[theme-reviewers] explicit license statements for binaries

Bruce Wampler weavertheme at gmail.com
Fri Feb 10 17:09:26 UTC 2012

What about images that use public domain images as a source?

First, if a theme uses public domain images, it is not very clear from
copyright law that there needs to be any attribution of that fact when they
are used, or that they are even subject to any licensing.

I personally have built quite a collection of public domain images - and
over time have likely lost track of the download source. But even then,
what is that worth? Whatever source I used most likely collected the images
from some other public domain source. So the statement that some images are
public domain should be enough because that statement is as trustworthy as
any up the download chain.

Second, it is pretty clear that modified public domain images can in fact
be copyrighted. Thus, covering original images, images created from public
domain sources, or "original" public domain sources should all be treated
equally - covered under the GPL compatible license used by the theme.
(Modified versions of copyrighted images cannot be used without being
covered by a GPL-compatible license which would require the appropriate
links to the original.)

It doesn't seem to me that it should be up to the WPTRT to become lawyers
or police and try to interpret and enforce copyright law. It seems to me
that the overwhelming majority of theme authors do their best to follow
copyright/licensing law. I personally have been extremely careful about the
sources of my images (and other code snippets).

So for my theme, which does include a number of header images and icons of
both original work and modified public domain work, I believe that they are
all covered by the main GPL license.

And as a secondary issue - what about GPL compatible scripts? It seems many
themes include JavaScripts that include their own licenses included in
their own sub-directory. Should it be required that a reference to each
such library be included in the readme.txt? What about PHP code snippets
used from some GPL compatible source - it seems to be common practice to
use these with proper attribution at the head of the snippet. Just how deep
does one need to go in the readme.txt file. Perhaps nothing, or maybe a
statement: Some scripts and code fragments include licenses in their
respective sub-directories. One could even extend this to the actual base
code of the theme, which very frequently started with one of the default WP
themes, or another GPL theme. For example, I'm not sure that the statements
in my own license file (and those of many other themes in the repository)
would meet the technical GPL requirements of referring back to the original
Twenty Eleven source code it was derived from, yet that seems to have been
treated as acceptable practice for a long time.

If the subject of tightening up licensing requirements is opened up, I just
think it is important to look at everything.
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