There’s been lots of questions around yesterday’s 100% GPL and WooThemes announcements, and three forum threads worth of discussion. Sorry it’s taken me some time to respond, it’s been a day full of meetings, and I asked the team to leave me the threads! So just read through most of the commentary and hopefully I’ll manage to answer most of the main questions. I’ve closed the other three threads to try to centralise, but in case you want to find/read them, they were:
Exclusivity & 100% GPL
Essentially the concepts of ‘Exclusivity’ and ‘100% GPL’ are separate and distinct things:
(1) Exclusivity is an agreement between an author and Envato where the author says “I won’t sell the same items somewhere else”. The author is saying that irrespective of what license they are offering the items under (regular, ext, or 100% GPL).
(2) Licensing completely under the GPL (or otherwise) is an agreement between the author and the buyer saying what rights the buyer will be getting. In the case of the 100% GPL that includes many rights, such as the right to redistribute or resell.
What is tricky is that theoretically the buyer can use GPL to sell the item somewhere else making the item no longer exclusively available through ThemeForest. This is an important consideration that authors need to factor in when choosing to use the 100% GPL option. My own personal opinion is that licensing under the 100% GPL option is something of a philosophical decision. If you do it, you have to be comfortable with the idea of giving up a certain amount of control.
To be honest I’d like to believe that no marketplace worth their salt would allow someone other than the creator of a theme or plugin to sell it. Certainly at ThemeForest we would prohibit anyone trying such a thing.
Our exclusivity programme is an important part of selling with Envato and has helped us create the unique set of libraries we have today. I don’t believe the 100% option is going to end up undermining the overall library exclusivity because I think most people are fair and sensible, and I have a lot of respect for our competitor marketplaces out there. There are exclusive authors who want to use the 100% GPL option, and they are free to do so, but must comply with the obligations it sets out (i.e. don’t sell the same items elsewhere).
What is Envato’s Preference – 100% GPL or Not?
The choice of licensing completely through the GPL or not, belongs to you – the theme or plugin author. A few people thought that because we are promoting this launch that we are, or will be, favouring the 100% GPL option. This isn’t the case at all. With any launch we usually do some promotion. My intention in publicising the feature and choosing a launch partner is purely to encourage more authors, particularly those who have shied away because of licensing options, to join us here at ThemeForest! As I mentioned in the other thread, in retrospect I really should have promoted a homegrown author too! So I’m going to find someone to add in when we run our newsletter story.
So, no we’re not suddenly going to start only promoting, featuring, talking about 100% GPL authors. There’s no hidden agenda to try to get authors to go one way or the other. Now the option is here, it’s here as just another part of the Marketplaces.
Do WooThemes get the usual 33%?It’s important to us that we have a fair and open approach to things like rates. The vast majority of authors are on the standard advertised rates. Beyond those we do in fact have a Special Rates policy which we added to the knowledgebase some years ago.
We give out these kinds of rates pretty rarely, and as the KB article explains, they are used to kickstart new initiatives, or help us grow into new categories and niches. So for example when we launched PhotoDune we contacted a number of very high profile stock photographers and negotiated individual rates for each to ensure that we entered that marketplace with a competitive starting library.
These agreements are on a case by case basis, and they vary depending on how big we think the category or initiative will be, how much value the author would be bringing, how hard it will be to accomplish the same things with a different route (like a seed competition, marketing spend, or commissioning of content). The agreements have additional clauses that those authors agree to as well which other authors don’t have.
In the WordPress theme space, we’ve used special rates a few times. Kicking off 100% GPL is indeed one of those times, so yes WooThemes is not on the standard rates table. Another instance was when Frameworks looked like they were going to be big, and we negotiated with a couple of authors of leading WordPress Frameworks and landed two (though one has since departed!)
Anyone can apply for a special rate, but we do them very rarely, and only when there’s some serious merit or purpose. From memory, there’s been maybe five or so in the last year across all the marketplaces. In every instance they tie into a particular push, initiative or launch.
The only reason we go beyond the standard rate is in order to grow the Marketplaces. Ultimately this benefits everybody, and the cost of giving up some of our standard rates is one that Envato wears like we do other marketing and launch costs.
Did WooThemes go through the usual review process?
Aside from the release timing, yes they did. But from what I understand we didn’t do a super job of it!
Release timing is something we occasionally do for bulk imports or for a particular launch. Again this doesn’t happen very often. A good example is once we brought in a few hundred vectors all at once to open a new subcategory on GraphicRiver. That time we did a bad job of the import and they really swamped the browse pages. We’ve gotten better these days happily – though I think there were still a couple of kinks to iron out. Our aim is to get a bunch of stuff in quickly, on a coordinated day, with minimum disruption to regular authors. It’s harder than it sounds!!
In terms of the other pieces of the review process, from what I understand we seem to have missed some things that we catch in review normally. There was a normal process of submission, soft rejections and so on. I’ve chatted with Jarel our Review Manager who is investigating what went wrong and starting a re-review of the WooThemes items.
This definitely is not a case of different rules for different authors. If anything we were trying to be really extra standard. It is really bad when a high profile author seems to get favourable treatment. This isn’t what is happening, this was a much simpler case of us not doing our best work.
Unlike the special rates policy, there is no special review policy! We sometimes rush things through, but all items are supposed to get the same inspection and quality look over. Consistency is important, and hard. Again Jarel and his excellent review team are investigating and re-reviewing.
Whew so that was a lot of stuff. I’m sure I must have missed some burning question, so will try to revisit tonight to keep an eye on the threads!
Overall, I think we did a great job of getting community opinion on the new feature, building and delivering a good solution to the problem, and everything seems to be working on that front. In hindsight I think we could have done better on the whole launch partner side of things, picked someone from our own community as well, done better on reviewing, and been a bit clearer about what was happening.
We’ll work hard to do a better job of those next time! Thank you for raising all the great questions, hopefully this post answers most of them!
One question that I’ve seen asked that I don’t think is cleared up here is to do with selling stock in stock. Recently you changed licensing and made it so that authors could not bundle CondeCanyon plug-ins into their WP themes. If they wanted to do so they had to make private arrangements with the plug-in owner, outside of the marketplaces. Obviously if CC authors switch to full GPL then this won’t be the case any more.
Without a marketplace policy of not allowing this, then I worry you’ll have a race to the bottom with authors bundling ‘hundres of dollarz $$$’ worth of plug-ins with their theme as a selling point.
Also, on a seperate point. I think your ‘home-grown’ author should be DesignCrumbs (jake). His themes are now 100% GPL and he was the driving force behind the change.
So, woothemes as non-exclusive author is get special rate which is more than 33% and we think its really not fair.
If you are talking about photodune, we understand since photodune is new site in the time you give special rate to the author.
We are talking about themeforest here on the year 2013 and I don’t think you need to “kickstart new initiatives” for themeforest marketplace. Also woothemes themes is not comes into new category and niche.
This is just our opinion, other than that we are welcome woothemes on themeforest though…
thank you for answering, I have a couple of observations.
for “Exclusivity & 100% GPL”: what I understood is that the author, if is exclusive, can’t sell the item on other marketplaces. Also, if someone buy that item and then try to upload it on this marketplace it will get rejected. But nothing stop that buyer to sell the theme on a different marketplace. At the same time, the exclusive author can’t sell the theme by himself on other marketplaces while every other person in the world can do it.
Off course the only option for the author is to sell that theme on many marketplaces as possible so to have the maximum return for his work but at the same time he needs to lie to envato about this. I’m not sure why the author needs to respect a business partner who is ok with everybody else selling his work but not for him. I don’t like it but is the best option for “me” as the creator.
Said this, I’m not selling my items under this new gpl option any time soon.
for Do WooThemes get the usual 33%? envato is free to do whatever deal they want. absolutely. but is somewhat strange when they chose partners who the next moment they stick a knife in their back (you don’t need to answer to this – just my impression), instead of choosing authors who were loyal to the company and the marketplace. Maybe a less tolerant against external people and more close to the community? But forced love is not possible so I can understand.
for Did WooThemes go through the usual review process? this is important for us authors. I’m perfectly aware that any decision made by envato doesn’t need to be explained and this includes the review process. But having the impression that the review system is fair is very important. This was another example that confirmed what I believe for some time about the review system. There was some other personal examples in the past, one being that writing comments like the one I’m writing now will make your items harder to get accepted.
A final note. The new gpl license should be separate from the main regular one. This is more about preventing further confusion of people buying items under regular license and then acting like they are gpl.
also it will help searching for gpl themes only using some functionality of “sort by license” or “hide any item that is not gpl” option.
keep up the good work. what are the chances to get a marketplace new design for the envato anniversary at the end of summer?
and what about creating a monthly meeting with the community on the forum once a month (or two) where we can speak about different problems or just chat about stuff?
to prevent authors asking all type of questions not related with the main problem of the day.
That will be nice.
AFAIK GPL allows redistribution, reselling I am not so sure… You can only sell what you own. One could of course provide services around a plugin priced cheaper than the original author but then that is a valid open source business model…. Another potential threat is why would someone pay to get which they can legally find for free? But experience has shown that these people were not the market in the first place. In fact allowing free copying has helped indie musicians a lot, the same applies for software.
I have one question: Why would an author use 100% GPL for his/her item?
I thought about it but i just can’t find a reason… Is it only when you want to show your support for this license?..
I mean i really do not like the fact that anyone could buy an item and start reselling it and i think many others don’t like it as well – so why? why would someone use the 100% GPL option?
ps. This is not complaining why this option is here now, but i wonder why a person would use it?
Thanks for the clarification. The special rates are not a problem for any fellow author here since it doesn’t affect the competitiveness of items. But a mild compromise on review process can make huge difference since the deal here is not about 1 theme but entire bulk portfolio. The strict review system is one of the powerful/respectful asset of these marketplaces and hope it wont be diluted due to special cases.
I have one question: Why would an author use 100% GPL for his/her item?
No high selling author in his own mind would use 100% GPL. But i can see this becoming a popular trend for authors with less sales, just like Jack said in another thread.. Authors that do not have high quality items or authors with items that do not sell could opt for the 100% GPL license and advertise their items as “unlimited use”.
However, a lot of buyers here come for the quality so i’m not sure if this would be a bit hit on major players.
But at this point we cannot be sure about anything.. Only time can tell..:)