Today we’re announcing our new community-service effort to give back to the WordPress community – WPFU.org. Don’t think dirty, we’re creating a Freedom Union for WordPress.
Recently, we spent a good full day or two trying to get a popular WordPress commercial plugin developer to fully comply with the GNU GPL. This wasn’t a fight we wanted to pick. We’ve got people hard at work building a new, responsive look-and-feel for PhoneNews.com and future sites. We liked some of the code they were using, and we wanted to offer the GPL portions of it up for download as part of recouping our costs.
In case you haven’t heard of the GNU GPL, it’s a powerful software license that underpins everything from WordPress to Linux. Use an Android device? It benefits from the open-source software innovations that the GPL allows.
A key tenant of the GPL is that source code that extends software (things like plugins) that are sold, have to be shared in an open-source manner. Commercial developers profit in this kind of environment by providing support and supporting services (modifying software for individual developers, custom-tailored solutions, integration, etc). Most in the WordPress commercial-software community have no problem with these tenants.
Effectively, the plugin developer in question that we were dealing with, gave us the written equivalent of the middle finger. They refused to tell us comprehensively what code we had purchased that was licensed under GPL, and what they considered proprietary. We’re not impressed, and we’re taking action. At the moment, our legal counsel has advised us to not name the company in question further, it’s in their hands at the moment.
Here’s what we’re building with WPFU.org – on one side, we’re working to bring together legal experts and a community that helps commercial plugin authors comply with the GPL while running their businesses. So, the top priority is to become an educational (and enforcement, if it comes to it) resource for the WordPress community.
I took to Twitter, and asked what happens when someone violates GPL inside the WordPress community. The silence was pretty deafening. WPFU.org aims to fix that.
Finally, we’ll also be working with software developers in the WordPress community, and create GPL-derived alternatives to some popular WordPress commercial plugins, with an emphasis on doing so for software developers that violates the GPL. Our goal is to set software that is supposed to be GPL’ed, free.. as it should be from day one.
This isn’t going to be built in a day, and we’d welcome the help of GPL-defending attorneys and software engineers to get in touch with us to help make it happen. Over the next few weeks we’ll be putting together the site and announcing where we’re headed in terms of action.
Until then, head over to WPFU.org and sign up to be notified when the site launches.