How WordPress Could Eliminate The Thesis Problem Without Going To Court

Matt Mullenweg WordPressMatt Mullenweg doesn’t really want to take Chris Pearson to court over his Thesis theme violating the GPL license. I’m sure he’d like to sort it out behind the scenes and without all the drama and FUD that a drawn out court battle could create.

Also, I’m sure Chris Pearson doesn’t want it to go to court (despite what he says) as the legal costs, potential damage caused his reputation and a loss of business, as well as just the “told you so” attitude of the blogosphere, would be beyond a royal pain in the backside.

It’s time to stop the war of words and for WordPress & Mullenweg to show the color of their convictions.

Here are some ideas that WordPress could implement to effectively make it impractical for people to use non-GPL themes.

Block sites using licenses violating themes from accessing services such as Akismet, VaultPress, WordPress stats etc. In the case of Akismet, it’s fair to assume that 90%+ of sites using premium themes like Thesis are commercial, make these sites pay the $5 a month for the commercial licence.

Yes there are (may be) alternative services but when clients start asking developers why they can’t use these defacto services, the developers will be between a rock and a hard place. Either they lie to their clients or attempt to explain how WordPress is claiming they are violating the license, but aren’t really. Not many clients will want to be on-board with a developer at that point.

WordPress could take a leaf out of Microsoft anti-piracy playbook.  WordPress installations can poll a regularly updated blacklist of violating themes and if a user installs one, have it display a warning in the admin panel that the theme is violating the licence (with suggestions for alternative themes?). If you want to be really heavy handed have it appear in the footer as well so that visitors can see it.

Yes this may seam a bit harsh, but there is nothing that will shake a clients confidence in a developer than the software screaming at them that it is being naughty.

You could go even further than warnings and start disabling functionality, but that is hurting the client and not something you’d want to do if you want to keep them on WordPress.

This would be neither anti-competitive or in violation of law (I’m not a lawyer but reasonably certain), and if a developer feels that it is, the burden is then on them to take WordPress to court and prove that WordPress is at fault, rather than WordPress having to worry about suing individual developers who abandon the GPL just because they feel like it.