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Interview with the Owner of Premium Mod

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Premium ModLast Friday in WP Chat I had the opportunity to chat with the owner of Premium Mod, a site which offers modified versions of commercial GPL themes for free. For more background information, be sure to check out this launch announcement post to get a better idea of what they offer.

We agreed to do an interview that was to be published here, which is below. In the interview we discuss the various feedback received as a result of launching the site, future plans for possible monetization and support, among other things.

Leland: How long have you been using WordPress, and what has been your involvement with the community thus far?

PM: I have been using since WordPress 1.5, which is a huge release at that time, and I stop keeping track how long ago was that. Before I started Premium Mod, I have released 2 free themes (still remained popular, with 10,000+ downloads) and started 3 WordPress-related websites with one of them selling Commercial GPL premium themes (two of these sites are sold).

Leland: Why did you launch Premium Mod? Was it to prove a point by “calling the GPL bluff” as some have called it? Are your intentions to provide value to the WP community? Explain more about this “movement” you’re trying to start.

PM: The reason I started Premium Mod is to start a movement – A movement for more people to produce high quality WordPress themes based on commercial GPL themes and make it available to public (in GPL license, of course) for free. I don’t want to prove anything and yes, it’s all about contributing to the community.

You see, a lot of people (web design newbies, freelancers, web design firms) are already actively modding commercial GPL themes, but they only kept it to themselves. The main reason they never release it to public is the fear of attack from the community. It does not take any extra effort to release it but only a little bit of courage. The ‘movement’ is about giving people the courage to do it. Because think about it, the community will only benefit from the release of modded commercial GPL themes. The one who will possibly ‘attack’ is the 1% of the community who are either premium theme authors or very good friend to the premium theme authors.

However, the sad thing is, these 1% are sitting on top of the WordPress community right now, and in a way ‘controlling’ the community. And after 3 days of launching Premium Mod, I proved myself right. These top 1% of WordPress community (with a few exceptions) almost never mention Premium Mod directly because they thought if they kept their mouth tight, the rest of 99% will never know.

Leland: How have you dealt with the negative feedback on Twitter, blog comments, and elsewhere? Some have suggested you’re “exploiting” businesses based on selling GPL themes. How do you respond to that?

PM: The negative feedback sure has been enormous. I have tried my best to respond to every single feedback on both Twitter and blog. And yes, ‘exploit’ is probably the harshest word I have received so far regarding Premium Mod and it is certainly not true. I can only tell them that the commercial GPL premium themes providers are aware of the GPL license and chose it without anyone forcing them. GPL is GPL, not PR/marketing stunt.

Leland: What kind of support and encouragement have you received as a result of launching Premium Mod and releasing modified commercial GPL themes?

PM: The only guy who supported us on the first day was Ian Stewart (@iandstewart). He tweeted our website directly and argued about GPL with Nathan Rice (for more than 10 tweets! which is cool). Then, Elpie (@elpie) also contacted us regarding keeping the original copyright notice intact in the source file to comply with GPL and helped us set it up correctly. Andrew Rickmann (@andrew_rickmann) proposed that we should include the footer credit to the original author (though not a requirement) and Jeffro (@wptavern) came up with a suggestion on the format. Then we implemented it, of course. Lastly, the moderator (Len from of Weblog Tools Collection also permitted us to post our theme in their ‘New Themes Release’ forum because he is a ‘huge supporter of GPL’. All in all, the support and encouragement were great but sure far less than the critics and judgment (about the scale of 1:10).

Leland: So far you have only modded themes from WooThemes. Do you have plans to modify themes from other commercially supported GPL theme sites?

PM: Yes, because we are huge fans of WooThemes. And we do plan to modify themes from other commercial GPL theme sites. More to come (we try to release 1 theme per week).

Leland: Speaking of WooThemes, have you had any sort of correspondence with Adii or other WooThemes employees about Premium Mod? Any correspondence with other commercial theme authors? How have they responded (if at all)?

PM: I have sent an email to WooThemes about asking for their permissions to support our users if they sign up as WooThemes customers. So far, no response from WooThemes yet. I have not contacted any other commercial theme authors but briefly chatted with Brian Gardner. He seemed to be fine with supporting our users (if they sign up support with StudioPress), and actually, Brian is the one who came up with the idea.

Leland: Do you have any plans to monetize Premium Mod? Have you considered selling commercial theme modifications? As of now all the themes are available for free download.

PM: Everything from Premium Mod is free and will be free. In future, I might include advertisements and affiliate links. But right now, the focus is on the ‘movement’.

Leland: What happens when people come to you asking for support? Do you have plans to offer a support forum on your site? Would you rather strike up some sort of affiliate deal with WooThemes to forward them support customers? Do you think they’d be willing to support your modified versions of their themes?

PM: For now, there’s no support request yet. Once there are, the best solution is to foward these request back to the original premium theme sites (with the requirement of these users signing up with them). This will be a win-win solution for either party and I don’t think there are any reasons they reject this. If not, I will just have to put up a support forum on my site and support it on my best-effort basis.

Update: A quick update. I’ve just received response from WooThemes. Directly quoted as below:

“Unfortunately we cannot support WooThemes that have been modified by Premium Mod. We can only support themes that we have 100% developed ourselves in-house. I’m sure you can understand.”

Leland: You have private Whois on your domain name, no about page on your site, no real clue as to who you are. Why the secrecy?

PM: My original intention to the anonymity is to avoid any risk of legal complications until things cleared up. I will be revealing myself soon. :)


This interview was unedited aside from a couple fixed spelling errors and the added links. This GPL topic seems to be pretty controversial in the WP community so I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments.

What do you think of what Premium Mod is doing? Although their have been sites which have released modified versions of GPL themes for free, such as this one, this is the first site I’ve seen that’s sole purpose is to release modified commercial themes for free.

What do you think of releasing modified versions of paid GPL themes for free? What about unmodified versions of paid GPL themes for free? Remember, you can redistribute GPL themes if you want to, just as long as it stays open source.


Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.

  • Brian Gardner

    Great interview Leland, especially so quickly after the chat on Friday night. I wanted to clarify one thing before officially agreeing to supporting the “modded” themes – I would need to see the first modded StudioPress theme prior to release before agreeing that we’ll unconditionally support it. It’s just a way to make sure that we are in line with how the code is written, as our moderators have a lot of experience with my code. If the intent is to make changes to stylesheets, and the core code stays the same – not an issue.

    • Premium Mod

      Brian: Sure. We will inform you once we’ve released a StudioPress mod theme.

  • Leland

    Hey Brian, thanks for stopping by and clarifying that point. Seems like a reasonable request to check out the modded StudioPress theme first before agreeing to support it.

  • John (Human3rror)

    this is great. it was almost a matter of time until someone built something like this.

    it’ll be good for the community long term.

    • Premium Mod

      That’s what we thought too. Thanks for the support!

  • George Burley

    Here is my take on it…

    If you are going to mod a premium theme and release it for free, at least make it your own. Improve it. Make it better, make it cooler, make it nicer. Make people want it and not the original.

    Taking a premium theme, REMOVING features and changing very little does not improve upon the original. Anyone that has the original or purchases the original could do the same thing without very much work.

    Most of what you do is remove control panel features, remove sidebar features (or entire sidebars) and your changes are extremely small.

    You aren’t improving upon the original, you aren’t making them better. In fact, I think you have taken some good themes and made them worse.

  • Magnus Jepson

    Hey guys,

    Just to clarify Mark Forresters (on behalf of WooThemes) response to PremiumMod’s e-mail request:

    We can’t really see any way of incorporating PremiumMod’s “alternative” theme into our original theme. We just don’t see those modifications as improvements to our themes, but rather a minified/alternative version.

    If PM did improve on the original themes then we would probably incorporate that into the original theme code and give credit where it is due.

    By all means, he is free to modify them according to the GPL, but we just can’t give support on these modifications.

    Do you agree on our decision?

    Also, just a hypotethical question from me: What happens if PremiumMod and other similar sites start creating their own/similar versions of premium themes, and give them away for free, and that leads to profits declining for those creating the original themes for a living?

    Won’t this then lead to less “quality” themes on the market, because us premium theme authors have to find other sources of income?

    I’m not saying this will happen, I’m just putting it out there for debate ;)

    • Keith Donaldson

      That’s where I see the problem.

      If Premium Mod suddenly rockets — because people often can’t resist a ‘free premium’ theme — there will surely be other imitators.

      I have to admit you guys are being extremely calm about this, if someone was redistributing my theme (even with GPL) I would go crazy. I’d feel ripped off seeing someone remove a sidebar of my $70 theme and giving it away for free.

      I just hope this doesn’t get out of hand.

      • Premium Mod

        If you were afraid of someone redistributing your theme for free, then don’t release in GPL.

    • Premium Mod

      I’m actually quite disappointed with WooThemes’ decision of not supporting the modded theme.

      Here’s a question: what if a customer bought your theme, made a similar mod, and request for support. Would you response to their issue?

      • Adii

        The difference being that if our users modded the theme, we’d be supporting them. If we supported your users, um we’d be supporting YOUR users. There’s no business value in that; just like Red Hat wouldn’t support any of the spin-offs of their OS.

        • Xcobar

          The premiummoded themes are a subversion of the spirit of GPL, as in the name of a “good” thing, they do something that I consider immoral: usurp the work of others, worsen its quality, and give it away for nothing – and they still have the miss-concept that developers must to provide support.

          It may not be illegal, but certainly is not correct, nor contributes to the development of WordPress.

      • Barry

        Jeez Premium Mod. You modded the theme and released it. The modified version is now your theme. YOU support them.

  • Brian Gardner

    I will point out that taking a theme, making very few style changes and then releasing it really isn’t making the community better. (or the theme for that matter) That being said, I still feel that with all the talk and discussion about the GPL, I haven’t seen anyone step up and take a GPL theme and do something productive with it.

    It seems to me that folks who are doing anything with GPL themes fall into a few categories: 1) redistributing it for free, 2) redistributing it with very few (and usually not any better) changes or 3) just flat out re-selling the theme. Nowhere have I seen the actual intent of the GPL, which is truly taking something and making it better. In my eyes, the GPL movement so far has proven to be a loophole, rather than a beneficial license for the better cause of a community.

    • Bill Robbins

      I think we don’t see people “taking something and making it better” because most of the folks who are capable of that just make their own themes. From my experience most people who want to modify a GPL theme are re-release it are generally learning the ropes and just aren’t able to improve the themes yet. Once they have those skills, they generally just release their own themes.

    • Joel

      If a theme uses WP functions, then any PHP used in the theme is implicitly GPL (extreme oversimplification). So, “folks who are doing anything with GPL themes” pretty much lumps in the entire WP community, and the WP community doesn’t seem to be hurting just yet.

      All of this GPL talk is leading toward an interesting business model:

      Offer a “pay” theme framework which would sufficiently differentiate anything built on top of it from the inherited WP GPL (easier said than done). This way, theme developers would at least have the freedom to choose the license under which they release their work.

      I don’t have the time to execute something like this, but my guess is that someone eventually will if premium mod is the way things are going…there’s just too much money to be made.

  • Andrew

    The question for me is what is actually better? If someone can do much better than the current premium themers then why not do it and get paid for it?

    It seems to me as though most significant changes would be architectural rather than functional, something which would require more than a few tweaks.

  • Adii

    I’m potentially putting my own foot in my mouth here, but here’s my take (even though Magnus has responded on Woo’s behalf)… Premium Mod is not adding any value to any community. They’re releasing lite versions of our themes and everyone using those themes are missing out on the real Woo theming experience.

    If you wanted the code, then download our themes from any one of the many “piracy” sites out there. I don’t mind and it doesn’t affect our business.

    My gripe with the GPL BS is the fact that it’s supposed to go both ways. WordPress itself have benefit because thousands of people have contributed back to the core project. I’d venture to say that none of the supposed premium theme developers have benefited (as such) in going GPL. I’m still waiting for someone to really submit some code that we can actually use at Woo.

    So whilst I have absolutely no gripe with Premium Mod (why would I, when they’re releasing a watered-down version of our themes?), I still feel that we’re just overloading the WP community and that we’re still missing the point!?

    If it’s about open source and benefiting the supposed community, then let’s improve the themes. Heck – if I thought that Jason Schuller’s or Brian G’s themes were shit, I should e-mail them and suggest improvements. I could also submit the code that could supposedly improve their themes. But no – we’d rather have other people rip off great themes for the “movement”. (Please prove me wrong on that and flame me if appropriate.)

    Fact of the matter is that the WP theming community is a massive hoax compared to the core project. I salute guys like Ian Stewart, Joost de Valk, Nathan Rice & Justin Tadlock who I have learned a helluva lot from, because those are the true legends. I may have called myself a WP Rockstar in the past, but that’s only because I knew how to market myself. Most of the developers (the supposed newbies) in the scene at the moment though have never paid tribute to anyone that has gone before them and made the road a little bit longer.

    I think there are developers that has never received any credit, who are in fact entitled to a lot of WP love, but yet we ignore those. In addition to those I already mentioned, I believe Brian G, Jason Schuller, Small Potato, Nick Roach, Bhavesh (PremiumThemes) & a few others who I’m obviously forgetting, deserve a helluva lot of credit for the progress we’ve made in WP themes. And I’d obviously include the whole WooTeam in there, because I believe we’ve added value. But heck – whilst all of these people have learned from each other; we’ve all released something new and something unique… Something that ultimately improves WP theming in general.

    So whoever it is that is behind Premium Mod – you may have released 2 free WP themes in the past, but that doesn’t make you someone qualified to lead a movement (even though I can respect your willingness & initiative to start it). That’s no hard feelings from me either. But please add value when you’re re-releasing premium themes. Fact is (and that’s a FACT) – you’re better off releasing the themes as is, because the lite versions don’t mean anything to anybody.

    If you’re not adding value (and I’m looking at everyone here), rather don’t climb on the supposed “I’m the GPL Robin Hood” train. Add value if you want to. Don’t add value and still profit from that. But please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending otherwise.

    • Marc

      dude, I’m so tired of seeing your idiot opinion everywhere… please shut up.

      • Leland

        Let’s keep things civil. Do you have anything to contribute to the discussion? =)

      • Adii

        That’s your opinion and it’s fine. I’ll be totally arrogant though and say that I have personally contributed more to the WP theming community than most. If you haven’t contributed, then please don’t suggest that my opinions are “idiot”, because many wouldn’t even agree with you.

        • Eric

          I think more would agree than you think.

      • Eric

        I agree honestly. Adii and Brian you guys haven’t really did anything to contribute other than charge way to much for something so simple and get rich from it… im sorry but how is that helping the community? If you dont like GPL then get out the business.

        • Adii

          I’m not even entertaining ridiculous questions like that. Brian G is probably the grandpa (and he’s not *that* old) of premium themes. He in his own right has added more to the WP community than most of the developers that have supposedly released free themes.

          You are entitled to your opinion, but until you actually contribute something yourself, I will never feel as if your opinion has been justified. I maintain that there is people within the WP theming community that have received far less credit than they deserve.

        • Rob

          That book of yours gonna be a bomb i think… Warmin’ up? You may re-edit some spoiler blogposts =D

        • Josh

          I’m laughing to myself when I see comments like this. Woo Themes charges too much? LOL. Woo Themes in their framework alone saves me dozens of hours on each freelance project I tackle.

          Look as some of my freelance work and you wont be able to tell I use woo themes at all. I use Woo mostly for the framework they’ve created in each theme. $20/month to save me 40+ hours a month. Talk about value, service, and most of all tons of support. As a freelance developer, Woo Themes has become an essential part of my business model.

          Adii, Magnus, Mark, and the rest of the team, keep up the good work. Hopefully

      • Rob

        Actually I think that you are right in lots of points, but I strongly disagree with you in anothers…

        If you let people access your themes for free, you will get so many of code mod submissions, that you will need to employ another person just to check all those out.

        There is thousands of people who would like to buy your SUPPORT, but not the THEMES.

        From another fold: I mean that premiummod is runned by someone like Matt (sorry, if not, buddy), who is just pi**ed by so called “GPL THEME MARKET-O-PR”, so they did this to open some closed eyes… and that is why those themes are so stripped. Aren’t they?

        Did you actually donated Matt to acceess WP core files? I think you have very nice business on WP field, you couldn’t achieve it without GPLed WP core, would you?

        I love you, your themes and I DO UNDERSTAND that you feel grifted, but you aren’t, belive me.

        Be happy, this may be big thing to all of us. Including you and your business.

        Each thing looks good from some angle and bad from different. Why don’t try to check out all of those?

        Peace, my hero.

        • George Burley

          There download for free and pay for support model as far as WordPress themes goes is a complete failure. FAILURE. Don’t give me the “there are thousands of users…” spiel because the fact is theme developers like WooThemes would be committing suicide if they changed to this model.

        • Rob

          Yep. Just like Matt and automattic did with WordPress.
          I do really understand.

        • Adii

          @George – Maybe that’s entirely true, but that is more indicative of the failure of WP’s GPL nature than it is of premium themes’ business model.

        • Rob

          Checkpoint, buddy!

    • Basilakis

      Altough i agree with Adii on most of his comment (or post? o.O) u are wrong in one part.

      Some themes are really great and worked really good. A re-release is always usefull, when u have already agreed. And u should have seen that comming from when Matt have suggested the GPL licence.

      • Adii

        I don’t mind distribution. But I do believe that a simple re-release = something similar to piracy (simply because there’s no value added). So if anyone wanted to improve our themes (I can only speak for Woo), I’d hope that whilst they’d release those changes, they’d actually have the decency to e-mail us and contribute those changes back to WooThemes.

        • Basilakis

          Ok yes, now i can get the point better :)
          From that point of view, u are right 100%.

        • Ben Cook

          Adii, saying that simple re-release is something similar to piracy is exactly the attitude that makes people think your adoption was nothing more than a publicity stunt. The GPL clearly allows for redistribution, even if little or no changes are made.

          If you don’t like it, don’t license your themes under the GPL. It’s that simple.

        • Adii

          Redistribution adds no real value. That’s just my opinion and I don’t think that the GPL was designed purely to promote redistribution. Instead I think the GPL was created to foster innovation & improvement.

          Again – that’s just a personal opinion and I won’t necessarily let that influence any business decisions.

    • Anonymous WooThemes Customer

      Adii, I do think it’s quite hypocritical of you to be having a stab at anyone who tries to do anything with your GPL-licenses themes. Other than to get on Matt’s good side, what was the point of GPLing your themes in the first place if you’re going to cause a shitstorm every time someone does something which the licence allows? It seems so far that you’ve just used the whole GPL thing to make your company look good and to get you on the Themes page, yet you aren’t prepared to let the community get their bit out of it.

      I also think it’s quite unprofessional that you use your company’s Twitter account to try and get your customers to come and back you up on this post.

      You say that these theme modifications are just dumbed-down – “minified” – versions of your themes, but surely if you encourage modification and redistribution of your themes then people might be encouraged to develop bigger addons that are really cool and useful. Then, of course, it would have to be released as GPL and you could add it into your themes = value back to the community.

      And the worry about people not buying premium themes because of this? I’ve read a comment you’ve made in the past where you said that people would always buy WooThemes over some shady competitor because it’s the overall brand.

      Right now, the best thing for you to do would be to encourage these modifications, wait until some killer features get developed by the community and integrate them back into your own themes and build upon those. This way everyone wins.

      • Magnus Jepson

        I don’t think we are ever going to see anybody contribute back to theme developers in the same way as people contribute back to

        We have probably only received a handfull of contributions back to WooThemes in over a year of existence.

      • Adii

        Heck – I would’ve really loved this comment if a real person claimed ownership thereof. But yet again, most people tend to veer to the anonymous side… Anyway… I’ll respond in kind…

        As mentioned when we went to GPL… We didn’t do it for the exposure that the commercial themes page would give us (we didn’t even know about it at the time that we made the decision), as we could easily generate that traffic on our own. We went GPL, because in our hearts we had hoped that we would fuel the WP movement and our themes would be improvement. So whilst we have probably helped the core WP movement, our themes are yet to be improved by a non-Woo customer releasing modified versions of our themes.

        So as long as that doesn’t happen, the GPL is failing. It’s definitely not about WooThemes or StudioPress or Thesis; it’s about the people that are supposed to embrace the GPL that aren’t contributing value. That’s a nice, big #fail imo.

        • Ben Cook

          Adii, from the day you announced you were going GPL you’ve tried to intimidate and dissuade people from exercising the rights granted under that license.

          And yet you also complain about not getting enough contributions back to improve your code?

          Maybe if you changed your attitude and didn’t attack people for using the license YOU opted to release your themes under you’d see a bit more support or contributions.

  • Brad Potter

    This might be a noob question but it’s related to the conversation. I’m interested why we don’t see Automattic offering stripped down or full “premium” GPL themes at

  • Matt Propst

    PM your concept seems novel enough, however I have to side with Adii and the WooThemes guys. What value is added to the community by modifying something which those guys took the time and energy to create to only re-release for free. I would fully love your concept if you took the time to develop, from the ground up, your themes. Until i see unique work come from the entity that is PM, it seems as if you are trying to jump onto the success that WooThemes is having.

    • Adii

      I think the irony here is, that whoever is behind Premium Mod actually has unique value to offer. They obviously know what they’re doing and they can add immense value to the theming community. I also wouldn’t mind them improving our themes and releasing those changes for free.

      But ultimately it’s about adding value, instead of adding clutter.

      • Eric

        I have contributed plenty thank you. And Brian hasn’t contributed anything in a very long time. You cant just go around telling everyone they need to contribute something before they can speak. First off you dont know most of anyone here nor can you know if they have contributed anything or not. Most people in WP haven’t contributed anything what so ever (your customers) so would you tell them their opinion dont matter?

        • Brian Gardner

          Why exactly is it that you say I haven’t contributed anything in a long time? Please back up your statement.

        • Eric

          What is it you think you have? Your last 10 themes have either just been remakes or pretty much the same thing just re styled. I agree you made an inpact, but i also feel that impact was long ago. Feel free to back up yours…

        • Brian Gardner

          I don’t need to back up anything – the fact that before Revolution launched, I had developed more than 10 free themes. I have also recently had two more themes accepted into the WP theme directory, and the fact that I’ve made my current business model GPL in itself is giving back far more than anyone ever will. Whether or not I use my own code to base additional themes is my own way of doing things. If you think that the Black Canvas theme and my Lifestyle theme is the same theme… you are right. But they don’t look the same. And nor do any of our future themes that we are releasing.

        • Eric

          Well lets not base your saying that you have contributed to WP by what you are “planning” to do. Do it first please. And having a theme in the Wp directory isnt all that hard, i guess you havent seen most of the themes there. I also dought that making your themes GPL wassnt as much of your choice has you just wanted to do it for WP support and benefits. I also never said that you didnt do your part but i felt that it was some time ago. Why you keep attacking that i have no idea since you just stated my point over. And just because you do things “your way” doesn’t mean its a contribution to anything.

        • Brian Gardner

          I wasn’t attacking you – and I don’t need to worry about what I plan to do. As for some time ago, how can that be said when as recently as three days ago I submitted a free theme to be added into the WP theme directory?

        • Eric

          Simply making a theme isnt a contribution.. it has to be something no one has done before, something different.. I can make all the themes and plugins i want but that dont mean i have contributed anything, nor does it you.

        • Benjamin

          Contribution is defined as “something given or offered that adds to a larger whole”. So if you make a plugin or design a theme and “give it back” to the wordpress(.org) community… you ARE contributing back.

        • Ben Cook

          Eric, your ignorance of the English language (as reflected in multiple comments in this thread) makes it tough for me to take you seriously.

          The fact that you’re questioning Brian’s contribution to WordPress (both past and present) only proves that my instincts were correct.

          If you “can make all the themes and plugins you want” then please do. I’m sure the WordPress community would prefer that over what you’re “contributing” here.

      • Matt Propst

        Maybe then the solution is along with a theme release we also see a “Requested Improvements” list so that the theming community may try to get our hands dirty & help out. Until developers know what to change how do we modify your existing work without as you put it earlier, “water down” your work.

      • Adii

        Eric – You are full of shit. Full stop. If you want to claim any credit for any contributions (whilst also devaluing those of other WP developers), then please back it up by at least including your URL in your comment.,

        I’m sick of WP losers commenting anonymously. If you have an opinion, please own up to it. I’m happy to accidentally put my foot in my mouth every now and again, if that means that I’m being honest. At least I claim responsibility for the stuff I say. Own up dude. Otherwise just keep quiet, as you’re wasting everyone’s time.

        • Eric

          Most already know who i am, the reason im sure you and brian dont is you both have your heads so far up your rear that all your away of is what you think your doing to help everyone when really your just wanting to get your pockets full. Please dont think your going to hurt me with your little words, go ahead get mad, call me what ya will i dont care. And if i give you a link and you go have a look, even if you like what i do youll come here and attack it because your ego is sore at the momment.

        • Adii

          Eric – Come on dude. That’s just avoiding my obvious bait. Post a link to your contributions to the WP community and I’d be happy to put those in context of your criticism. If I’m wrong after that, I’d be more than happy to swallow all of my words.

        • Brian Gardner

          Ok, let’s stop being silly here – don’t accuse us of attacking when you’re the one telling us we have our heads up our butt. That’s just childish.

        • Eric

          haha i wish i could mate. ill shot you an email sometime after all this settles down. You and brian would have a fish fre though atm haha ;). Its honestly not that i dont like some of what you and brian have done. me, like most people in Wp now problem wouldn’t be here if not for you guys, and jason also was a big help for me. But i just think you guys need to see that not everything you do is a contribution, not every theme or plugin is a contribution. You guys talk about how someone working on your themes may not be a contribution and yet you dont see your own work and how much it is really contributing to the wp community.

        • Eric

          @ Brian.. real your buds comments dude. He said i was full of shit and called me a loser before i ever went to name calling or just out right attacking but yet your going to jump on me about what i say? see this is the reason i wont post my link. you guys have lost all emotion just to jump on me, you dont even see what you are saying first.

        • Brian Gardner

          I’m not jumping on anyone – nor am I name calling. I was simply defending the fact that you said I hadn’t contributed anything in a while. Moreover, I want to point out that both Adii and I have organized WordCamps, and have spend probably $1000’s of our own money for that, as well as other things that have brought something back to the community.

        • Eric

          Im sorry… did you not call me childish? I hadn’t called you anything.. Honestly guys come on… I tried to keep this civil and yet you both go to name calling, then calling me childish when i try to say something back, haha.

          How is Wordcamp a contribution Brian? I agree its fun, and some great information.. but honestly how is Wordcamp a contribution to the WP community considering 99% of WP users and authors will never go to one

        • Magnus Jepson

          Isn’t 1% contributing?

          Can you please define what exactly a “contribution” is in your language?

        • Eric

          What is it that WordCamp contributes to the WP community? its not a hard question?

        • Magnus Jepson

          Is that a rethorical question?

        • Eric

          OMG, dont answer it then, you cant i know because it doesn’t.

        • Benjamin

          Training, education, networking… these are all aspects that bring growth to a community. And these are all aspects as to which the many different WordCamps add to the community.

        • Brian Gardner

          Spending time and money to a promote a platform and it’s community is a contribution in my book.

        • Eric

          Thats all possable though without Wordcamp, and since only about 1% of Wp will ever go to one the impact will not make a difference. I agree they are fun and great to go to but it does not benefit the community in any way. All wordcamp did is make somehitng that was easy, and make it harder becouse now you have to pay, and travel.

        • Magnus Jepson

          Any venue that promotes WordPress’s name in a good light is a contribution in my book.

        • Eric

          @ Brain if i spent a ton of money on it i would think so too. But i fail to see how Wordcamp has done anything, im not trying to be mean i really want to know.. What did Wordcamp do that wasn’t passable before that is such a big help now?

        • Eric

          How does it promote WordPress? everyone there already knows about wordpress.

        • Magnus Jepson

          So you are saying that WordCamp’s are totally worthless, and not contributing in any way back to WordPress’s growth?

          Why can’t you contribute in your way in addition to WordCamps?

        • Brian Gardner

          Not discussing this one anymore – ask Matt how the incredible amount of WordCamps and those who have attended has benefited WordPress.

        • Eric

          @Magnus Jepson
          Im sorry i didn’t know that wordpress wasn’t growing until Wordcamp came along. I dont have the money to place in WC or trust me i would love to help in lots more ways. Which i guess since im not rich you guys will use that against me too.

        • Benjamin

          Actually Wordcamps could be said that they are the true reflection of GPL. A group of people (ranging from casual users to core developers) participating and sharing ideas and code.

        • Eric

          Yes im sorry also i forgot that wasn’t possible before WC… did WC not do anything that wasn’t possible before, or did it just charge you for things you can already do?

  • Gilbert

    I’m going to add my opinion again here after already speaking to PremiumMod.

    As a WP theme developer it does feel like we are being undermined here. We get paid for creating theme’s that are of a far higher standard (than most free themes) and spend a decent amount of time doing it. We also offer support and sometimes help customizing themes. GPL or not that’s what your paying for: someone’s skill and time.

    So using GPL as an excuse to offer cut back versions of premium theme’s just doesn’t sit right with me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that, and what PremiumMod are doing is totally legit (and responded in a very professional matter I might add). However on ethical/moral ground I have to politely disagree.

  • Chris M

    This is going to get interesting.

    If PremiumMod gets enough market coverage, it’ll be intersting to watch what sort of impact it has on the market which concerns commercialised premium theme designers\developers.

    • Brian Gardner

      My biggest question, and something that I am possibly reconsidering is what will PM do when he/she gets inundated with support requests. I doubt very seriously that they will be willing to support 100’s or 1000’s of people a day for free. It’s just not reality.

      • Eric

        I do agree with this. Plus i think each person downloading these themes needs to be made aware that the original author may not support them or else we may all get overwhelmed with questions.

      • Chris M

        Brian – SPOT ON, that was the first thing that came to my mind. I know with WooThemes that they offer a brilliant support forum and without that, a great number of people would be lost and not be able to see the value in the themes!

        • Adii

          Cheers Chris; appreciate the backup! :)

        • Chris M

          Yar, it’s one thing grabbing a theme, modifying it and re-releasing it, that’s a piece of cake, but 90% of the people buying these themes need help with them and the value that proper support offers is what makes it worth spending the money (not limited to this, obviously).

        • Brian Gardner

          I know for a fact that anyone who has purchased a StudioPress theme, a Woo theme or a Thesis theme will tell you that the $50-$80 they plunked down on a theme was MORE than worth it because of the support they received.

        • Keith Donaldson

          What if this guy starts making money?

          It said in this post that after the site grows he intends on adding advertisements and affiliate links (but why affiliate links if there’s nothing to purchase on the actual site?).

          If the site starts making money, I guess he could hire someone. But I doubt that will ever happen.

        • Ben Cook

          Keith, when I considered doing something similar to PM, the idea was to offer the themes for free and point them to the original theme creators to purchase the package that would provide support.

          The fact of the matter is that by licensing your theme under the GPL you’re essentially selling support.

          As Brian mentioned, I would GLADLY pay $50-$150 for lifetime support of any of these themes. And, being the source of the code, the theme authors will ALWAYS be the best place to buy that support.

          That’s what I think Brian has realized (and done a great job of addressing) while Adii and WooTheems doen’t yet seem to fully understand.

        • Josh

          From someone who is a woothemes member and purchased thesis, both companies are superb in what they offer as far as support.

  • Keith Donaldson

    I think this is turning into a desicion over whether the themes released by Premium Mod actually add anything to the themes over at WooThemes.

    My take on it is that, once the site gets more popular — Which it most probably will — people will end up asking the author for the themes themselves, instead of modded ones. It’s pretty simple to remove a column from a theme and call it your own.

    But are Premium Mod are adding anything to the community? Well, I guess they are contributing to the ‘Cant pay’ side of the community, but not the enthusiasts who live and breathe WP.

    GPL is a confusing thing. First time Leland mentioned this, all I could think of was ‘Illegal’. Then he explained the way GPL worked, and I was pretty astonished to be honest. But I guess you can’t beat the system.

    Let’s just hope this debate doesn’t turn into an argument.

    P.S Leland, I smell a WPChat session with this topic ;) Hah.

  • Gavin Elliott

    A bear fact, everyone on this planet is here to make money. The world revolves around it, even Charities run daily on it (not on good faith). Starting a ‘movement’ to build an ego (as that is how it looks) is confusing to say the least. You’d make more people happy, make yourself more money and build your own personal brand larger by giving something of worth back to the community.

    It’s discrediting any designers/developer’s worth that ever spends time working on WordPress Themes no matter who they are from.

    Amending some code and giving a theme away for free is no more than downloading a pirated version, changing the code and putting it back up on the pirate website.

    I can’t see a logical argument here and can see this discussion quickly changing back to whether the GPL licence is ethical in its current standing.

  • Brad Potter

    If WooThemes and StudioPress themes are offered for free soon after their official release and this so called “movement” gains widespread popularity, it could possibly affect the revenue of those theme developers. That in turn could stifle premium theme development. This would have a trickle down effect on many businesses like mine who use commercial/premium themes for client projects and make decent money doing so. We depend on the innovation created from premium theme developers who’s incentive is making a good living from the revenue generated by theme sales and support.

    Why on earth would I want to encourage a movement that could have an impact on one of “my” sources of revenue?

    • Adii

      That’s one of the best comments I’ve ever seen in this regard. Spot on Brad and ultimately basic economics still apply; irrespective whether you are a massive corporate or a fun-loving, open-source contributor.

      • Rob

        Yes, because it is looking at the issue from YOUR point of view… There is 359 more…

    • Chris

      It seems like every defender in this debate (Adii, Brian, and Brad here) are defending their own stream of income. While I don’t have any problem with you making money, the GPL is about everyone, not just you.

  • Basilakis

    U should altough take a better look on that matter. It is not only about WooThemes, but every theme developing team, will have to deal with that later on.

    They are lucky, they have started with WooThemes. Once again, they will see how Adii and the rest team will act, and they will have once again a great example…

  • Matt Propst

    I just want more info from PremiumMod. Perhaps Leland can do an interview with both Adii and the mysterious PremiumMod. The more information we can get on PremiumMod’s concept, the easier I think it will be to understand it, and hopefully the more beneficial it could be for the community.

    • Adii

      I’d be happy to answer any questions btw. :)

      • Jeffro

        I have one. With all this blabla stuff about GPL and whatever, have you given any more thought to dual licensing WooThemes? It’s starting to sound more and more like this is a commercial GPL theme authors best bet to not only allow the code to be free and open in line with end user freedoms, but also retain come rights with copyright, trademark etc on the other side of the coin.

        • Adii

          Matt drinks beer (I thought he was a red wine type of guy)!? :) Would love to share a few with him and get some of his personal insight on the matter.

        • mkjones

          He sure does. He was throwing back pints at WordCampUK with Mike Little and co :)

      • Adii

        Jeffro – The irony is that in an ideal world all of us would love for the GPL to succeed i.e. all premium themes are available to a bigger range of people and the improvement those people can potentially make to the themes, are contributed back to the core project,.

        Reality is thought that the GPL has failed completely in the theming community, unlike plugins & the core WP project. That doesn’t mean that Woo or anyone else is necessarily considering changing license; it just means that we will vehemently defend our ground in discussions (with a bunch of BS accusations) like this.

        • Brian Gardner

          ^ ditto

        • Jeffro

          A damn shame that for the past year or so, lots of effort and work went into convincing commercial theme authors to switch to being full on GPL because of the benefits of both end users and developers but it doesn’t seem to have paid off. I mean, there was Brian G, Jason Schuller and Cory Miller sitting with Matt having god knows how many beers talking about it and at the end of the night, iThemes goes GPL, etc.

          I think the movement of PM is all wrong. I think something that all theme authors would get behind is for people to take the GPL code in commercial themes, analyze it to the public and enable people to learn from it, to empower them to create equal or better products that are also GPL in which the original theme authors could incorporate. I have yet to see anyone write a blog post that takes a cool feature in a theme and then breaks it down for others to learn how it was done. We need more of that attitude and movement rather than what is taking place at PM.

        • Brian Gardner

          Like I said, GPL has proven to be a loophole for others to exploit our work.

        • Ben Cook

          Brian, surely you saw the loophole coming though right? I mean this can’t have come as a surprise.

          If you and other premium theme authors thought that you’d get a bunch of contributions etc back in exchange, I think you were either sold a bill of goods by Matt or perhaps were just too optimistic.

          However, I think you specifically have done a great job of accepting the GPL and pointing out that with any theme purchase, the support is where the REAL value lies.

          I think other premium theme authors would do well to take a page from your book on this issue.

    • Brian Gardner

      I think it’s pretty simple what is going on.

  • Jeffro

    All I have to say is thank god I don’t do WordPress themes for a living.

    • Hyder

      Aww…come on in. The waters great!

  • Gavin Elliott

    All Premium Theme creators offer a product however, this is secondary to the main part of their business. The main part is support. I would hate to even hazard a guess at a total number of support requests and responses from all Premium Theme creators as a whole. You simply can’t live by providing themes for free then providing support without getting paid. If you get paid it takes the pain away (slightly) of having to provide it.

    If you don’t get paid, the time you can allow to support requests is minimal. Believe me PM, your ‘movement’ will falter very very fast when the Premium Theme companies do not support the changes that you’ve been making and you have to do the support yourself. The amount of support requests you will get from free themes will be in there thousands and as soon as you can’t answer them in quick succession you’ll be flamed and lose your ‘community movement’ very fast.

    People will pay for service support over anything else in life.

    • Brian Gardner

      StudioPress has over 80,000 support threads in our forum – my guess is that Woo has around the same, if not more. I hardly doubt anyone is willing to put that kind of man hours into it “just to be a part of a movement.”

      • Gavin Elliott

        Hi Brian. 80’000 an incredible number from just one supplier. No one, in their right mind would do that for a ‘movement’, like I said above the whole idea behind PM is illogical.

        • Brian Gardner

          My bad, 80,000 posts – while 16,000 threads. Nonetheless a whole lotta support.

    • Premium Mod

      “The amount of support requests you will get from free themes will be in there thousands and as soon as you can’t answer them in quick succession you’ll be flamed and lose your ‘community movement’ very fast.”

      My answer is: we don’t know that yet.

      As a matter of fact, literally hundreds of free themes and plugins with support only based on ‘best effort basis’ are still here (after years).

  • Keith Donaldson

    This will be like a chain reaction:

    First it hits the theme developers, like StudioPress and WooThemes.
    Then those who rely on these themes to run their business.
    Then it affects the buyers of the themes.

    And it could even go down to that theme developers find that their isn’t any money to be made in WP anymore, since their work’s just gonna get ripped. So they move to Tumblr or someting.

    Now that, is a big loss for the community.

    So I don’t see how this site could benefit the community itself. Maybe at the beginning, where it’s all in “good spirits”. But after a while, this could end up as a complete and utter disaster. Time will tell.

    • Ben Cook

      First of all, the GPL premium theme developers opted to do this. Sure Matt put pressure on them to do so and has called non GPL themes “evil” but it was still their choice.

      Also, blatant piracy has always been an issue with premium themes and was going on well before the themes were GPL. I doubt this will really cut into their bottom line all that much.

      The support offered when purchasing premium themes is MORE than worth the price you pay and as Brian has pointed out several times in this thread, no one is going to do all that for free. Plus, who knows the themes better than their original authors?

      That’s why, IMO, premium themes will do FINE even with the GPL licensing being used like this.

  • Ahmed

    Hey , I totally agree with woothemes team

    All the released modified themes are less quality than the current released so this mean the modifier just removing codes from the themes and not adding any new to it . This kind of modifying is just another name of rapping themes Sorry this what i think

    If you cant add new to the themes then stop damaging it

  • Premium Mod

    Thanks again to Leland for the interview and all of those who have responded. I already smelled a 2nd interview in the process.

    If any of you need my response on any specific comment, please let me know.

    My conclusion is this simple mantra: let the community decide.

    If the community decided that PM are full of s***, PM will die eventually. Other wise, PM will thrive with the movement, regardless of what.

    • Magnus Jepson

      Why not contribute something new back to the community? That way Premium Mod would never die :)

      • Premium Mod

        But that would completely miss the point of starting Premium Mod in first place.

        • Magnus Jepson

          Yes, but it would still be an approach that has proved successful for WooThemes and all other theme authors.

          Creating something original will far longer outlive copying somebody elses work, even though you have the right to do so.

          Our intent of having a GPL license is so you can copy parts of our code that you find useful and use in your projects, without any restrictions on license.

          But you are not actually creating anything are you? You are simply rearraring our code.

        • Rob

          And that’s fine with GPL, ain’t it?

  • Muhammad Haris

    I will be completely honest to you. You’re not adding any value to the themes modded by you but instead you’re exploiting the glitches of the GPL license.

    Please don’t demotivate the people in the theme industry of WordPress where there is still a lot of potential and fun.

  • Francis

    I would be really curious to see Matt’s reaction here !! :P

  • JaredB

    I’m not sure if the “calling the GPL Bluff” reference was a reference to my tweet to PremiumMod ( or whether that phrase has been floating around elsewhere around this issue, but I felt I should clarify what I meant by that.

    It seems to me that it all started around the time that Matt started being more vocal about the fact (or legal opinion, as some may perceive it) that WP themes must be released under the GPL since they are derivative works of WordPress itself.

    Rather than argue with Matt on this issue (which they rightly recognized would probably not be a successful approach), many “premium” theme authors decided that they would begin releasing their themes under the GPL, in compliance with the “official” position that Matt was advocating.

    So far, so good. The problem was that shortly afterwards it became obvious that a lot of the “premium” people who were releasing under the GPL weren’t truly embracing the license for what it was, but rather they didn’t want to go against Matt’s position.

    I saw comments and statements floating around regarding the issue of people redistributing these GPL themes (for free or for pay), ranging from “that’s not cool” all the way up to threats of litigation. This attitude is so completely wrong.

    Releasing *anything* under the GPL is explicitly giving permission for anyone who receives it to redistribute it (for free or pay), so long as they also do so under the GPL. If that’s not what these theme authors wanted, they shouldn’t have released it under the GPL.

    Anyone desiring to redistribute GPL software does *not* need to ask permission from the original person they obtained it from. They do *not* need to make sure it’s kosher with the business model that the original distributor is trying to maintain. If there is any conflict arising between the free redistribution of these themes and the “premium” business models of those originally creating them, that fault lies entirely with the person who decided to release them under the GPL, because in doing so they granted that permission (and others).

    That’s essentially what I meant by the “GPL bluff” – I got the feeling that a lot of these theme authors really had no desire to release under the GPL (with everything that means), and that they only did so because it was the kosher thing to do after Matt made his position known.

    I got the very clear sense that what they’d really like is to continue to do business as usual; selling themes and giving people grief if they tried to redistribute them. The problem is that position is totally inconsistent with the license they’ve chosen to distribute under.

    • Leland

      Jared, it was a reference to your tweet. Should have probably linked to it so people would know what I was referring to.

    • Francis

      I think that Premium themers that did not choose to go GPL won’t go for it now !! ;-)

    • Rob

      Thank you very much, you just made my day! There is more than single (me) person that bothered reading GPL.

    • Rob

      Simply assuming that you GOT the idea of GPL wrongly (and you hate yourselves for doing so) is satisfying a bit more.

      • Magnus Jepson

        You shouldn’t assume so easily…

        Do you really think we didn’t know how GPL works before we licensed all our themes 100% GPL? ;)

        • Robert

          You are right, Magnus.

          You got the idea right, because you are good at ad and buzzing.

          You are awesome developers and I don’t think that you didn’t anything for the community.

          I love WOO and I love your work (really), building WOO is one of the best things that ever happened to WP community, and your ideas and work are one of pieces of the base of the WP community (that was nasty), but you WERE aware of what will happened after your switch to GPL… It was just matter of time.

          This thing at PM doesn’t look so bad for WOO at all.
          All of the commenters were dreaming up with bad scenarios, but I really think that your company is only learning a lesson to help it to grow to be really GPL.

          To be honest – I think this is realy nasty hustle to make your company (and the others, which are following your lead) to give BACK to the community (50 themes and 5 or 6 free? are you joking?).

          And it is good and I love it.

        • Magnus Jepson

          I think we were aware what would happen. But isn’t this whole discussion about if this is a good or a bad thing?

        • Rob

          I’m sorry, but NOPE. You should read whole storz again. (POST_TITLE = “INTER…”

          this might be eye-opener… And I am happy that you replied.

          Really: Make some “kind of hidden… perhaps SVN only…” access to theme developers (which are really moving your accounts numbers) to the theme code and you will get the fruits you want to, if you want to use this way…. End premium theme customers doesn’t make impact. But the site admins does. Those are firends of Woo…

          What do you think of what Premium Mod is doing? Although their have been sites which have released modified versions of GPL themes for free, such as this one, this is the first site I’ve seen that’s sole purpose is to release modified commercial themes for free.

          What do you think of releasing modified versions of paid GPL themes for free? What about unmodified versions of paid GPL themes for free? Remember, you can redistribute GPL themes if you want to, just as long as it stays open source.

  • David Coveney

    Back when we managed to find ourselves in the middle of one of the earlier GPL/WP arguments over at around a year ago I said that if commercial themes are released under the GPL then there would be nothing to stop others from simply redistributing the hard work of the originators. Simply put, we felt forced into the GPL market and we weren’t convinced that it would form the basis of a healthy business model.

    If the bulk of your income is derived from intellectual property, then you have to work out the risks. You can put GPL code behind a paywall, but if someone can rip off that code for a small fee then at some point somebody will do just that.

    There’s little in the way of support money to be made from many themes – they should, after all, just work.’s support forums have tumbleweed running through them, and well over 90% of members have never made a single comment. OK, we don’t have that many members, but they do come in.

    I can guarantee that if WooThemes, Brian Gardner, Nathan Rice and so on started to offer free downloads of all their themes their sign-up rates would plummet.

    Yes, Automattic have done well from WP and the GPL, but their business model is most definitely not the same as those of WooThemes, StudioPress and so on. The Automattic model is based on big numbers – creating a company that uses venture capital to build a large enterprise in the future. If you consider that they have 1m active users then you have advertising potential there is in the order of $100m per annum.

    Curiously, I believe a lot of themes club members actually don’t realise the range of freedom the GPL gives, so as long as there aren’t lots of people shouting about legally free versions of themes elsewhere, there is still a business to be made. But the moment the WordPress market starts to mature the position for many themes clubs will look increasingly precarious.

    The GPL is great, but it’s not a panacea. Trying to be a disruptive presence in the premium themes arena isn’t a nice thing to do, but I’m not surprised it’s happened.

  • imran

    I have been a customer of Woothemes since ever they started the Woothemes club ( I am an end-user ) and I don’t think PM would keep me buying from Woothemes in future, for many reasons first of all their first class support that I think is what matters most to me and most of the end-users and 2ndly I don’t think I would rely on someone else’s code considering the standards have been set by Woothemes.

    having said that, I can’t figure why Woothemes or StudioPress need to release their themes under GPL ? As an end-user I liked the Idea to use the single licensed theme on as many blogs as i want (by the way who need to have more than a couple of blogs). But I don’t think that actually is required to Go GPL or is there something I am missing.

    • Magnus Jepson

      We aren’t required to go GPL with 100% of our theme. As the Free Software Foundation declared, we can license our CSS and images how we please.

      We decided not to take the half and half route because we believe the “community” will make good use of our code, yet not copy us.

      The GPL license allows for a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean everybody needs to live by it. Use it wisely, don’t exploit it.

      • Nathan Rice

        Actually, my article suggests that the entire theme (PHP and all) could theoretically run independently of WordPress, and therefore isn’t subject to the viral nature of the GPL.

        The dual-licensing option is still there, but from what I can tell, licensing the entire theme restrictively has no legal implications. Matt won’t take too kindly to it, but I doubt he’d be very happy with a dual license either.

        • Ben Cook

          Matt also won’t actually DO anything about it other than piss and moan and take cheap shots during interviews.

          As long as you have thick skin that shouldn’t be a problem to deal with.

        • David Coveney

          Uhm, if you want to contribute to themes then you, all your themes, and all themes and sites that you link to, have to be GPL. The great theme withdrawal of 2008 showed the Automattic (and to a degree, that of the developers) stance.

          At the end of the day, lots of people run business around WordPress. And so does Matt and Automattic. Matt has reasons over and beyond ‘for the good of the community’ to take the stance he has taken. And that’s his choice – he’s entitled to it.

          There will always be trouble in any environment where you mix money and volunteering, even if those who make the money are happy to make contributions for free. I think all or most of the themes clubs have high quality themes available for free, but for some that will never be enough.

  • Francis

    Seems that my comment got lost but that would be really interesting to have Matt’s reaction here !! :D

    Coming back to the discussion, I really agree with Adii and Woo team. I really don’t see what PM is bringing here to the community. I mean, what they do is legitimate but to me is not moral at all. If they would make great improvements to existing themes, that would be really interesting, but here I don’t really understand the point. Since people like Adii, Brian or Jason sell their themes, the quality in WordPress themes went high, and I think it is not really fair to rip the job of people who spent a lot of time making themes. I mean even if you can, that is really not moral…

    But at the end, I think the real problem may be GPL no ?

  • Bob Dunn

    Wow, this was a lot of stuff to ingest, and hoping I don’t spew it all over the place. My first initial thought is I’m not a big fan of Premium Mod. But in the end, the users will make the decision.

    But I do want to just flash back on the support issue. I recommend premium, paid themes to almost all of my clients. And the majority come from WooThemes, Studio Press and iThemes. And a lot of those clients before were using “free” themes, and now, would never go back.

    As said, the support is amazing. Also, updated themes follow updated WP. In fact, I remember one iTheme I had that wasn’t working with 2.8. I went to the forum, explained my problem and was told it was a glitch that needed to be fixed. Within 24 hours I had an updated theme, problem fixed.

    I totally support paying for these premium themes and feel they are justified in charging for them. Having been in biz for almost 17 years, you get what you pay for.

  • Nathan Barry

    Wow, this discussion is getting ridiculous.

    Just a few specific thoughts:

    @PM – For taking premium GPL work and distribute it for free, I think you are handling it fairly well. It had to be done by someone (in a prominent way). Though it would be better if you enhanced the themes, rather than making a light version. Good luck with your venture.

    @Brian Gardner – I have a ton of respect for you and the impact you have made on the WP theme community. Nice work. Though if I were in your position I probably wouldn’t waste too much time with a discussion like this.

    @Adii – Your themes are kick-ass! Seriously, I am impressed. Though honestly I have enjoyed following the growth of WooThemes (as a business) even more.


    In reality the users who download WordPress hundreds of thousands of times each week down give a damn about these discussions. All they care about is quality code & great support for a good price. Thus I don’t think sites like PM will affect the premium theme developers at all.

    • Brian Gardner

      No worries Nathan, I only started in on the conversation once my contribution to WordPress was in question.

      • Nathan Barry

        Just know that everyone who has been around the community for a while knows of your contributions!

        In fact, Matt has mentioned you at every WordCamp I have been at!

      • Eric

        …. Did i say you never contributed anything? nope.

  • Design Informer

    I just want to say that I’m with Adii and Brian on this, that’s all.

    • Nathan Barry

      Yep, I agree.

  • Bookworm

    I’m making a rare foray into the GPl debate here, I primarily witness things from the sidelines and rarely if ever step into the ring. Its not because I’m afraid, its just that Ian Stewart and Nathan Rice never let anyone else have use of the ring.

    Hopefully I can shed some light on the issue, I’ve been told I have a rare talent for expressing what others are thinking. Although according to my little sister, I simply have a talent for stating the obvious. Little sisters are so annoying.

    Everyone is throwing the term “value” around assuming there is a shared understanding of what it means in the context of the WP community. Take Eric for example, he is under the impression that value is measured in original code creation.

    Given that definition of value it is easy to see why he thinks Brian Gardner has not contributed value for awhile. And by extension, there hasn’t been allot of value since the golden age of WP theming. Poor Eric.

    For most users this definition of value simply isn’t true. Most users find value in the theme itself and the value they find in GPL is solely because it eases distribution to clients and their use of the theme. With GPL there is no complicated licensing options to choose from, or (god forbid) serials to enter. They know that they pay for the theme and then they’re good to go without any issues.

    Most users just want to use the theme and they want it to be as easy and clear as possible.

    It is from this perspective that I find the PremiumMods model to be disturbing. This is just going to make the process of getting a theme harder and more confusing for users.

    Users are going to have questions run through their minds questions that they will want to see instant answers to.

    What do I get from PremiumMods. The original wootheme? A nice design modification? Whom do I get support from? PremiumMods is not making things clear and it seems to me that they themselves are not sure what they’re going to be.

    This is the problem most premium theme creators have, their thinking runs along the lines of “Please don’t muddle my business, either contribute to mine or create your own”. The fear is that PremiumMods will confuse their user base and take value away from their business.

    The problem premium theme creators have is with the hijacking of their business. They have no issue with the creation of separate businesses around their themes or contributions to their business itself. What PremiumMods is doing is something akin to community piracy, a kind of robbing of brand value so to speak

    This is the biggest problem in my mind with the GPL there is no protection of brand, anyone is free to re-distribute in any manner and confuse users. Drupal and Joomla! have recognized this and that is why their names are now trademarked and protected.

    Matt should step up to the plate and provide some sort of “platform” to help commercial GPL theme creators protect their brands and by extension their community of customers. And no a official theme provider directory does not serve this purpose it is simply not enough.

  • Simon North

    I’m not going to for one second think that I’m a big player in the WP community but I do release commercial wordpress themes and have been for a couple of years now.

    My views on GPL are mixed, as a producer of commercial themes I don’t like the idea that someone can get my themes and then redistribute it freely (I sell my themes through ThemeForest and they license the PHP stuff under the GPL but not graphics/css so hopefully I’m covered), but on another view some of the code I use in my themes is GPL.

    I take issue with PM taking themes and releasing them for free and try to justify it by taking out a sidebar, that’s just not on even if its in the rules, look at MP expenses in the UK lately, just because you’re allowed it doesn’t mean its right to claim a moat to be cleaned on tax payers money.

    I also have to take issue with something else, how did PM get the themes in the first place, are you seriously going to be buying every theme that you are going to release as free, how will you afford that.

    I don’t think what PM is doing is going to help the community in any way, you’re just discouraging people like me spending time producing good quality themes, you’re going to end up with crap themes that don’t do anything special.

    To WooThemes and Brian and anyone else who produces premium themes my view is to take the GPL off the css and images, obviously you cant trust people as PM is proving.

    • Rob

      …just because you’re allowed it doesn’t mean its right to claim a moat to be cleaned on tax payers money…

      WTF? Where did you get TAX stuff here? Are you MENTAL?

      • Simon North

        No I’m not mental I was using the analogy of what has been happening in the UK government the last few months where the politicians were using tax payers money to claim for stuff that they shouldn’t have been doing but was in the rules that they could and the public reaction to it. It was an EXAMPLE of the point I was putting across, please read what I say and don’t call me mental.

        • Rob

          Sorry for misuderstanding your local EU issue (thanks god that I left EU when Vaclav Klaus signed the Lisbon Treaty)… I heard aboout some hardcore activities inside the UE after accepting the treaty…

          Please, sorry me for misunderstanding. Thanks

        • Simon North

          No worries

  • Bookworm

    Oops I apologize for the double comment there.

    • Leland

      Just removed one of them. Hope you didn’t have to type that whole thing twice, lol.

  • Sarah

    From what I see, PM is just another person so desperate to break into the WP world that they are going to do it by being controversial using a link-bait site and leech off the efforts of the Premium Developers.

    I mean, come on, if you had any skills as a Developer PM, why wouldn’t you just make your own themes. No, instead, you take this path.

    BTW, you say … “The main reason they never release it to public is the fear of attack from the community.”; maybe they don’t release it because they aren’t sleaze-bags that take other peoples work, change something, & then try to say they are a theme developer.

    JaredB … you say: “Anyone desiring to redistribute GPL software does *not* need to ask permission from the original person they obtained it from. They do *not* need to make sure it’s kosher with the business model that the original distributor is trying to maintain. ” … just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

    Of course, there are lots of unscrupulous people, like PM, out there that will justify things because they have a poor moral compass!

    • JaredB

      @Sarah – It most certainly is “the right thing to do”, in the sense that there’s nothing wrong with it.

      That’s my whole point. People who distribute using the GPL are explicitly giving permission for this to happen. To turn around and say “that’s not cool” or it’s “not the right thing to do” is completely hypocritical.

      If that isn’t what they wanted, they only have themselves to blame, because they specifically gave permission for it by releasing under that license.

      Again, this is why I called it a “GPL bluff”; people arguing against this use are very obviously not supporting the intent of the GPL, even though they have chosen to release their software under its terms.

      • Brian Gardner

        Jared, supporting the intent of the GPL would include taking a product, making it unique, furthering development and overall offering something back that is tangibly better than it was before. Not taking a product, stripping something down, changing one line of css and redistributing it.

        • Rob

          Dear Brian, you can stop supporting your GPL themes (again) and move to the closed source (but you need to build new themes, there is no way to get GPL back to “closed source”. Ritchie Stallman ain’t a noob, you know. He exactly know what is he doing and i strongly suggest all to see the movies “CODE LINUX” and “REVOLUTION OS”…
          Do you even bother that your dear WP wouldn’t run without GPLed Apache? Oh, god! What about PHP? MySQL? Do you NOW feel that you NEED to give back something? I know that CORE theme = ALL STUDIOPRESS THEMES, but did you awared users? Did you give him some nice homepage to that “usual” wp theme? Nope? You think that they could do it alone? Without any help? Them?
          Those, who can help themselves, doesn’t need and won’t buy your subscirption.

          You should start to see that black and white hat communities are NOW and HERE trying to make some kind of AGREEMENT, which would HELP whole WP COMMUNITY (THE WP DILEMA IS: theme authors (want money) => web builders (want money) => end users (want web and want to give money up), noone is left behind, everyone is happy) but PREMIUM theme authors does’t look to be helping this exceptionally awesome stuff.

          Ain’t this it?

          Ain’t it MISUNDERSTANDING of GPL? Really, look at the issue deep. Check it out.

          Will it bring some customers (web builders could become theme distribution services)?

          …It is just a question… You are one of my heroes…

        • JaredB

          I disagree, and so does the text of the GPL.

          It might be your opinion that it would be nice if they were to improve on the theme before redistributing it, but that certainly isn’t required by the license.

          All I’m saying is that if the “premium” theme devs aren’t OK with that, they shouldn’t have used the GPL.

          Attempting to tack on additional restrictions beyond what the GPL states (even in the form of “that’s not cool”, etc.) is disingenuous.

        • Brian Gardner

          For the sake of saying, I’m not against the GPL, nor am I saying that people shouldn’t make derivative works with my themes.

        • Brian Gardner

          Jared, I’m not saying what people should or shouldn’t do with the GPL license and our themes. I’m just saying it’s sad that folks haven’t actually done anything to improve them so far. I know black and white that what people are doing is legal per the terms of the GPL.

        • JaredB

          OK, I get that. I do think it would be great if people chose to improve them as well, so no argument on that side.

          What I have a big problem with is implying that the people who don’t choose to do that are jerks. They aren’t. They’re using the software under the terms of the license it was given to them with.

          Again, if there is a problem with that, the fault lies with the one who chose to distribute under that license, which explicitly allows it.

        • Brian Gardner

          Where do I say (or imply) that those folks are jerks? All I’ve ever said is that it’s sad they choose to handle the GPL in a way which I feel doesn’t benefit the community.

        • JaredB

          Sorry to imply that Brian; I wasn’t saying that you (individually) were calling anyone a jerk.

          I was referring to the general negative sentiment being expressed about the act of giving away GPL’d software for free.

          I feel that *any* negative statements about this are unfair and unwarranted, because the license is very carefully and intentionally meant to allow it.

      • Sarah

        Yes, I agree … nothing wrong with taking a GPL theme and using it, but I don’t believe they are explicitly giving permission to scalping their themes and trying to pass it off as something better.

        To me that is just wrong. If you are going to give to the WP community, create something worthy with your own code, but changing a few images, colors, etc and saying you have come out with something great & new is laughable.

        All PM is doing is hiding behind smoke & mirrors, trying to justify behind the GPL, but what he is really doing is just trying to make a buck off the efforts of others. Give him a little time and he will monetize his site, he even says so.

        • JaredB

          @Sarah I completely understand your point of view, I’m just saying that I disagree with it.

          “Morally”, I see nothing wrong with anyone who is using *free software* (in the FSF/GPL sense of “free”) doing so within the confines of the license it was distributed under.

          When the devs chose to distribute under the GPL, they chose to allow this; plain and simple. That’s why I’m calling it hypocrisy to object to it now.

          You might think that it’s “not cool” or “nice” to do this, but that’s totally subjective.

          Further, it’s unfair to accuse someone who is using the software fairly under the license they obtained it (which includes redistribution) of anything negative. They are simply doing what the original devs said they could do by releasing under the GPL.

  • Jay

    As someone who is a woothemes customer and not a full-time coder I can tell you that we see their value in the information, support & passion as well as the themes. For me it’s not about getting a theme for free. Hell, $70 is free, so is $200 for that matter when we’re charging clients 30x+ that.
    What we/I value is the support, community and their commitment to producing quality themes on a common framework. We’ve worked with others i.e. ThemeForest and the support is a crap shoot. So much like Brad Potter, we want to see Woothemes succeed.

    They do a lot to earn the trust of their customers. PM offering a bunch of free themes just isn’t that appealing to me from a business perspective.

  • Small Potato

    1. This has happened to me before when I was running wpdesigner. My themes were free to begin with, but that didn’t stop people from releasing them just to steal traffic. Back then, I couldn’t understand this gpl thing, which is why I was pissed at the modders. All I knew was WordPress is under gpl so my themes should be too without considering the rewards and consequences of releasing my work under gpl. I was pissed and I was wrong.

    2. A mod is a mod is a mod. Whether you believe it adds value to the community is your opinion, not statistics.

    3. I can’t see how Adii could be up in this discussion trying to ketchup (catch up) with all the mustard when he’s the one who collaborated with one of the theme modders I hated so much back then. Not to mention, in his early WP career, he pumped out shitty themes that were watered down versions of actual sites like And about 2 years later, he’s up on his blog and this comment thread talking about not wanting bads boys of the community to copy his secret developments and modders releasing watered down versions of his themes. Please! Bitches be crazy. (Also Adii, keep my name out of your mouth. Don’t credit me for anything to play up your nice guy image. I have enough self-control to not trash talk you on your own blog and mention you in recent interviews. I think you’re also capable of at least that much.)

    4. I support PM and I don’t think I have a poor moral compass. Me? Can’t be, not the Small Potato who released more than 40 something free themes right? On the flip side, I could’ve turned into an evil hippie and you’d never know.

    My point is you don’t know the history of some of these premium theme developers to begin with. Who the fuck have they been since the beginning to believe they have the right to be up in this dicussion (myself not excluded)?

    5. Respect real effort, even if there’s only a tiny bit. That should be it. Play by the rules within the game or find yourself a different game to play.

    • Eric

      This just got a whole lot better :) Welcome Back to WP talk SP :)

  • Brad Potter

    Wow, didn’t know a person needed a right to leave comments on a public blog.

    • Small Potato

      Wow, didn’t know I was going to get misquoted that quick. Where in my comment does it say “right to leave comments on a public blog?”

      • Brad Potter

        Maybe you could elaborate on what “they have the right to be up in this discussion” means.

        Further, should people hold something against Adii because his earlier themes were not the same quality as they are now or in your words “shitty”?

        It seems to me like your trying to turn a debate about the GPL into a personal attack. And yeah, I’m a WooThemes client and a happy one at that.

        • Rob

          Oh, please, stop right NOW. Thank You!

        • Rob

          I’m a woman and you are just a jerk. Wanna fight ^_^

        • Small Potato

          Whether my comment is personal or not, I don’t know. I’m honest enough to admit that much. Don’t ask for more. Please!

          And thank you for being honest sir. I know you’re a Woothemes client and their products make you money. I know.

          I’d have no problem with it if you’d just quote it right the first time around and responded to it like how you understood it, instead of generalizing it to piss me off after I’ve put in so much time to type up that long response. Time is precious don’t you know?

          If you didn’t understand it the first time around, here’s the point. The same people arguing against modders are the same people who opted to go gpl, collaborated with modders and have released their own watered down versions of actual site designs. And no, I’m not talking about every premium theme developers in this discussion, in case you’re going to misquote me again.

          Also, no, people shouldn’t hold anything against Adii because his early themes were “shitty.” But you know what I meant don’t you Brad? Don’t play dumb. My point is he copied actual sites and released watered down versions of them. And now, he’s speaking out against the same thing he has done in the past to get himself where he is right now.

          This goes back to a mod is a mod is a mod and whether you think it adds value or not is your opinion.

          I’d love to play dumb with you, but I have much better stuff to do like taking a dump to massage my butt.

        • Brad Potter

          Well, the tone of your comments prove out my point.

          By the way, I read that the new owner of your old site is making something like $15,000 a month! Ponder that while you are on your throne.

          Can we get back to GPL now?

        • Eric

          I would love to see the proof of that.

      • Rob


  • Small Potato

    Hey Brad. I’m back from my dump. Took me only… 3 minutes. Didn’t even wipe my butt just so I can respond to you. See how important you are?

    From here, your response looks like SHIT, because stuff irrelevant to the discussion after you’ve misquoted someone and now have got nothing else to say to defend yourself is exactly what you should post. SHIT!

    How is your suggestion to get back to GPL not irrelevant? What, because it has “gpl” initials in it?

    gpl, gpl, gpl, gpl. there. please don’t delete my shit because it’s relevant now Leland. Thanks man!

    If you wanna get back to gpl, then play by the rules and stop complaining. Back to my throne.

    • Brad Potter

      I’m not complaining, I’m defending. I judge Adii and other Theme Devs based on what they are contributing now. Early on in the premium theme market, things were a little bit like the wild west and I think most will recognize that.

      Anyway i was doing some math. 15K X 12 = $180,000 smackers a year. That was really kind of you to sell your site so cheap. Tip of the hat to you.

      Moving on, don’t strain yourself now.

      • Rob

        Yep. Definitelly it’s an ass. Just BEAT IT using your OWN work, buddy!

      • Small Potato

        Exactly, all you know is now which is only have of the discussion. If this dicussion was about playing by the rules, it’d be much easier wouldn’t it?

        There you go again with numbers. I don’t see you calculating value these supposedly bad modders adding to the community.

        Even I know my previous site was a goldmine. Even in the sale copy I mentioned you could make good money with it if you’d just monetize it, which is what I chose not to do yet before I decided to sell it.

        Why did I sell it? Because some things are more important in life.

        If you think I didn’t know the real potential of my own freakin site then you’re playing dumb again.

    • Bookworm

      Your debating like a child.

      Learn to respond to those you disagree with like an adult. No matter how much you have contributed to the WP community, no one is going to take your opinions seriously when you act like this.

      Name calling, overly sarcastic remarks, repetition, and toilet humor are not effective means of stating a opinion. That is how a child argues not an educated adult.

      Acting like a asshole is one thing but don’t act like a child at the same time.

      • Rob

        You are NOT fun anymore!

        • M

          Very funny indeed!

      • Brad Potter

        I actually respect some of the work SP has done.

        It would have been better had he jumped in and made his points about PM, GPL, Modding, etc without singling out one dev with whom he has some prior history. He would have come off a lot more credible had he done so.

        Of course when he makes smartass comments towards me for defending someone else I couldn’t resist responding. My bad.


      • Small Potato

        let me try to sound like an adult for a sec.

        i started “debating like a child” (these are your words, not mine) because Brad wanted to play dumb. is toilet humor and sarcasm that much worse than a clear disrespect for someone’s time after they’ve put in the effort to give you a thoughtful response?

        you’re willing accept misquotes, generalization, and irrelevant personal stabs and not toilet humor?

        • Brad Potter

          To be fair, I was being honest in not understanding – “to believe they have the right to be up in this discussion”. That’s why I asked you to elaborate. Perhaps it’s a language barrier, urban speak or age thing. And so you jumped to the conclusion that I was playing dumb.

          If you were to phrase it as someone is “being uppity”, that I would have understood.

          Small Potato is acting all uppity when responding to Brad.

        • Small Potato

          no Sir. to understand my initial response, it doesn’t take urban speak or age thing. anyone with some sense can clearly see what you were doing.

          if you didn’t understand it then ask instead of “jumping to the conclusion” only to ask after i called you on your BS.

          you misquote, generalize, post irrelevant personal stabs then apologize for it. and now you’re trying to play nice by calling me “uppity” within an example. clever. however, i don’t believe you’re a bad person. you’re simply defending someone who helps you make money.

          you blindly defend your premium theme developer and even admitted all you know is what they’re doing know and not what they have done, which was after i’ve already taken time out to explain to you about the past. it’s a stubborn cry for end of discussion. i agree.


          these gpl debates, measures of value, what’s helping the community and not are all BS. if you’re in gpl to contribute, not just for profit and popularity then contribute. put in your codes, designs, ideas.

          stop stressing about what’s not helping or is, within all this clutter or watered down ideas, the worthy stuff will reveal themselves. is it really necessary to waste time on arguing which is more “right” when they’re all “right” within the rules you’ve chosen?

          innovation and quality doesn’t require money (i know this could be a whole other debate). it’s hard to believe, but people were putting out good themes even before they started selling them. doesn’t k2 exist? didn’t alex develop carrington? did hybrid, thematic, and wpframework die already? weren’t there multiple one theme per day marathons?

          stop worrying and count on dumb people like little small potato, justin tadlock, ian stewart, nathan rice, and more to put out cool free stuff for you to use.

          things grow or die, they don’t grow backward. if i release free themes 2 years ago and continue to hone my skills 2 years later to release more free themes, how can you expect my future themes to be any less than the old? i don’t have to get paid to improve my themes, it comes with learning and practicing.

        • Brad Potter

          Ok I’m out. Now you can carry a grudge against me for the next two years. I’ll be in good company.

  • John (Human3rror)

    wow, this conversation has taken a turn for the worse.

    i’m positive though… this was bound to happen eventually and it’s an issue that had to come up.

    i still stand by my comment that I think, long term, this will be beneficial for the community at large. people’s egos are going to get hurt along the way but advancement anywhere has always carried a cost.


  • Ryan

    Bahahaha, these comments are hillarious … glad I’m not in the middle of them, hang on … damn, I just put myself in the middle of it!

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If I didn’t want people posting my stuff all over the web I wouldn’t release it as GPL, pretty simple really.

    Having said all that, releasing GPL themes with negligible changes or even worse, making them worse is rather lame unless there is some other tangible benefit to using them over the originals. I don’t see any point in bashing them for it though. The cream of the crop will always rise to the top.

  • Justin Tadlock

    I create GPL-licensed themes. I can’t say for sure if I’d label theme “premium.” I’ll leave that for others to decide.

    Feel free to take, edit, copy, modify, distribute, learn from, or move my themes to your computer’s trash can. Whatever you want. You don’t even have to “improve” it. I chose to license my work with the GPL. I done so because I wanted you to have the freedom to do these things.

    • Ryan

      I wish more people would have this sort of attitude.

  • Nathan

    I don’t have time to read all of these posts and I don’t want to stoop to the level of some of the commentrs here, but from what I have read, it’s generous of the Woo guys to even acknowledge the presence of this so called “movement”. You guys have only released 3 themes, all *minor* edits to the original Woo theme. Why would you expect them to provide support to non-paying customers?!

    I’m a happy WooTheme subscriber and willing to shell out the money for continual quality themes, not to mention some of the best customer service and support I’ve ever experienced. It wouldn’t be fair to their customers to support modded themes, period. I like free stuff as much as the next guy, but like some wise person once said, “it’s the economy stupid!” I think a company or individual that produces quality work deserves to charge a fair price for that work. Don’t like it, don’t buy it.

    • Premium Mod

      We expect them to provide support for ‘paying customer’ (not non-paying), that is – if our users need support, they go and sign up with WooThemes support plan.

      And no, WooThemes current stand is – they won’t even provide support for their own customer under our theme. Oh well.

  • acosmin

    What PM did, doesn’t look like an improvement to Woo’s themes. Deleting a sidebar, changing the logo,removing the copyright link and releasing the theme for free takes about 5 minutes to do.

    This is why GPL sucks big time as a license for premium wp themes, because people like the guys from PM abuse it.

    My free themes are under GPL license, as for my premium themes I don’t see why I should release them with this license at this moment.

  • Conorp

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand its providing more themes for the community, on the other it is ruining themes by taking out the features that make them great. Take a look at the Coffee Lite theme based on the Coffee Break theme.

    Mod we made from the original theme:
    – Removed subheader bar for minimal look.
    – Minimal theme options.
    – Widgetized footer.

    From those Mods you basically took away what was good about the theme. The themes big selling point was that big sub header bar, and by making Minimal theme options, you end up making it harder for the end user.

    Adding a Widgetized footer is a step in the right direction, however this is the only actual step forward in this theme, everything else has been reductions from the original.


  • mkjones

    As a WP custom themer I like this idea as it gives me the opportunity to delve into some code I wouldn’t normally see without paying for it.

    I do however think its taking liberties with the GPL, but its fully ‘legal’ so why not :)

  • Leland

    I’m closing this comment thread now at an even 200. Vent on Twitter or some other site if you feel the need, this has gone on long enough here.

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