Interview with the Owner of Premium Mod

Premium ModLast Friday in WP Chat I had the opportunity to chat with the owner of Premium Mod, a site which offers modified versions of commercial GPL themes for free. For more background information, be sure to check out this launch announcement post to get a better idea of what they offer.

We agreed to do an interview that was to be published here, which is below. In the interview we discuss the various feedback received as a result of launching the site, future plans for possible monetization and support, among other things.

Leland: How long have you been using WordPress, and what has been your involvement with the community thus far?

PM: I have been using since WordPress 1.5, which is a huge release at that time, and I stop keeping track how long ago was that. Before I started Premium Mod, I have released 2 free themes (still remained popular, with 10,000+ downloads) and started 3 WordPress-related websites with one of them selling Commercial GPL premium themes (two of these sites are sold).

Leland: Why did you launch Premium Mod? Was it to prove a point by “calling the GPL bluff” as some have called it? Are your intentions to provide value to the WP community? Explain more about this “movement” you’re trying to start.

PM: The reason I started Premium Mod is to start a movement – A movement for more people to produce high quality WordPress themes based on commercial GPL themes and make it available to public (in GPL license, of course) for free. I don’t want to prove anything and yes, it’s all about contributing to the community.

You see, a lot of people (web design newbies, freelancers, web design firms) are already actively modding commercial GPL themes, but they only kept it to themselves. The main reason they never release it to public is the fear of attack from the community. It does not take any extra effort to release it but only a little bit of courage. The ‘movement’ is about giving people the courage to do it. Because think about it, the community will only benefit from the release of modded commercial GPL themes. The one who will possibly ‘attack’ is the 1% of the community who are either premium theme authors or very good friend to the premium theme authors.

However, the sad thing is, these 1% are sitting on top of the WordPress community right now, and in a way ‘controlling’ the community. And after 3 days of launching Premium Mod, I proved myself right. These top 1% of WordPress community (with a few exceptions) almost never mention Premium Mod directly because they thought if they kept their mouth tight, the rest of 99% will never know.

Leland: How have you dealt with the negative feedback on Twitter, blog comments, and elsewhere? Some have suggested you’re “exploiting” businesses based on selling GPL themes. How do you respond to that?

PM: The negative feedback sure has been enormous. I have tried my best to respond to every single feedback on both Twitter and blog. And yes, ‘exploit’ is probably the harshest word I have received so far regarding Premium Mod and it is certainly not true. I can only tell them that the commercial GPL premium themes providers are aware of the GPL license and chose it without anyone forcing them. GPL is GPL, not PR/marketing stunt.

Leland: What kind of support and encouragement have you received as a result of launching Premium Mod and releasing modified commercial GPL themes?

PM: The only guy who supported us on the first day was Ian Stewart (@iandstewart). He tweeted our website directly and argued about GPL with Nathan Rice (for more than 10 tweets! which is cool). Then, Elpie (@elpie) also contacted us regarding keeping the original copyright notice intact in the source file to comply with GPL and helped us set it up correctly. Andrew Rickmann (@andrew_rickmann) proposed that we should include the footer credit to the original author (though not a requirement) and Jeffro (@wptavern) came up with a suggestion on the format. Then we implemented it, of course. Lastly, the moderator (Len from WPCanada.ca) of Weblog Tools Collection also permitted us to post our theme in their ‘New Themes Release’ forum because he is a ‘huge supporter of GPL’. All in all, the support and encouragement were great but sure far less than the critics and judgment (about the scale of 1:10).

Leland: So far you have only modded themes from WooThemes. Do you have plans to modify themes from other commercially supported GPL theme sites?

PM: Yes, because we are huge fans of WooThemes. And we do plan to modify themes from other commercial GPL theme sites. More to come (we try to release 1 theme per week).

Leland: Speaking of WooThemes, have you had any sort of correspondence with Adii or other WooThemes employees about Premium Mod? Any correspondence with other commercial theme authors? How have they responded (if at all)?

PM: I have sent an email to WooThemes about asking for their permissions to support our users if they sign up as WooThemes customers. So far, no response from WooThemes yet. I have not contacted any other commercial theme authors but briefly chatted with Brian Gardner. He seemed to be fine with supporting our users (if they sign up support with StudioPress), and actually, Brian is the one who came up with the idea.

Leland: Do you have any plans to monetize Premium Mod? Have you considered selling commercial theme modifications? As of now all the themes are available for free download.

PM: Everything from Premium Mod is free and will be free. In future, I might include advertisements and affiliate links. But right now, the focus is on the ‘movement’.

Leland: What happens when people come to you asking for support? Do you have plans to offer a support forum on your site? Would you rather strike up some sort of affiliate deal with WooThemes to forward them support customers? Do you think they’d be willing to support your modified versions of their themes?

PM: For now, there’s no support request yet. Once there are, the best solution is to foward these request back to the original premium theme sites (with the requirement of these users signing up with them). This will be a win-win solution for either party and I don’t think there are any reasons they reject this. If not, I will just have to put up a support forum on my site and support it on my best-effort basis.

Update: A quick update. I’ve just received response from WooThemes. Directly quoted as below:

“Unfortunately we cannot support WooThemes that have been modified by Premium Mod. We can only support themes that we have 100% developed ourselves in-house. I’m sure you can understand.”

Leland: You have private Whois on your domain name, no about page on your site, no real clue as to who you are. Why the secrecy?

PM: My original intention to the anonymity is to avoid any risk of legal complications until things cleared up. I will be revealing myself soon. 🙂


This interview was unedited aside from a couple fixed spelling errors and the added links. This GPL topic seems to be pretty controversial in the WP community so I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments.

What do you think of what Premium Mod is doing? Although their have been sites which have released modified versions of GPL themes for free, such as this one, this is the first site I’ve seen that’s sole purpose is to release modified commercial themes for free.

What do you think of releasing modified versions of paid GPL themes for free? What about unmodified versions of paid GPL themes for free? Remember, you can redistribute GPL themes if you want to, just as long as it stays open source.

Comments  Leave a Reply

  1. Six Years Of Theme Lab | Leland.me April 23, 2014 at 10:42 am

    […] to a “competitor” if I felt my audience could get some value out of them. I’d interview people that nobody else would even think about being associated […]

  2. I’m closing this comment thread now at an even 200. Vent on Twitter or some other site if you feel the need, this has gone on long enough here.

  3. As a WP custom themer I like this idea as it gives me the opportunity to delve into some code I wouldn’t normally see without paying for it.

    I do however think its taking liberties with the GPL, but its fully ‘legal’ so why not 🙂

  4. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand its providing more themes for the community, on the other it is ruining themes by taking out the features that make them great. Take a look at the Coffee Lite theme based on the Coffee Break theme.

    Mod we made from the original theme:
    – Removed subheader bar for minimal look.
    – Minimal theme options.
    – Widgetized footer.

    From those Mods you basically took away what was good about the theme. The themes big selling point was that big sub header bar, and by making Minimal theme options, you end up making it harder for the end user.

    Adding a Widgetized footer is a step in the right direction, however this is the only actual step forward in this theme, everything else has been reductions from the original.


  5. What PM did, doesn’t look like an improvement to Woo’s themes. Deleting a sidebar, changing the logo,removing the copyright link and releasing the theme for free takes about 5 minutes to do.

    This is why GPL sucks big time as a license for premium wp themes, because people like the guys from PM abuse it.

    My free themes are under GPL license, as for my premium themes I don’t see why I should release them with this license at this moment.

  6. I don’t have time to read all of these posts and I don’t want to stoop to the level of some of the commentrs here, but from what I have read, it’s generous of the Woo guys to even acknowledge the presence of this so called “movement”. You guys have only released 3 themes, all *minor* edits to the original Woo theme. Why would you expect them to provide support to non-paying customers?!

    I’m a happy WooTheme subscriber and willing to shell out the money for continual quality themes, not to mention some of the best customer service and support I’ve ever experienced. It wouldn’t be fair to their customers to support modded themes, period. I like free stuff as much as the next guy, but like some wise person once said, “it’s the economy stupid!” I think a company or individual that produces quality work deserves to charge a fair price for that work. Don’t like it, don’t buy it.

    1. We expect them to provide support for ‘paying customer’ (not non-paying), that is – if our users need support, they go and sign up with WooThemes support plan.

      And no, WooThemes current stand is – they won’t even provide support for their own customer under our theme. Oh well.

  7. I create GPL-licensed themes. I can’t say for sure if I’d label theme “premium.” I’ll leave that for others to decide.

    Feel free to take, edit, copy, modify, distribute, learn from, or move my themes to your computer’s trash can. Whatever you want. You don’t even have to “improve” it. I chose to license my work with the GPL. I done so because I wanted you to have the freedom to do these things.

    1. I wish more people would have this sort of attitude.

  8. Bahahaha, these comments are hillarious … glad I’m not in the middle of them, hang on … damn, I just put myself in the middle of it!

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If I didn’t want people posting my stuff all over the web I wouldn’t release it as GPL, pretty simple really.

    Having said all that, releasing GPL themes with negligible changes or even worse, making them worse is rather lame unless there is some other tangible benefit to using them over the originals. I don’t see any point in bashing them for it though. The cream of the crop will always rise to the top.

  9. John (Human3rror) November 8, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    wow, this conversation has taken a turn for the worse.

    i’m positive though… this was bound to happen eventually and it’s an issue that had to come up.

    i still stand by my comment that I think, long term, this will be beneficial for the community at large. people’s egos are going to get hurt along the way but advancement anywhere has always carried a cost.


  10. Hey Brad. I’m back from my dump. Took me only… 3 minutes. Didn’t even wipe my butt just so I can respond to you. See how important you are?

    From here, your response looks like SHIT, because stuff irrelevant to the discussion after you’ve misquoted someone and now have got nothing else to say to defend yourself is exactly what you should post. SHIT!

    How is your suggestion to get back to GPL not irrelevant? What, because it has “gpl” initials in it?

    gpl, gpl, gpl, gpl. there. please don’t delete my shit because it’s relevant now Leland. Thanks man!

    If you wanna get back to gpl, then play by the rules and stop complaining. Back to my throne.

    1. I’m not complaining, I’m defending. I judge Adii and other Theme Devs based on what they are contributing now. Early on in the premium theme market, things were a little bit like the wild west and I think most will recognize that.

      Anyway i was doing some math. 15K X 12 = $180,000 smackers a year. That was really kind of you to sell your site so cheap. Tip of the hat to you.

      Moving on, don’t strain yourself now.

      1. Yep. Definitelly it’s an ass. Just BEAT IT using your OWN work, buddy!

      2. Exactly, all you know is now which is only have of the discussion. If this dicussion was about playing by the rules, it’d be much easier wouldn’t it?

        There you go again with numbers. I don’t see you calculating value these supposedly bad modders adding to the community.

        Even I know my previous site was a goldmine. Even in the sale copy I mentioned you could make good money with it if you’d just monetize it, which is what I chose not to do yet before I decided to sell it.

        Why did I sell it? Because some things are more important in life.

        If you think I didn’t know the real potential of my own freakin site then you’re playing dumb again.

    2. Your debating like a child.

      Learn to respond to those you disagree with like an adult. No matter how much you have contributed to the WP community, no one is going to take your opinions seriously when you act like this.

      Name calling, overly sarcastic remarks, repetition, and toilet humor are not effective means of stating a opinion. That is how a child argues not an educated adult.

      Acting like a asshole is one thing but don’t act like a child at the same time.

      1. You are NOT fun anymore!

        1. Very funny indeed!

      2. I actually respect some of the work SP has done.

        It would have been better had he jumped in and made his points about PM, GPL, Modding, etc without singling out one dev with whom he has some prior history. He would have come off a lot more credible had he done so.

        Of course when he makes smartass comments towards me for defending someone else I couldn’t resist responding. My bad.


      3. let me try to sound like an adult for a sec.

        i started “debating like a child” (these are your words, not mine) because Brad wanted to play dumb. is toilet humor and sarcasm that much worse than a clear disrespect for someone’s time after they’ve put in the effort to give you a thoughtful response?

        you’re willing accept misquotes, generalization, and irrelevant personal stabs and not toilet humor?

        1. To be fair, I was being honest in not understanding – “to believe they have the right to be up in this discussion”. That’s why I asked you to elaborate. Perhaps it’s a language barrier, urban speak or age thing. And so you jumped to the conclusion that I was playing dumb.

          If you were to phrase it as someone is “being uppity”, that I would have understood.

          Small Potato is acting all uppity when responding to Brad.

        2. no Sir. to understand my initial response, it doesn’t take urban speak or age thing. anyone with some sense can clearly see what you were doing.

          if you didn’t understand it then ask instead of “jumping to the conclusion” only to ask after i called you on your BS.

          you misquote, generalize, post irrelevant personal stabs then apologize for it. and now you’re trying to play nice by calling me “uppity” within an example. clever. however, i don’t believe you’re a bad person. you’re simply defending someone who helps you make money.

          you blindly defend your premium theme developer and even admitted all you know is what they’re doing know and not what they have done, which was after i’ve already taken time out to explain to you about the past. it’s a stubborn cry for end of discussion. i agree.


          these gpl debates, measures of value, what’s helping the community and not are all BS. if you’re in gpl to contribute, not just for profit and popularity then contribute. put in your codes, designs, ideas.

          stop stressing about what’s not helping or is, within all this clutter or watered down ideas, the worthy stuff will reveal themselves. is it really necessary to waste time on arguing which is more “right” when they’re all “right” within the rules you’ve chosen?

          innovation and quality doesn’t require money (i know this could be a whole other debate). it’s hard to believe, but people were putting out good themes even before they started selling them. doesn’t k2 exist? didn’t alex develop carrington? did hybrid, thematic, and wpframework die already? weren’t there multiple one theme per day marathons?

          stop worrying and count on dumb people like little small potato, justin tadlock, ian stewart, nathan rice, and more to put out cool free stuff for you to use.

          things grow or die, they don’t grow backward. if i release free themes 2 years ago and continue to hone my skills 2 years later to release more free themes, how can you expect my future themes to be any less than the old? i don’t have to get paid to improve my themes, it comes with learning and practicing.

        3. Ok I’m out. Now you can carry a grudge against me for the next two years. I’ll be in good company.

  11. Wow, didn’t know a person needed a right to leave comments on a public blog.

    1. Wow, didn’t know I was going to get misquoted that quick. Where in my comment does it say “right to leave comments on a public blog?”

      1. Maybe you could elaborate on what “they have the right to be up in this discussion” means.

        Further, should people hold something against Adii because his earlier themes were not the same quality as they are now or in your words “shitty”?

        It seems to me like your trying to turn a debate about the GPL into a personal attack. And yeah, I’m a WooThemes client and a happy one at that.

        1. Oh, please, stop right NOW. Thank You!

        2. I’m a woman and you are just a jerk. Wanna fight ^_^

        3. Whether my comment is personal or not, I don’t know. I’m honest enough to admit that much. Don’t ask for more. Please!

          And thank you for being honest sir. I know you’re a Woothemes client and their products make you money. I know.

          I’d have no problem with it if you’d just quote it right the first time around and responded to it like how you understood it, instead of generalizing it to piss me off after I’ve put in so much time to type up that long response. Time is precious don’t you know?

          If you didn’t understand it the first time around, here’s the point. The same people arguing against modders are the same people who opted to go gpl, collaborated with modders and have released their own watered down versions of actual site designs. And no, I’m not talking about every premium theme developers in this discussion, in case you’re going to misquote me again.

          Also, no, people shouldn’t hold anything against Adii because his early themes were “shitty.” But you know what I meant don’t you Brad? Don’t play dumb. My point is he copied actual sites and released watered down versions of them. And now, he’s speaking out against the same thing he has done in the past to get himself where he is right now.

          This goes back to a mod is a mod is a mod and whether you think it adds value or not is your opinion.

          I’d love to play dumb with you, but I have much better stuff to do like taking a dump to massage my butt.

        4. Well, the tone of your comments prove out my point.

          By the way, I read that the new owner of your old site is making something like $15,000 a month! Ponder that while you are on your throne.

          Can we get back to GPL now?

        5. I would love to see the proof of that.

      2. ^^

  12. 1. This has happened to me before when I was running wpdesigner. My themes were free to begin with, but that didn’t stop people from releasing them just to steal traffic. Back then, I couldn’t understand this gpl thing, which is why I was pissed at the modders. All I knew was WordPress is under gpl so my themes should be too without considering the rewards and consequences of releasing my work under gpl. I was pissed and I was wrong.

    2. A mod is a mod is a mod. Whether you believe it adds value to the community is your opinion, not statistics.

    3. I can’t see how Adii could be up in this discussion trying to ketchup (catch up) with all the mustard when he’s the one who collaborated with one of the theme modders I hated so much back then. Not to mention, in his early WP career, he pumped out shitty themes that were watered down versions of actual sites like JustinShattuck.com. And about 2 years later, he’s up on his blog and this comment thread talking about not wanting bads boys of the community to copy his secret developments and modders releasing watered down versions of his themes. Please! Bitches be crazy. (Also Adii, keep my name out of your mouth. Don’t credit me for anything to play up your nice guy image. I have enough self-control to not trash talk you on your own blog and mention you in recent interviews. I think you’re also capable of at least that much.)

    4. I support PM and I don’t think I have a poor moral compass. Me? Can’t be, not the Small Potato who released more than 40 something free themes right? On the flip side, I could’ve turned into an evil hippie and you’d never know.

    My point is you don’t know the history of some of these premium theme developers to begin with. Who the fuck have they been since the beginning to believe they have the right to be up in this dicussion (myself not excluded)?

    5. Respect real effort, even if there’s only a tiny bit. That should be it. Play by the rules within the game or find yourself a different game to play.

    1. This just got a whole lot better 🙂 Welcome Back to WP talk SP 🙂

  13. As someone who is a woothemes customer and not a full-time coder I can tell you that we see their value in the information, support & passion as well as the themes. For me it’s not about getting a theme for free. Hell, $70 is free, so is $200 for that matter when we’re charging clients 30x+ that.
    What we/I value is the support, community and their commitment to producing quality themes on a common framework. We’ve worked with others i.e. ThemeForest and the support is a crap shoot. So much like Brad Potter, we want to see Woothemes succeed.

    They do a lot to earn the trust of their customers. PM offering a bunch of free themes just isn’t that appealing to me from a business perspective.

  14. From what I see, PM is just another person so desperate to break into the WP world that they are going to do it by being controversial using a link-bait site and leech off the efforts of the Premium Developers.

    I mean, come on, if you had any skills as a Developer PM, why wouldn’t you just make your own themes. No, instead, you take this path.

    BTW, you say … “The main reason they never release it to public is the fear of attack from the community.”; maybe they don’t release it because they aren’t sleaze-bags that take other peoples work, change something, & then try to say they are a theme developer.

    JaredB … you say: “Anyone desiring to redistribute GPL software does *not* need to ask permission from the original person they obtained it from. They do *not* need to make sure it’s kosher with the business model that the original distributor is trying to maintain. ” … just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

    Of course, there are lots of unscrupulous people, like PM, out there that will justify things because they have a poor moral compass!

    1. @Sarah – It most certainly is “the right thing to do”, in the sense that there’s nothing wrong with it.

      That’s my whole point. People who distribute using the GPL are explicitly giving permission for this to happen. To turn around and say “that’s not cool” or it’s “not the right thing to do” is completely hypocritical.

      If that isn’t what they wanted, they only have themselves to blame, because they specifically gave permission for it by releasing under that license.

      Again, this is why I called it a “GPL bluff”; people arguing against this use are very obviously not supporting the intent of the GPL, even though they have chosen to release their software under its terms.

      1. Jared, supporting the intent of the GPL would include taking a product, making it unique, furthering development and overall offering something back that is tangibly better than it was before. Not taking a product, stripping something down, changing one line of css and redistributing it.

        1. Dear Brian, you can stop supporting your GPL themes (again) and move to the closed source (but you need to build new themes, there is no way to get GPL back to “closed source”. Ritchie Stallman ain’t a noob, you know. He exactly know what is he doing and i strongly suggest all to see the movies “CODE LINUX” and “REVOLUTION OS”…
          Do you even bother that your dear WP wouldn’t run without GPLed Apache? Oh, god! What about PHP? MySQL? Do you NOW feel that you NEED to give back something? I know that CORE theme = ALL STUDIOPRESS THEMES, but did you awared users? Did you give him some nice homepage to that “usual” wp theme? Nope? You think that they could do it alone? Without any help? Them?
          Those, who can help themselves, doesn’t need and won’t buy your subscirption.

          You should start to see that black and white hat communities are NOW and HERE trying to make some kind of AGREEMENT, which would HELP whole WP COMMUNITY (THE WP DILEMA IS: theme authors (want money) => web builders (want money) => end users (want web and want to give money up), noone is left behind, everyone is happy) but PREMIUM theme authors does’t look to be helping this exceptionally awesome stuff.

          Ain’t this it?

          Ain’t it MISUNDERSTANDING of GPL? Really, look at the issue deep. Check it out.

          Will it bring some customers (web builders could become theme distribution services)?

          …It is just a question… You are one of my heroes…

        2. I disagree, and so does the text of the GPL.

          It might be your opinion that it would be nice if they were to improve on the theme before redistributing it, but that certainly isn’t required by the license.

          All I’m saying is that if the “premium” theme devs aren’t OK with that, they shouldn’t have used the GPL.

          Attempting to tack on additional restrictions beyond what the GPL states (even in the form of “that’s not cool”, etc.) is disingenuous.

        3. For the sake of saying, I’m not against the GPL, nor am I saying that people shouldn’t make derivative works with my themes.

        4. Jared, I’m not saying what people should or shouldn’t do with the GPL license and our themes. I’m just saying it’s sad that folks haven’t actually done anything to improve them so far. I know black and white that what people are doing is legal per the terms of the GPL.

        5. OK, I get that. I do think it would be great if people chose to improve them as well, so no argument on that side.

          What I have a big problem with is implying that the people who don’t choose to do that are jerks. They aren’t. They’re using the software under the terms of the license it was given to them with.

          Again, if there is a problem with that, the fault lies with the one who chose to distribute under that license, which explicitly allows it.

        6. Where do I say (or imply) that those folks are jerks? All I’ve ever said is that it’s sad they choose to handle the GPL in a way which I feel doesn’t benefit the community.

        7. Sorry to imply that Brian; I wasn’t saying that you (individually) were calling anyone a jerk.

          I was referring to the general negative sentiment being expressed about the act of giving away GPL’d software for free.

          I feel that *any* negative statements about this are unfair and unwarranted, because the license is very carefully and intentionally meant to allow it.

      2. Yes, I agree … nothing wrong with taking a GPL theme and using it, but I don’t believe they are explicitly giving permission to scalping their themes and trying to pass it off as something better.

        To me that is just wrong. If you are going to give to the WP community, create something worthy with your own code, but changing a few images, colors, etc and saying you have come out with something great & new is laughable.

        All PM is doing is hiding behind smoke & mirrors, trying to justify behind the GPL, but what he is really doing is just trying to make a buck off the efforts of others. Give him a little time and he will monetize his site, he even says so.

        1. @Sarah I completely understand your point of view, I’m just saying that I disagree with it.

          “Morally”, I see nothing wrong with anyone who is using *free software* (in the FSF/GPL sense of “free”) doing so within the confines of the license it was distributed under.

          When the devs chose to distribute under the GPL, they chose to allow this; plain and simple. That’s why I’m calling it hypocrisy to object to it now.

          You might think that it’s “not cool” or “nice” to do this, but that’s totally subjective.

          Further, it’s unfair to accuse someone who is using the software fairly under the license they obtained it (which includes redistribution) of anything negative. They are simply doing what the original devs said they could do by releasing under the GPL.

  15. Oops I apologize for the double comment there.

    1. Just removed one of them. Hope you didn’t have to type that whole thing twice, lol.

  16. I’m not going to for one second think that I’m a big player in the WP community but I do release commercial wordpress themes and have been for a couple of years now.

    My views on GPL are mixed, as a producer of commercial themes I don’t like the idea that someone can get my themes and then redistribute it freely (I sell my themes through ThemeForest and they license the PHP stuff under the GPL but not graphics/css so hopefully I’m covered), but on another view some of the code I use in my themes is GPL.

    I take issue with PM taking themes and releasing them for free and try to justify it by taking out a sidebar, that’s just not on even if its in the rules, look at MP expenses in the UK lately, just because you’re allowed it doesn’t mean its right to claim a moat to be cleaned on tax payers money.

    I also have to take issue with something else, how did PM get the themes in the first place, are you seriously going to be buying every theme that you are going to release as free, how will you afford that.

    I don’t think what PM is doing is going to help the community in any way, you’re just discouraging people like me spending time producing good quality themes, you’re going to end up with crap themes that don’t do anything special.

    To WooThemes and Brian and anyone else who produces premium themes my view is to take the GPL off the css and images, obviously you cant trust people as PM is proving.

    1. …just because you’re allowed it doesn’t mean its right to claim a moat to be cleaned on tax payers money…

      WTF? Where did you get TAX stuff here? Are you MENTAL?

      1. No I’m not mental I was using the analogy of what has been happening in the UK government the last few months where the politicians were using tax payers money to claim for stuff that they shouldn’t have been doing but was in the rules that they could and the public reaction to it. It was an EXAMPLE of the point I was putting across, please read what I say and don’t call me mental.

        1. Sorry for misuderstanding your local EU issue (thanks god that I left EU when Vaclav Klaus signed the Lisbon Treaty)… I heard aboout some hardcore activities inside the UE after accepting the treaty…

          Please, sorry me for misunderstanding. Thanks

        2. No worries

  17. I’m making a rare foray into the GPl debate here, I primarily witness things from the sidelines and rarely if ever step into the ring. Its not because I’m afraid, its just that Ian Stewart and Nathan Rice never let anyone else have use of the ring.

    Hopefully I can shed some light on the issue, I’ve been told I have a rare talent for expressing what others are thinking. Although according to my little sister, I simply have a talent for stating the obvious. Little sisters are so annoying.

    Everyone is throwing the term “value” around assuming there is a shared understanding of what it means in the context of the WP community. Take Eric for example, he is under the impression that value is measured in original code creation.

    Given that definition of value it is easy to see why he thinks Brian Gardner has not contributed value for awhile. And by extension, there hasn’t been allot of value since the golden age of WP theming. Poor Eric.

    For most users this definition of value simply isn’t true. Most users find value in the theme itself and the value they find in GPL is solely because it eases distribution to clients and their use of the theme. With GPL there is no complicated licensing options to choose from, or (god forbid) serials to enter. They know that they pay for the theme and then they’re good to go without any issues.

    Most users just want to use the theme and they want it to be as easy and clear as possible.

    It is from this perspective that I find the PremiumMods model to be disturbing. This is just going to make the process of getting a theme harder and more confusing for users.

    Users are going to have questions run through their minds questions that they will want to see instant answers to.

    What do I get from PremiumMods. The original wootheme? A nice design modification? Whom do I get support from? PremiumMods is not making things clear and it seems to me that they themselves are not sure what they’re going to be.

    This is the problem most premium theme creators have, their thinking runs along the lines of “Please don’t muddle my business, either contribute to mine or create your own”. The fear is that PremiumMods will confuse their user base and take value away from their business.

    The problem premium theme creators have is with the hijacking of their business. They have no issue with the creation of separate businesses around their themes or contributions to their business itself. What PremiumMods is doing is something akin to community piracy, a kind of robbing of brand value so to speak

    This is the biggest problem in my mind with the GPL there is no protection of brand, anyone is free to re-distribute in any manner and confuse users. Drupal and Joomla! have recognized this and that is why their names are now trademarked and protected.

    Matt should step up to the plate and provide some sort of “platform” to help commercial GPL theme creators protect their brands and by extension their community of customers. And no a official theme provider directory does not serve this purpose it is simply not enough.

  18. Design Informer November 8, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I just want to say that I’m with Adii and Brian on this, that’s all.

    1. Yep, I agree.

  19. Wow, this discussion is getting ridiculous.

    Just a few specific thoughts:

    @PM – For taking premium GPL work and distribute it for free, I think you are handling it fairly well. It had to be done by someone (in a prominent way). Though it would be better if you enhanced the themes, rather than making a light version. Good luck with your venture.

    @Brian Gardner – I have a ton of respect for you and the impact you have made on the WP theme community. Nice work. Though if I were in your position I probably wouldn’t waste too much time with a discussion like this.

    @Adii – Your themes are kick-ass! Seriously, I am impressed. Though honestly I have enjoyed following the growth of WooThemes (as a business) even more.


    In reality the users who download WordPress hundreds of thousands of times each week down give a damn about these discussions. All they care about is quality code & great support for a good price. Thus I don’t think sites like PM will affect the premium theme developers at all.

    1. No worries Nathan, I only started in on the conversation once my contribution to WordPress was in question.

      1. Just know that everyone who has been around the community for a while knows of your contributions!

        In fact, Matt has mentioned you at every WordCamp I have been at!

      2. …. Did i say you never contributed anything? nope.

  20. Wow, this was a lot of stuff to ingest, and hoping I don’t spew it all over the place. My first initial thought is I’m not a big fan of Premium Mod. But in the end, the users will make the decision.

    But I do want to just flash back on the support issue. I recommend premium, paid themes to almost all of my clients. And the majority come from WooThemes, Studio Press and iThemes. And a lot of those clients before were using “free” themes, and now, would never go back.

    As said, the support is amazing. Also, updated themes follow updated WP. In fact, I remember one iTheme I had that wasn’t working with 2.8. I went to the forum, explained my problem and was told it was a glitch that needed to be fixed. Within 24 hours I had an updated theme, problem fixed.

    I totally support paying for these premium themes and feel they are justified in charging for them. Having been in biz for almost 17 years, you get what you pay for.

  21. Seems that my comment got lost but that would be really interesting to have Matt’s reaction here !! 😀

    Coming back to the discussion, I really agree with Adii and Woo team. I really don’t see what PM is bringing here to the community. I mean, what they do is legitimate but to me is not moral at all. If they would make great improvements to existing themes, that would be really interesting, but here I don’t really understand the point. Since people like Adii, Brian or Jason sell their themes, the quality in WordPress themes went high, and I think it is not really fair to rip the job of people who spent a lot of time making themes. I mean even if you can, that is really not moral…

    But at the end, I think the real problem may be GPL no ?

  22. I have been a customer of Woothemes since ever they started the Woothemes club ( I am an end-user ) and I don’t think PM would keep me buying from Woothemes in future, for many reasons first of all their first class support that I think is what matters most to me and most of the end-users and 2ndly I don’t think I would rely on someone else’s code considering the standards have been set by Woothemes.

    having said that, I can’t figure why Woothemes or StudioPress need to release their themes under GPL ? As an end-user I liked the Idea to use the single licensed theme on as many blogs as i want (by the way who need to have more than a couple of blogs). But I don’t think that actually is required to Go GPL or is there something I am missing.

    1. We aren’t required to go GPL with 100% of our theme. As the Free Software Foundation declared, we can license our CSS and images how we please.


      We decided not to take the half and half route because we believe the “community” will make good use of our code, yet not copy us.

      The GPL license allows for a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean everybody needs to live by it. Use it wisely, don’t exploit it.

      1. Magnus,
        Actually, my article suggests that the entire theme (PHP and all) could theoretically run independently of WordPress, and therefore isn’t subject to the viral nature of the GPL.

        The dual-licensing option is still there, but from what I can tell, licensing the entire theme restrictively has no legal implications. Matt won’t take too kindly to it, but I doubt he’d be very happy with a dual license either.

        1. Matt also won’t actually DO anything about it other than piss and moan and take cheap shots during interviews.

          As long as you have thick skin that shouldn’t be a problem to deal with.

        2. Uhm, if you want to contribute to WordPress.org themes then you, all your themes, and all themes and sites that you link to, have to be GPL. The great theme withdrawal of 2008 showed the Automattic (and to a degree, that of the WordPress.org developers) stance.

          At the end of the day, lots of people run business around WordPress. And so does Matt and Automattic. Matt has reasons over and beyond ‘for the good of the community’ to take the stance he has taken. And that’s his choice – he’s entitled to it.

          There will always be trouble in any environment where you mix money and volunteering, even if those who make the money are happy to make contributions for free. I think all or most of the themes clubs have high quality themes available for free, but for some that will never be enough.

  23. Back when we managed to find ourselves in the middle of one of the earlier GPL/WP arguments over at Spectacu.la around a year ago I said that if commercial themes are released under the GPL then there would be nothing to stop others from simply redistributing the hard work of the originators. Simply put, we felt forced into the GPL market and we weren’t convinced that it would form the basis of a healthy business model.

    If the bulk of your income is derived from intellectual property, then you have to work out the risks. You can put GPL code behind a paywall, but if someone can rip off that code for a small fee then at some point somebody will do just that.

    There’s little in the way of support money to be made from many themes – they should, after all, just work. Spectacu.la’s support forums have tumbleweed running through them, and well over 90% of members have never made a single comment. OK, we don’t have that many members, but they do come in.

    I can guarantee that if WooThemes, Brian Gardner, Nathan Rice and so on started to offer free downloads of all their themes their sign-up rates would plummet.

    Yes, Automattic have done well from WP and the GPL, but their business model is most definitely not the same as those of WooThemes, StudioPress and so on. The Automattic model is based on big numbers – creating a company that uses venture capital to build a large enterprise in the future. If you consider that they have 1m active users then you have advertising potential there is in the order of $100m per annum.

    Curiously, I believe a lot of themes club members actually don’t realise the range of freedom the GPL gives, so as long as there aren’t lots of people shouting about legally free versions of themes elsewhere, there is still a business to be made. But the moment the WordPress market starts to mature the position for many themes clubs will look increasingly precarious.

    The GPL is great, but it’s not a panacea. Trying to be a disruptive presence in the premium themes arena isn’t a nice thing to do, but I’m not surprised it’s happened.

  24. I’m not sure if the “calling the GPL Bluff” reference was a reference to my tweet to PremiumMod (http://twitter.com/jaredbangs/status/5431920971) or whether that phrase has been floating around elsewhere around this issue, but I felt I should clarify what I meant by that.

    It seems to me that it all started around the time that Matt started being more vocal about the fact (or legal opinion, as some may perceive it) that WP themes must be released under the GPL since they are derivative works of WordPress itself.

    Rather than argue with Matt on this issue (which they rightly recognized would probably not be a successful approach), many “premium” theme authors decided that they would begin releasing their themes under the GPL, in compliance with the “official” position that Matt was advocating.

    So far, so good. The problem was that shortly afterwards it became obvious that a lot of the “premium” people who were releasing under the GPL weren’t truly embracing the license for what it was, but rather they didn’t want to go against Matt’s position.

    I saw comments and statements floating around regarding the issue of people redistributing these GPL themes (for free or for pay), ranging from “that’s not cool” all the way up to threats of litigation. This attitude is so completely wrong.

    Releasing *anything* under the GPL is explicitly giving permission for anyone who receives it to redistribute it (for free or pay), so long as they also do so under the GPL. If that’s not what these theme authors wanted, they shouldn’t have released it under the GPL.

    Anyone desiring to redistribute GPL software does *not* need to ask permission from the original person they obtained it from. They do *not* need to make sure it’s kosher with the business model that the original distributor is trying to maintain. If there is any conflict arising between the free redistribution of these themes and the “premium” business models of those originally creating them, that fault lies entirely with the person who decided to release them under the GPL, because in doing so they granted that permission (and others).

    That’s essentially what I meant by the “GPL bluff” – I got the feeling that a lot of these theme authors really had no desire to release under the GPL (with everything that means), and that they only did so because it was the kosher thing to do after Matt made his position known.

    I got the very clear sense that what they’d really like is to continue to do business as usual; selling themes and giving people grief if they tried to redistribute them. The problem is that position is totally inconsistent with the license they’ve chosen to distribute under.

    1. Jared, it was a reference to your tweet. Should have probably linked to it so people would know what I was referring to.

    2. I think that Premium themers that did not choose to go GPL won’t go for it now !! 😉

    3. Thank you very much, you just made my day! There is more than single (me) person that bothered reading GPL.

    4. Simply assuming that you GOT the idea of GPL wrongly (and you hate yourselves for doing so) is satisfying a bit more.

      1. You shouldn’t assume so easily…

        Do you really think we didn’t know how GPL works before we licensed all our themes 100% GPL? 😉

        1. You are right, Magnus.

          You got the idea right, because you are good at ad and buzzing.

          You are awesome developers and I don’t think that you didn’t anything for the community.

          I love WOO and I love your work (really), building WOO is one of the best things that ever happened to WP community, and your ideas and work are one of pieces of the base of the WP community (that was nasty), but you WERE aware of what will happened after your switch to GPL… It was just matter of time.

          This thing at PM doesn’t look so bad for WOO at all.
          All of the commenters were dreaming up with bad scenarios, but I really think that your company is only learning a lesson to help it to grow to be really GPL.

          To be honest – I think this is realy nasty hustle to make your company (and the others, which are following your lead) to give BACK to the community (50 themes and 5 or 6 free? are you joking?).

          And it is good and I love it.

        2. I think we were aware what would happen. But isn’t this whole discussion about if this is a good or a bad thing?

        3. I’m sorry, but NOPE. You should read whole storz again. (POST_TITLE = “INTER…”

          this might be eye-opener… And I am happy that you replied.

          Really: Make some “kind of hidden… perhaps SVN only…” access to theme developers (which are really moving your accounts numbers) to the theme code and you will get the fruits you want to, if you want to use this way…. End premium theme customers doesn’t make impact. But the site admins does. Those are firends of Woo…

          What do you think of what Premium Mod is doing? Although their have been sites which have released modified versions of GPL themes for free, such as this one, this is the first site I’ve seen that’s sole purpose is to release modified commercial themes for free.

          What do you think of releasing modified versions of paid GPL themes for free? What about unmodified versions of paid GPL themes for free? Remember, you can redistribute GPL themes if you want to, just as long as it stays open source.

  25. I would be really curious to see Matt’s reaction here !! 😛

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