t need the support needed to the plugins and themes then I couldn’t think of one single reason why you wouldn’t want to purchase a subscription or buy them from these sites.

    True, I do have an Elegant Themes lifetime plan so I can get all the support I need for websites I develop. But, for plugins usually, there are YouTube videos, forums, Facebook groups, etc. which will typically show you how to do anything you want with the plugin.

    Hell if you have to you can hire someone on a freelancing site if worse comes to worse and you don’t want to be tied to a yearly expense.

    I don’t see the developers of GPL licenses hunting down people to shut down these sites. Hell, the way I see it you try out a product and need support you’ll probably end up signing up with them.

    1. I can give you a few examples where I myself originally started using a theme or plugin I got form one of these sites, and later purchased a license(and continue to do so)
      Elegant Themes Divi, got first 3 versions free and have been a paid member since; Gravity Forms got 1.8 for $5. Have subscribed since 2.1; iThemes Security Pro, got free in 2015, subscribed 5 months later and continue to do so.
      Truth is, if I had not been able to build confidence in these plugins before investing so much money into them, I never would have purchased the full licenses, and may never have used them at all. So yeas, they definitely benefit. That doesn’t even count all the people who have bought licenses because of me.

  68. I think these gpl sites do more good than bad as mentioned by other comments. let me give you an example
    Think of photo editing, what software comes to mind? Photoshop. think of a PC what OS comes to mind? Windows
    what is common between these? they are highly pirated all over the globe, although windows and Photoshop can take measures to prevent these they dont (at least to that great extent) because more people using their software the more revenue they will generate in the longer term.
    same goes for these sites they allow new developers/users to join the wordpress community and create great sites without going broke.
    And once you have a site using these plugins and something goes wrong you will have to buy the support. this is actually a good thing for everyone.

    Also you missed a great site probably the cheapest (1$ only) https://gplproclub.com/?l=1 (admin you may remove this if it’s against the rules to add other websites in comments)

  69. I have painstakingly read through all the comments in this thread, and what I have to say may be similar to other views on the subject. I think of it like this:
    First, when you release a product under the GPL, you should know full well what that means. From a legal standpoint, these businesses are well within their rights. They do not claim credit for the plugins, they are simply resellers. Now, most plugins developer licenses do allow for this type of redistribution, in keeping with the GPL. So my first point is that this practice is 100% legal as long as they adhere to the terms of the GPL.
    Second point: is it ethical. To me this really depends on HOW you do it. If you claim to have a part in these plugins creation, or claim to be an official partner, or make any other false claims, not that is NOT ethical. However, the GPL does allow one to redistribute any GPL product for free or for profit. As a developer, if you have an issue with this, well to put it bluntly: ya probably shouldnt be releasing under the GPL. If you choose to do so, you MUST accept that people will do this.
    To me this whole practice is no different than holding a yard sale. I seel items that I legally purchased. I own these items. Know, I did not create them, I did not invent them, I did not have any hand in their creation or original distribution. Is it unethical for me to sell it so another person? Nope.
    Now before anyone says it, I hear the argument coming: “The diffierecne is you are no longer using, the other person is. These businesses maintain their own right well selling to others” Well, yes, thats true. BUT (and here is why I love Open Source software so much) the GPL specifically says that I can.
    I will admit it: I think anti-piracy laws are unethical. I can buy expensive software, sometimes for hundreds of dollars. But I cannot share it with my friends, for free or profit. How is that ethical? How is it ethical for you to charge me s crap ton of money for something, but then I do not own the rights to give it away (even sell it) when I am done using it?
    So in closing, in my honest opinion, this practice is much more ethical than the proprietary world that wants to take my money but not let me use what I pay for how I see fit.

  70. This post has given me good insights.. Thank you Jean. I subscribed to a site called https://www.wordpresssoft.com that are similar to gplvault.com. I saved many bucks from it and whenever i feel like support needed for a plugin/theme, i would go buy from author, and at the end it really worth having subscription with them, where the case some don’t need support.

  71. I don’t expect that you’ll post this comment but’s very interesting that you are the first person that signed up for GPL Vault as an affiliate. Maybe you were the first to test because it’s your website? Hmmm…

  72. I could at least see the argument for GPL. Someone buying a $70 plugin for $5 probably wasn’t going to buy the full version. At least getting to try it opens up the door that they’ll need support/updates and buy the full version down the road. Sites like https://www.wptesters.org are open about supporting developers if you enjoy the software.

    1. Exactly Sarah. For example, I recently purchased a full license to ARMember and will be replacing MemberPress with it. It cost me $5 to buy from wptesters.com last month. I like it so I bought the full version. It gave me a chance to try it with less investment. In the past I have done the same thing with plugins like gravity forms, All In One SEO Pro, and others. To me, these sites are another marketing platform and a way users can try things out without high expense.
      As a developer myself, I would have no issue at all with my themes being listed on these sites. They are well within the rights of the GPL, they are ethical, and if developers have an issue with it, they should not release under the GPL. It is that simple,.

  73. Original file or nulled?
    In a serious web project I can not install nulled or modified files, google penalizes those nulled files by the simple fact of spam and hacked websites ..

  74. Beware of GPL Guru !

    I’ve just subscribed, downloaded few plugins, the first plugin that i verified (wp rocket) says “Expire : 10 january 1970” (in clear never ends, which is kind of weird for a supposed not modified plugin…), i check the files and see that the plugin is not an untouched/unmodified, but nulled (nulled via the method explained on GPLGL) > check options.php line 488.

    The conclusion is simple when a sites claim 100% original/untouched/unmodified plugins and themes and that the very first plugin i download and check IS nulled … NOT TRUSTWORTHY, you’ve be warned.

    And you have a download limit for each day…

  75. Part 2) i also compared the – 2 revisions late – wp fastest cache premium from gpl guru to my official wp fastest cache premium (both 1.4.2 version obivously).
    The result speaks again for itself : My official plugin has 33 files…gpl guru has 30 files…

    Only original/untouched/not nulled version the site says…through

  76. My final shared experience about GPLguru.com

    About the gplguru.com server => After checking scamadvisor, i realized he shares a server with some real shi*ty websites…
    Server is in USA but author is in reality in india.

    Downloads are not unlimited, you can download ONLY 20 files per day…

    About the themes and plugins on gplguru.com, that are claimed to be 100% legit / 100% untouched / 100% unmodified as advertised on the website and its FAQ.

    – Wp Rocket = Nulled version (expiration date : 10 january 1970, piece of code in options.php has been removed and replaced to null it > line 488)

    – WP Fastest Cache Premium = different md5 than my official + not the same number of files. So modified/altered, probably malware inside. I compared the same version of course.

    – Thrive comments = different md5 than my original one. I compared the same version of course.

    – I checked 3 plugins on virustotal (random) among those i had downloaded, 2 of them are reported infected by a webshell malicious code. I don’t remember the plugins tested unfortunately.

    I stopped my tests there, the very first plugin i tried was wp rocket and it was nulled, so i knew the first seconds that the site was a scam and providing modified plugins, at least for some of them.

    Don’t even know if a true 100% untouched / unmodified GPL plugins exist out there that would allow to use plugins on a live site with no risks. That would be easier to check if GPL plugins authors would share their md5 in order to compare with the one one can download on this kind of websites, but no dev seems to share that.

    I asked for a refund – due to modified files – through contact on gplguru website bu no answer. I created a dispute on paypal asking for a refund but no answer. I took the next step and i’ve been refunded.
    FAQ claim no refund can be granted but don’t believe that, fill a complaint on paypal, the law (at least in europe) forces a seller to refund you if its within the first 14 days at least even for digital products. And do’nt forget that you don’t buy a downloadable product you buy a subscription that allow you to download.

    So GPLguru.com = Scam + liar

    1. Thanks again Jordan.

      We will look into these allegations as part of a general update of this article in the near future.

      To be fair, any company that uses shared hosting is going to share that server with thousands of other users, many of whom will be doing shady stuff, that is simply the nature of shared hosting.

      Choosing a US host does not mean the owner is trying to pretend to be American, it just happens that most cheap hosting is located in the US. The Internet is international and a lot of terrific WordPress-related services are coming out countries like India.

      Obviously, if someone is spreading malicious code to paying customers, something has gone very wrong, regardless of which country they come from. The general rule of thumb is that the paid services would have too much to lose to risk doing that, whereas the free services have nothing to lose, so, yeah, we will look into it.

  77. This is a debate which is going to go on and on. I personally build websites for a hobby and as such I don’t want to shell out thousands of Dollars for plugins where I will require no support (where I require support I buy from the developer). I have been using a new site called Easy GPL Downloads (https://easygpldownloads.com) who you may want to add to your list when you do your next update

  78. Hello!
    I always download themes and plugins from https://allfortheme.org. Buy a subscription and download what you want. Never had problems with archives. There are NO nulled themes. Only original ones.
    Come and try youself.

  79. i imported my blog to new wordpress site. but when i search in google it shows archives section the the search result. i have deleted some labels from my new wordpress site. please tell how can i solve tis problem

  80. One thing that many people often forget is that even when asking developers about what the plugin can or can’t do, some features or if you can really use it in your real production sites, most of the times you’re not sure until you install and try to make it work for your specific needs.

    I was looking at my Codecanyon purchase list lastly and was amazed about how many plugins I’m not using or even never used. And that means hundreds of dollars.

    For testing things and be sure that it’s the right tool for you, gpl sites are a very good thing. Then, if I make money using it (I mean using it on client live sites) or if I use it often knowing it’s the right tool, I will buy it or have my clients buy it and renew for updates. So I got full-versions trial at first and still support developers after.

  81. I use the GPL membership sites to test what works for my client sites in the build phase before I buy them from original plugin developer if they are what I need.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I have bought plugins to use on websites (Often at anywhere from $50-100) only to find they aren’t as good as the sales page blurb. I have a folder of dusty unsuitable plugins that I would have easily spent $1000 on over the years. GPL membership sites are great, I have cut down on wasting money on overrated plugins.

  82. The sites you are talking about are somehow are legal because they just provided stuff for testing purpose, everyone knows these free plugins themes are not working as the original one. These are just nulled versions and not effective for long term used.
    So, in my opinion, this is not illegal.

  83. I use places like Nobuna to obtain and test a plugin before purchase, especially those plugins that are ridiculously expensive imho.

    I have been caught out several times where I have purchased a plugin from the developer, to then work out that it is not suitable for my needs and the seller refuses or makes it difficult to get a refund, even when they have a refund guarantee.

    If a plugin is suitable and it does what I need I then go and buy it from the developer, so that it continues to be developed and where needed support is needed. I hope others do that too.

    If plugins were not overly pricey I would not have to do this. An example is that I purchased around $2500 worth of plugins for a single website, during that build more than half of the plugins I thought were needed were not suitable for the purpose I needed them for. I was able to get one instant refund, one finally refunded after about 3 months and two not refunded at all, despite repeated attempts.

    So for me it is a win-win for me and the developer. I buy from the developer direct if the plugin is suitable so the developer then get s sale.

  84. I would say it’s not bad to use GPL website as paying a huge amount of price is not worth, I too accept that security may be the reason but as a developer and increasing market competition we have to get some good design is an affordable cost, I have tried many of them but when I saw themeprice.com, its quite good and thing they care for there customers, i have first purchased around 8 plugins and in which 1 didn’t work, I complained to them and then they refunded me instantly in my PayPal, then i purchased a lifetime membership and got a 50% discount by woocrack.net referring to themeprice. Although i would say a maximum of the files are safe for use as I tried checking it with virus tools and they too all work. I would recommend themeprice.com. Do let me know if anyone has any other experience

  85. I would like to support developers directly, but setting up a woocommerce store for example, costs several thousand dollars bu the time you have all the plugin you need.

    I WISH atommic / woocommerce would start a CLUB or annual payment scheme that provides unlimited access to all the plugins – something like the ultimatewoo.com (maybe ultimate woo is actually owned by them after all, who knows).

    I would much rather support devs directly, but the pricing is astronomical

  86. freegpl.club is one of the newer sites and looks very professional. This is the most trustworthy site I’ve come across, with several plugins and themes from leading WordPress companies. It also has the cheapest plan with no restrictions on downloads.

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