WP DB Migrate by Brad Touesnard is a great plugin that makes it easy to migrate databases from one WordPress site to another. When we highlighted the plugin in late 2013, a commenter by the name of Sean Lang published a link to a Github repository containing his fork of the pro version. Forking and making available a pro version of a GPL licensed plugin for free is acceptable under the terms of the GPL license.
I recently discovered the Github repository page hosting the forked version of WP Migrate DB Pro is offline due to a DMCA Takedown request. According to the request, the offending plugin contained a README.md file that used copyrighted content from Delicious Brains Inc. without their permission.
The Github user slang800 has forked our repository found at https://github.com/bradt/wp-migrate-db. This action alone would have been fine, but he has also added a new file named README.md containing content copied from our website that we did not give him permission to use.
I confirmed with Touesnard that the DMCA Takedown notice had nothing to do with the code hosted on the repository. Although several commercial themes and plugins are licensed under the GPL, it doesn’t mean you can violate a company’s trademark or infringe on their copyrights. If you’re going to fork a commercial WordPress product and redistribute it, here are a few tips to avoid trouble.
- Rename it. Keeping the same product name confuses users
- Maintain the copyright of the original author
- Do not use trademarked images, logos, etc.
- Create your own set of documentation and support system
Before forking, try working with the developer to have your features or fixes integrated into the product. Most of the time, they’ll gladly work with you to have a specific feature added, especially if there’s already a patch. If your WordPress products are GPL licensed, I’d like to know how you’ve handled trademark and copyright infringement in the comments. What advice do you have for other business owners?