Its a smart business model, but I think you need to acknowledge the fact that for many authors here in themeforest, that kind business model is just not possible here, if all you are is a freelance themforest author. The main reason being, its a marketplace. We are selling a product, not a service. And just like most of your customers are really buying the service and not the GPL’ed code, most themeforest buyers are really buying the design, not the GPL’ed code.
Wrong. There is no difference between selling a theme or plugin one of Envato’s marketplace and selling a theme or plugin on your own site. Just because it’s a marketplace doesn’t mean the same business model can’t be used.
Claiming selling GPL code is selling a service and not a product simply isn’t true.
Gravity Forms is a product. We are selling a product. That the product is GPL doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a product and we are selling it as a download and unless you purchase it from us you can’t get it from us. We aren’t a service company. We don’t do custom work or consulting. We strictly provide support for our product.
We sell a product. WooThemes sells products. StudioPress sells products.
There’s nothing stopping marketplace authors from adopting a similar model. There are already marketplace authors doing so. WooThemes and Obox are perfect examples. Both utilize the GPL for their products and both have made them available on Themeforest. It’s had no impact on their business model at all.
If we wanted to make Gravity Forms available on CodeCanyon we could and it wouldn’t have any kind of impact on our business model or how we go about running our company.
For GravityForms you tell users they can use the Personal license on 1 site, the Business license on 3 sites, and the Developer License on unlimited sites.
But if GravityForms is GPL users can use the personal license on as many domains as they want.I’m interested to know your thoughts on this, since you are behind one of the most commercially successful (and GPL) plugins.
This is a common question that I get from users who don’t know all the ins and outs of the GPL and i’ll gladly answer it below.
Gravity Forms is GPL compliant and we do indeed sell it as a Personal License (1 Site), Business License (3 Sites) and Developer License (Unlimited).
What the features of each pricing level provide is support, support resources, priority support in the case of the Developer License, automatic updates, download access, Add-On access or lack of Add-On access and then we also have a SaaS (Software As A Service) API that Gravity Forms interacts with. Without a valid license key you would not receive any of this. All of these things are based on the pricing level you choose.
Take support for instance. Just because the code may be GPL does not mean we required to provide you with support. Nor are we required to make the code freely available to download ourselves.
However, purchase the Personal License and we’ll provide you with support and all of the benefits it includes. Purchase the Business License and we’ll extend all of these benefits to 3 sites. Purchase the Developer License and we’ll extend all of these benefits to however many sites you manage as well as support of the product on a multi-site WordPress setup.
Things such as automatic updates, the Add-On manager and some other behind the scenes goodness both in the present and in the future function via a SaaS API. It communicates back to our server and the SaaS service only functions if it’s passed a valid license key.
As with support, downloads, resources, automatic updates and any functionality delivered via SaaS is completely outside the scope of the GPL and can be proprietary.
Other good examples of SaaS plugins that are GPL but require a paid accounts to function include Automattic’s own VaultPress and Akismet. Sure the plugin code is GPL but they won’t function without a paid account at the service because some functionality occurs via a SaaS API and not on your server.
As much as it may sound like a GPL plugin or theme can’t be effectively monetized at first glance, nothing is further from the truth.
I hope that helps clarify how pricing levels come into play with a GPL commercial plugin or theme.
No matter how you put it, the exclusive agreement has just one purpose: to ensure that items sold on envato marketplaces cannot be purchased elsewhere.
...The fact that the author is not the one using different distribution channels is completely irrelevant.
Wrong. The fact that the author is not the one distributing the code is completely relevant. The official distribution channel for a product is most definitely 100% relevant regardless of the licensing type. It is the distribution channel that the vast majority of end users will use to purchase the code. If you think otherwise you are giving the pirate sites far more credit than they deserve.
The exclusivity is between the author and Envato. The fact that the code in question is GPL is irrelevant. If you are concerned about end user distribution of your code then you are fretting over something that ultimately will not have a negative impact on your business. It’s a drop in the bucket.
Reputable sites and popular community resource sites aren’t keen on distributing commercial themes and plugins because undercutting the author is frowned upon by the overall community.
And as far as the “pirate” sites go… well… they are already distributing your themes and plugins and no restrictive license is going to stop them so as a business you’d be better served by ignoring them rather than expending any energy worrying about them. Users who use them are asking for their sites to be infected with Malware.
You must live in some utopia if you don’t realize that there will be people exploiting this to the max, no matter what WordPress community will think about it. The various theme-shops can be GPL because they have closed ecosystem with their themes, support, subscription payments etc. It’s all different here simply because ThemeForest is marketplace, but I’m still pretty sure that number of authors who will go to GPL will be so small that rather insignificant.
Utopia? Maybe you should educate yourself on the greater WordPress commercial ecosystem. ThemeForest is but one piece of a much larger puzzle. The fact that it is a marketplace doesn’t afford it any special circumstances when it comes to the GPL and it’s perceived negative impact.
If the GPL was a hinderance to commercial theme and plugin developer there wouldn’t be so many highly successful and profitable thema and plugin companies in existence. But that simply isn’t the case.
Gravity Forms. WooThemes. iThemes. StudioPress. Easy Digital Downloads. Press75. Organic Themes. Theme Foundry. PageLines. AppThemes. WPZoom. Themify. Colorlabs. ThemeShift. Crowd Favorite. Headway. Obox. Standard.
ALL GPL compliant. Need I go on?
But what do I know. I only run a multi-million dollar commercial plugin business. I couldn’t possibly know what i’m talking about.
I’ll tell you a little secret. The average WordPress theme or plugin consumer doesn’t know what the GPL is and doesn’t care what the GPL is. It won’t have a negative impact. They are more than willing to pay for a good product and are honest people. If you spend your time worrying about piracy and dishonest people you aren’t focusing on the users that actually want to give you their money.
And what about all those piracy marketplaces? Are they also reputable enough?
As far as i understand, you are allowing them to redistribute for any given price, including zero. So at the end the only advantage a purchase gives here is support (the infamous thing that has been never mandatory). Voilá, the future of Themeforest.
No, they are not reputable and you underestimate the impact pirates sites will have on your sales if you think they will post a problem.
Downloading themes and plugins from pirate sites and marketplaces is like playing russian roulette. You’ll most likely get burned. They are rife with malware. If you want your WordPress site to be compromised and used by blackhat SEO’s then by all means… download themes and plugins from these types of sites.
The average WordPress user has no problem paying for themes and plugins. The type of user that is going to turn to the pirate sites are the type of user that weren’t going to buy your theme or plugin to begin with. They are also the type of user that is oblivious to the fact that those sites are a major source of WordPress malware, otherwise they’d steer well clear of them.
If the GPL was a hinderance to commercial theme and plugin developer there wouldn’t be so many highly successful and profitable thema and plugin companies in existence. But that simply isn’t the case. Gravity Forms. WooThemes. iThemes. StudioPress. Easy Digital Downloads. Press75. Organic Themes. Theme Foundry. PageLines. AppThemes. WPZoom. Themify. Colorlabs. ThemeShift. Crowd Favorite. Headway. Obox. Standard. Need I go on?
There are a large number of high successful WordPress theme and plugin products that are GPL and haven’t been hindered by it in the slightest and they were GPL long before ThemeForest made the GPL an option for it’s authors and in many cases they were selling themes and plugins longer than Envato has been.
The myth that the GPL will be detrimental to a commercial theme or plugin is just that. A myth.
How can GPL themes still be considered TF exclusive when the license grants redistribution rights to the end user ? How pointless is to limit the author when everybody else is not ? The issue here are Envato exclusivity terms for authors selling GPL items, not the GPL itself.
I would suggest you read the rest of my replies in this thread for more insight.
The GPL only applies to the end user. It doesn’t apply to the author. The exclusivity you enter into with Envato only applies to how you choose to sell the product. It has nothing to do with the GPL license the code is released using.
As for it being pointless, i’ve already mentioned that reselling another WordPress developers commercial theme and plugin is not considered kosher by the community. It’s not something condoned by the major marketplaces and it’s not something condoned by the WordPress.org plugin and theme repositories. Now if the end user drastically changes the theme or plugin and creates something new out of it, that is another story.
It’s most definitely not pointless.
Case in point. Gravity Forms is currently sold exclusively through the Gravity Forms web site and it is not available on CodeCanyon. If Gravity Forms were to be made available in CodeCanyon it wouldn’t do so under an exclusive deal because it’s sales channel is already well established. However, if it were not well established it very well could be sold exclusively via CodeCanyon.
You need to separate the agreement you sign with Envato and the agreement your code is released under when choosing to release the code as GPL. They are two very different things.
I’ll use a made up example to illustrate this situation…
- I design and sell T-Shirts - I sign an exclusive deal with Threadless to sell my T-Shirt design on their site - A user buys my t-shirt design - The user sells it on eBay - I cannot personally sell it on eBay because of my exclusive deal with Threadless but there is nothing stopping someone else from doing so because they are free to do so if they choose.
This example is not unusual.
The situation with the GPL as it relates to Envato exclusivity is the same type of situation.
Although unlike t-shirts, the WordPress community doesn’t look too kindly on users undercutting the developer of commercial themes and plugins by giving them away or reselling them. It’s not against the GPL but it simply isn’t considered kosher by the community unless the user has made significant changes to the theme or plugin to create something new out of it. So it actually has more protections from this scenario than say a t-shirt designer would.
Carlhancock, I perfectly understand what you are saying and I do agree with you, yes there’s an agreement period. But what I mean is, this is wrong from the start, it generates absurd conclusions. Can anyone sell the GPL theme everywhere, except the author?
Yes. Unless they enter into a personal contract with Envato or some other marketplace promising exclusivity of course.
But despite the fear of end users undercutting the author and reselling the GPL code elsewhere, it’s unlikely to post a major issue. The community polices itself.
As I mentioned Envato is not going to allow an end user to resell a theme they purchased from you on their marketplace, nor is any other reputable WordPress related marketplace. WordPress.org’s plugin repository would also reject the submission of a commercial theme that is being submitted for free to undercut the author.
Sure it’s not against the licensing but it’s against community decency. The GPL doesn’t give you the right to sell code on Envato or make it available via the WordPress.org plugin or theme repositories. That’s unrelated to the GPL.
So yes, a user could attempt to sell your GPL theme elsewhere even if you can’t. But any reputable marketplace wouldn’t allow it if it was brought to their attention because it’s just not kosher.
Yes, your explanation is very logic to me. BUt there is still a conflict imo. There are 2 identities here: one is the author , one is the buyer. One can be both at the same time. Why would Envato’s agreement override the GPL agreement. Because one excludes the other. If anyone forces me to break the GPL then it’s not GPL anymore.
It may appear that way. But it’s not the license attached to the code that prevents you from selling that code elsewhere. It’s the personal contract you enter with Envato that does so and thus it does not hinder the GPL.
It doesn’t matter if you are an author and a buyer. You own the legal rights to the code. Buyers do not. They are afforded the benefits of the GPL. But that doesn’t make them the owner of the code from a legal, copyright and trademark perspective.
So because you are the author, if you for some reason bought your own code from an Envato marketplace… it doesn’t change the fact that you are the legal rights owner to that code and it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve entered into a personal contract with Envato for sales exclusivity.
The GPL is all about the end user.Do I become an end user if I buy my own theme?
Yes. But the limitation that you can’t resell the code elsewhere isn’t being applied to you by the theme. It’s being applied to you by a business agreement you make with Envato. The code is just the product you are selling. The exclusivity you agree to is between you and Envato.
I believe most authors here understand that there is no direct conflict between our exclusivity and being full GPL. However by selling here, we are agreeing to be limited in our distribution rights for our work yet are being allowed to give our buyers much greater distribution rights than we’re afforded ourselves by Envato. We become the only person restricted, yet it’s our work. It’s a puzzling situation to be in and one that I don’t think anyone has faced yet in the WP community, we are perfectly entitled to discuss it – even if some are misinformed.
You are correct. If you choose to be exclusive you are agreeing to limiting where you distribute that piece of code. That’s the price you pay for receiving more attractive sales terms with Envato as an author. But it in no way hinders the GPL as it applies to end users.
The GPL is all about the end user. The author has more flexibility and that includes imposing limitations on himself and how he chooses to make his code available. He could choose not to distribute the code if he wanted to. Or he can choose to charge for his code. Or he can choose to only sell it on ThemeForest.
But the users that purchase it are protected by the GPL.