[wp-hackers] WordPress and GPL (was: Putting the P in WordPress)

Peter Westwood peter.westwood at ftwr.co.uk
Wed Jul 7 20:19:55 UTC 2010

On 7 Jul 2010, at 19:58, Elizabeth Buckwalter wrote:

> You two seem familiar with the GPL with regards to WordPress.
> Hypothetical situation:
> Company A develops a website based on WordPress for Company B.
> Company B claims that all the software developed by Company A for
> Company B is proprietary information despite being mostly based on
> GPL'd code.
> Two examples where that I am curious about:
> 1) An established plugin from the plugin directory that had a bug
> fixed by Company A during the development of Company B's website
> cannot be released as it violates the NDA between Company A and
> Company B.
> 2) Company B developed a new plugin that is loosely based on many
> other plugins (plus one that is private code who's owner gave express
> permission to use it only for this plugin).
> As I understand the GPL, the code does not have to be publicly
> available, but if someone asks for it, the altered code must be
> provided. Would this also apply to the new plugin, as it is developed
> for GPL'd software?  I know that wpmudev.org has plugins for pay, but
> I can't seem to find their licensing information.  I also know that,
> to have a plugin in the plugin directory, it must be GPL'd.
> Again, this is a purely hypothetical conversation, where I am looking
> for your (and the rest of the hackers list) opinions.  Your help is
> greatly appreciated!

It depends on whether or not /distribution/ has happened from what I understand.

In general if you are doing work for hire then distribution doesn't occur - and the ownership of the work done for hire would normal transfer to the client.

So in case (1) the work is done specifically on the instance of the plugin installed and it is never distributed so you don't have to share the code.
Realistically though I would always encourage the customer that it is in there long term interest to provide the bug fix back to the community as it gives them a path forward to newer versions of the plugin.

(2) is really no different if distribution occurs.

The key thing with the GPL code is that when it is /distributed/ you can't apply any restrictions on further distribution so if I sell you a GPL plugin I can't stop you giving it our for free.

However, just because the code is being distributed does not give anyone the right to demand it for free.

Peter Westwood
http://blog.ftwr.co.uk | http://westi.wordpress.com
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