Community member Kim Parsell sent me a notification the other day containing a series of messages exchanged on Twitter between Matt Mullenweg, Chris Pearson, and Brian Clark. I’m not sure how the conversation was initiated considering the post/comment that was linked to was created back at the end of March. At any rate, here is how the conversation on Twitter went down.
@photomatt I think Brian Clark / Chris Pearson of Thesis theme just said they want to sue WordPress. about 1 hour ago from web
@photomatt @bishless Sue, an anti-GPL case. I guess they’re against Open Source enough to sue their underlying platform to prove their interpretation? about 1 hour ago from web in reply to bishless
@photomatt There’s a history of litigiousness? http://blogigs.com/the-thesis-like-theme/ “I release the rest of my internet hounds on your site to shame you into oblivion” about 1 hour ago from web
@wyliemac Whoa. Something is brewing between @photomatt and the thesis guys, @copyblogger and @pearsonified. A GPL issue. about 1 hour ago from web
@wyliemac RT @copyblogger: @photomatt No, we invited you to sue us because you think we are doing something wrong. Intellectual honesty is your friend about 1 hour ago from web
@photomatt :( RT @copyblogger: @photomatt You better watch it Matt. We invited you to sue us to settle the GPL, but libel gets you a new world of hurt. 23 minutes ago from web
Upon checking out the BlogGigs link you’ll find an announcement about a theme Costa created called Thesis Like. Checking out the BlogGigs archive and also seeing the big 300 pixel sized advertisement, it’s clear that this person is a huge fan of the Thesis theme. However, the excitement for Costa was short lived as the first comment on the blog was from Thesis creator Chris Pearson.
First off, everyone take note on what has happened here as this is the way you are NOT supposed to handle a situation like this. Although Costa complied with Chris’s requests, Chris did a great job making himself look like a big, tough, cyberbully. I’d be upset too if someone released a free theme which mimicked my commercial product and on top of that, used my products name but I would have sent an email first. In fact, if you take a look at the business opportunity here, I would have offered some sort of cool license deal or something creative in exchange for Costa to take down his Thesis Like theme. Instead, Costa gets slapped across the face and threatened with the prospect of Internet hounds putting his site into shame. The next day, Costa publishes a public apology to Chris where in the comment section, Chris admits that he may not have handled the situation correctly.
GPL Fight! – Just Kidding:
I really don’t want to go down the GPL road again but it’s pretty clear that Thesis doesn’t give a damn about the GPL license, just like the customers who purchase premium themes not filed under the GPL. They just want a great looking theme which works, is affordable, and has a great support base. If they have to pay a fee to remove an attribution link, seems like customers happily do so with no questions asked.
A part of me would like to create a theme that clones Thesis but has my own php/WordPress code, my own CSS, and a big header image that points a middle finger at the Thesis logo. But I won’t do that and like Matt, I’ll let the market decide what happens to premium theme shops like Thesis.
Now I understand how Matt can get pretty upset when he sees premium theme outlets take full advantage of the free, open-source platform that has allowed them to establish their business while on the flipside, shut out the open-source nature of the platform with their commercial product.
I’m a Thesis fan, its my theme framework of choice for development. I’ll put a few thoughts of my own out there:
1) I don’t mind paying for premium themes/frameworks, GPL or not. Hell I’d pay for WordPress if the paid version got you something that made sense to a business user, like a decent DB/files backup system with some Automattic-supplied storage space that it uploaded to. When something helps me make money, I’ll happily pay for it.
2) Where do you draw the line with WordPress, the community, and the GPL? Should “WordPress for Dummies” be available for free download in PDF form because WordPress is GPL? (is it? Cause I want a copy ;-) When a client pays for a custom theme/plugin should I also put that on the web for free?
3) A lot of people think Chris is a huge jerk when they first interact with him or see him in action somewhere. He’s out there, he’s energetic, and he doesn’t pull punches or put on a public persona to appease anyone. But in contrast to that when you’re a Thesis customer (or seriously considering it), you’re in the community, and you’ve got a problem that you need help with, there is no stopping Chris when it comes to helping you out.