Professionals and non-professionals who create or manage personal blogs, virtual stores, or any other type of website in WordPress, are well aware of what plugins mean for administration, marketing, design, and web development.
In general, once you are familiar with the WordPress environment, it is normal to come across the term GPL, either for plugin licenses or WordPress themes, and this is what we will look at today.
For starters, WordPress is free and this is because it has been released to the world under a GPL license, thanks to its creator. But, for some plugins and themes, there are GPL and Split licenses (some of the code is GPL and some are not).
What is a GPL?
GPL is the acronym for General Public License and has been created and developed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to ensure that software is free and its source is open to the general public.
This type of license allows end-users, whether individuals or companies, to download, use, analyze, share, copy, modify and redistribute the software.
In addition, this type of license is protected by a legal practice known as Copyleft, the opposite of Copyright or rights reserved to the author. This is in order to ensure that the software remains free even after it has been modified by third parties, without a third party having the ability to appropriate the code and claim its authorship.
A GPL plug-in is a free software framework that can be used, modified, and distributed without legal restrictions or limitations.
This means that once a plugin is purchased directly from its creators’ official site, it can be sold, given away, or used on as many sites as desired, as long as the source code remains available to its users.
In the case of software created for WordPress under the terms of the Split License, an essential part (generally the PHP component and the HTML code) is kept under the GPL license, since to work on the structure and make use of the WordPress libraries is necessary to keep some of your code open to the public.
While the other part of the software, which can be images, text, CSS styles, photographs, etc., are released under other licenses that restrict the use of these elements according to the rights that the author determines on their intellectual property.
This type of license came about in 2010 after a debate between Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, and Chris Pearson, a successful software developer at the time.
Mullenweg argued that plugins and themes, being natural derivative works of the free WordPress platform, should be regulated under the same GPL license.
Pearson argued that these items were his creations and therefore should be licensed in the most convenient way for his industry.
The case was so controversial that the Freedom Law Center had to mediate the situation and defined how the themes and plugins should be licensed from then on.
In this case, according to the FLC, both men were right and that is why it was determined that the software created for WordPress could be GPL and other software could have the license chosen by the developer. Thus was born Split License.
Consequently, software released under a split license is not completely free and may have various commercial and non-commercial restrictions. As a result, the expression 100% GPL came up to refer to software that is completely free.
A GPL plugin is a plugin that can be used by any type of user or company as long as its code remains visible and accessible so that future users can do the same.