[theme-reviewers] GPL and limiting usage

Otto otto at ottodestruct.com
Wed Oct 9 23:47:57 UTC 2013

On Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 6:37 PM, Chip Bennett <chip at chipbennett.net> wrote:
> Let me ask it another way: Make the Plugin free, strip out the subscription
> payment, but leave the site usage restriction in place. Would the Plugin be
> accepted in the Plugin directory?
> That is: the Plugin has an "API" (really just a phone-home script to verify
> license tier) that cripples existing functionality if the Plugin is used on
> more sites than allowed under the license. Would such a Plugin be accepted
> in the Plugin directory?
> Why or why not?

It would not be accepted, because of the plugin directory guidelines
that restrict phoning-home and which restrict fake "service" systems
that just provide licenses/keys to allow code to work.

> Because as I understand it, that functionality would be construed as a usage
> restriction that is incompatible with GPL - and as such, the Plugin would
> not be accepted.

Not exactly. That restriction in our guidelines (which I wrote, BTW),
is not really GPL-related at all. It's a restriction specific to the
plugin directory, designed specifically to address issues like this.
We don't allow people to use our directory to host their code, while
at the same time "selling" access to that code on their own systems.
Not a GPL restriction at all, it's a wporg specific restriction.

That said, we do not enforce our plugin directory guidelines on
plugins that are, you know, not in the directory. So if somebody had a
free plugin, with an upsell "pro" version on their own site, then we
do not check that the pro version adheres to the guidelines. I've
always thought that this was somewhat overkill, frankly. If a user
decides to buy a product from somebody directly, then their
relationship is between them and that vendor. Attempting to enforce
the same extremely rigid restrictions on code that is outside of the
plugin directory is not really within that purview. IMO, of course.

I mean, we could, obviously, impose any sort of rules desired. If we
wanted to say that all plugin authors must put "WordPress is awesome"
on their blogs, then we could say just that. The question is whether
it's a good idea or not. When I wrote the plugin directory guidelines,
I was basically attempting to define the "bad things" that we had seen
all the time, in a way that expressed them clearly. We've refined
those plugin guidelines a few times, but we've always only applied
them rigidly to code that WordPress.org actually hosts. They don't
apply to code you host yourself, on your own site. That seems very
much outside of the scope, to me.


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