[wp-hackers] General consensus of "Premium Theme" concept

Matt Mullenweg m at mullenweg.com
Fri Mar 21 15:50:28 GMT 2008

Glenn Ansley wrote:
> What is the general consensus among the members of this list concerning
> premium themes and plugins for sale? *

WordPress itself would not exist if the license of b2 that preceded it 
wasn't GPL.

I think legally these people are in very murky territory -- which is a 
terrible way to try and build a business -- but more importantly their 
ignoring the principles that made the platform they're building on 

Fortunately, markets work. Numbers I've seen from existing efforts show 
there's not a ton of money there. Enterprising coders have already 
started capturing the best ideas from alleged premium themes and 
releasing it as open source, and people are inspired by that and 
building on those to create new and exciting things. (Much like Regulus, 
Hemingway, Kubrick/K2, and other great WP themes have inspired countless 

If you take the arguments behind premium themes to their logical 
conclusion, we face a WP world where all new themes and plugins cost 
money, feature development is stagnant because everyone just contributes 
their ideas to their paid plugins, and both become user-hostile as they 
attempt to cut down on "piracy."

The most successful models over time are those that embrace openness and 
distribution, as WordPress has done.

It's not a matter of work being valued or not, or making money. I've met 
hundreds of people who make their living on top of WordPress. Automattic 
has done quite well yet does not shy away from the GPL. It's a matter of 
investing in long-term growth of the community and underlying platform 
instead of short-term and limited profit.

I don't think it's worth it to bother people attempting to exploit the 
flawed premium plugin/theme model. Economics will sort them out over 
time. Their heart is in the right place even if they're methods are 
flawed. As a community we should not promote them on our official sites, 
but more importantly we should reward those doing the right thing.

Browse down your plugin list, look at the theme that made you look like 
a rock star. Visit the author, and give something back.

Tell them thank you, write a blog post about them, hunt down their 
Amazon wishlist, send them paid work you hear about, tell your friends 
about them, visit them at conferences and shake their hand, support 
other ventures they're doing, or if you can't do any of that maybe drop 
a bit in their Paypal donation box.

You can do what Mark did and take what you were going to spend on a 
proprietary thing and donate it to the open source effort:


It works. (Or we wouldn't be here today.)

Matt Mullenweg
http://ma.tt | http://automattic.com

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