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OPTe Network is pretty amazing. Not trying to brag but we are pioneering a new way to harness the power of WordPress by offering three fully-hosted platforms to create beautiful websites online. Each platform includes a built-in library of select themes and plugins that users can activate or deactivate to add functionality to their website. We’re enhancing our users joy of use and mirroring the single installation experience by streamlining the best of the WordPress eco-system.

We realize that you must have some questions like: How does OPTe manage to include premium themes and pro version plugins? Is that theft? Is OPTe 100% legal and safe to use? The answer is yes it is safe to use and does not infringe on any software copyrights. This is due to the GNU General Public License (GPL) of the WordPress software which themes and plugins are considered derivative works and in most cases have been licensed the same.

We’re supportive of the GPL and those who have chosen to embrace it, while laying the groundwork for this emerging solution. Our aim is to create the de facto standard for fully-hosted models that follow our design.

Understand The GNU General Public Licence

The GNU General Public License was released in 1989 by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Stallman founded the FSF in order to protect the freedoms to create, modify, and distribute software.

People often become confused with the word “free”. The Free Software Foundation doesn’t claim that companies should give away software for free. What they mean is “free” as in you have certain freedoms with software licensed under the GPL.

To really break it down and simplify this concept it’s best to take a look at the four essential freedoms of free software:

0.The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
1.The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
2.The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
3.The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits. –

If software doesn’t follow these four essential freedoms then it is considered non-free, which the FSF considers to be unethical.

Look at what Justin Tadlock, a well-known theme and plugin developer, thinks about the subject:

The act of copying my themes, making no changes, and selling them is perfectly fine. I gave you permission to do so by placing it under the GPL license. Just in case that wasn’t enough, I’m giving you or anyone who wants to do so permission right now. It is not unethical for you to do these things so long as you do them within the confines of what’s allowed by the license. – Justin Tadlock

Now that you know what free software is let’s discuss proprietary software. Here is the definition from techopedia:

Proprietary software is any software that is copyrighted and bears limits against use, distribution and modification that are imposed by its publisher, vendor or developer. Proprietary software remains the property of its owner/creator and is used by end-users/organizations under predefined conditions. – techopedia

If free software was Batman, proprietary software would be the Joker.

Richard Stallman had a strong perspective on proprietary software:

[Proprietary software] meant that the first step in using a computer was to promise not to help your neighbor. A cooperating community was forbidden. The rule made by the owners of proprietary software was, “If you share with your neighbor, you are a pirate. If you want any changes, beg us to make them. – Richard Stallman

If you can’t think of any examples of proprietary software, think Microsoft or Apple.

The idea that the proprietary software social system—the system that says you are not allowed to share or change software—is antisocial, that it is unethical, that it is simply wrong, may come as a surprise to some readers. But what else could we say about a system based on dividing the public and keeping users helpless?” – Stallman

How Does GPL Apply To WordPress

Matt Mullenweg licensed the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress, under the GPL.

If WordPress were a country, our Bill of Rights would be the GPL because it protects our core freedoms.” – Matt Mullenweg

He also believes that themes and plugins are derivative works of WordPress therefore requiring companies to licence their products under the GPL. Many in the community were in agreement with Matt’s view on the issue.

Themes are GPL, too

It is the position of the WordPress core developers that themes cannot be considered wholly original creations even when they don’t copy large sections of code in from WordPress. Theme code necessarily derives from WordPress and thus must be licensed under the GPL if it is distributed. – Mark Jaquith (a lead WordPress developer)

Some companies decided not to licence their products under the GPL.
This led Matt to ask the Software Freedom Law Center to weigh in on the issue. This is the SFLC’s legal opinion:

The PHP elements, taken together, are clearly derivative of WordPress code. The template is loaded via the include() function. Its contents are combined with the WordPress code in memory to be processed by PHP along with (and completely indistinguishable from) the rest of WordPress. The PHP code consists largely of calls to WordPress functions and sparse, minimal logic to control which WordPress functions are accessed and how many times they will be called. They are derivative of WordPress because every part of them is determined by the content of the WordPress functions they call. As works of authorship, they are designed only to be combined with WordPress into a larger work. – SFLC

So what does all of this mean? Legally, you can use the four essential freedoms of free software, listed at the beginning of this article, on any GPL licensed themes or plugins in the WordPress ecosystem. Can you imagine WordPress without it? For starters, there wouldn’t be as many people constantly cranking out themes and plugins to increase the functionality of our websites.

How Does GPL Apply To Theme And Plugin Companies?

It seems that most people don’t actually understand what they are paying for. Commercial theme and plugin companies, who fully license their programs under the GPL, are not selling the software. These companies are distributing free software for a fee and selling support subscriptions or other services.

There will be those that think, why pay for distributing free software?

Trust me, there are plenty of reasons why you should pay for distribution of free software. Don’t you want access to the best WP themes and plugins for your website? Well they need to be up-to-date, compatible, improved and delivered to you. This Freedom has created one of the finest web application systems the world has ever known.

After developing these software products, companies keep them up to date with WordPress and continue to improve the features-functionality and compatibility with others. Most all themes today are dependent on other FREE software programs too. These companies also need to spend time and money researching and developing upgrades to their products or they’ll become obsolete. Support is extremely important as well. Think about it. When you have a urgent question about your plugin or theme, who do you ask first?

For example, Elegant Themes, a respected and trusted company, has been in the business for over ten years. They released their flagship product (DIVI) in 2013. Now they empower close to half a million customers with their service. To continue providing their users with value, Elegant Themes regularly releases pre-designed layouts to their members! If they did not charge users for support and distribution, how would they still be in business today?

BraveNewCode, makers of the super popular WPtouch Pro plugin (licences available in the range of $49 – $999), state on their website:

Licenses sold for WPtouch Pro are for support + product updates only. No fees are charged for the GPL software license and its freedoms attributed to this software.

Does OPTe Network Respect GPL licensed software?

Yes we do. OPTe Network isn’t selling or distributing any software to our users. We provide a hosting service which requires a paid subscription for every website, and we offer different plans for increased media storage, advanced functionality, and other quotas. We subscribe to theme companies and pay for distribution and support just as any website owner might.

We maintain a collection of select themes and plugins assembled with each OPTe Network website: https://opte.website, https://opte.pro, https://opte.store.

Users have limited access to the themes and plugins in our built-in library. They are unable to download or install. What they can do is activate or deactivate them to add functionality to their website. Providing a built-in library for our users isn’t about by-passing theme subscriptions or plugin support, it’s about solving the inherent issues people face when building and maintaining their website(s). It’s a lot to expect that every person has the time or knowledge to choose from thousands of options and to determine the compatibility between their themes and plugins.

Under the GPL, we are permitted to distribute the software. We currently have no plans to do this, however, we may re-purpose a plugin or develop a new one from time to time and will license them as GPLv2 or later. We are committed to supporting the ever-growing WordPress community.

Partner with OPTe

Participating in OPTe’s Affiliate Program, opens up a new way for people to thrive in the WordPress community.

As a matter of forward thinking and keeping with the WordPress spirit, we developed our OPTe Affiliate Program. We have limited participation to theme and plugin authors whose works are included in OPTe’s built-in library and WP informational websites who all are contributing to the community’s success.

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I am the founder and CEO at OPTe. I haven't stopped breaking and fixing things ever since my first personal computer arrived by mail in the 90's, I seem to enjoy solving complex problems.