In virtually every debate about whether or not WordPress themes and plugins need to be GPL or not, sooner or later the proponents of the idea inevitably come up with the GPL FAQ. This is as annoying as it is ridiculous. The GPL FAQ has no legal validity! Period!
Once more I feel a strong urge to oppose such BS, and this time I will borrow the words of somebody much firmer in copyright law than me.
The GPL FAQ is not the GPL. The opinions of the authors of the FAQ may illustrate what could be fair use, but ultimately fair use is a legal determination, made by judges and juries, not FAQ writers. →
The FAQ has no legal effect – only the license does, and the license expressly invokes copyright law. →
The GPL derives from copyright law. Without copyright law, there is no legal basis whatsoever for the GPL, and no enforcement mechanism. To the extent that any “definitions” in the GPL contradict definitions in the law, the law will prevail. →
The GPL has nothing to say regarding the “use” of WordPress – execution of the code is not a protected right under copyright. The GPL applies only to modification, distribution, and other exclusive rights under copyright law. →
There are plenty of reasons to disagree with the expansive GPL view [...]. First and foremost, it’s just not enough to say that themes running on top of, and using function calls from, a piece of software are “derivative” of that software. If that were the case, then any software application would be a derivative work of the operating system it runs on – such as Windows, Linux, or OS X – which in turn would be a derivative work of the software hard-coded into the chips running the computer. For that is the way all software works, down to the bare iron – it sits on top of, and makes function calls to, the software layer beneath it, until to get down to the silicon pathways in the chip itself. No software could run without those lower layers, and nothing is truly independent of them. But “dependent” and “derivative” are not the same thing. →
[It is] copyright law [that] controls the definition of what constitutes a “derivative work” (and therefore, a covered work); and, the GPL expressly invokes the standard embraced by the Galoob court, namely, that some part of the original work must be contained in another work in order for that work to be considered derivative. →
But most importantly, WP’s (or anybody else’s) ongoing attempts to expand the GPL beyond it’s legal reach are nothing more than an abuse of the license to assert their own interests as software vendors against the interests of other software vendors. As such, it is a betrayal against the very spirit of the GPL, which was designed to limit the ties that software vendors imposed on end user and ensure the rights of those end users. It was not designed as one more tool for software vendors to control the market. Let’s not pervert the GPL’s intention and turn it into a monopoly instrument.1
Some more borrowed words:
I simply believe that the disinformation being spread about the impact of the GPL harms both open and non-open software communities – the former, because its overreaching will backfire; the latter because it chills contributions from those who may not want to release their code into the wild. →
It’s great to talk about open source software as “free” and speak of the GPL – as Matt does – as a “Bill of Rights” – but what Matt seeks to do would reduce freedom by expanding copyright restrictions to non-derivative – and therefore legally independent – works . At its core, the GPL is simply a fancy way of controlling other people’s work through the imposition of copyright restrictions. Those who seek to extend the GPL beyond the bounds allowed by copyright law, do not promote freedom but instead take freedom away. →
Yes, I may be pissed off by the debates and the false arguments used, but I’m a strong proponent of the GPL spirit, and the idea of freedom in general. What bothers me most is when people abuse their (undisputed) authority in one field (WP development), to promote pseudo-truths and spread misbelief in a completely different field (copyright law) – a field clearly outside their competence.2 But let’s face it: What they preach is just that – Opinions. Well, the problem with opinions is, they are like assholes – everybody has one. Which leads me to my final quote:
And that’s why we’ll be having this debate next year, and the year after – because the authors of the allegedly infringed works would rather talk then test their theories in court…. at least, so far. →
Nothing more to add.
- Alas, that’s the way it often goes. Sooner or later every good ideas gets perverted into its opposite for the sake of gaining money, power, influence, market share… whatever. [↩]
- I’m not sure what upsets me more: The fact that people preach stuff they know sh*t about, or the fact that too many others believe it. Anyhow, the net effect is that a lot of damaging misbelief is created. [↩]