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April 17, 2007

Are bloggers allowed to remove free WP Theme links?

While the hot issue of yesterday was more focused on paid links, I tried digging up a little bit how this came to be and found out that it might have all started with the sponsored WordPress theme issue where Google anti-spam engineer Matt Cutts previously commented on.


So, when I checked here on Weblog Tools Collection about sponsored themes, it says:

…many of these themes try to legally disallow you from removing the advertising link by claiming it’s part of the Creative Commons attribution to leave it. This is almost funny, because these themes are on shaky legal ground themselves. WordPress is Free, meaning you’re free to do pretty much anything you like with it. It’s under a license that encourages user freedom called the GPL, which says if you distribute something that links internal functions and data structures of a GPL program (like themes do with WordPress) that also needs to be Free. At best, theme authors claiming you can’t remove the link are ignoring or ignorant of the license issues, at worst they’re actively exploiting the work of thousands of volunteers that have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into WordPress.

In short, when you distribute something freely (under GPL), you’re not even legally entitled to that footer link. Is it the same way when everybody else are deleting all those default blogrolls on newly installed WordPress blogs? I’m a little curious.

The economics of free or open source themes revolve around the dynamics of supply and demand for links, which for most people translate to branding, traffic, link juice, and Page Rank that ultimately can be indirectly converted into cash. Will Google also consider link of free themes as part of link buying? In essence, the theme designer is giving away free themes in exchange for free links. Though the word “free” is there, the basic rules of economics still apply — barter/trade. So, to what extent does Google want to cover paid links?


7 Responses to “Are bloggers allowed to remove free WP Theme links?”

  1. Andy Beard says:

    I am building up to explode on the Themes issue as well, but have been a little busy today offline, and was out most of the weekend.

    I have some really nice screenshots of various WordPress SEO gaming tactics.

    I mentioned it in passing on the paid links post, but in my opinion there is a monopoly issue on WordPress and themes these days as well.

  2. jhay says:

    I keep the links to the designer intact, it’s a much deserved link love for coming up with the theme and releasing it to the public for free.

    If it’s a sponsored theme, there should be an option to either remove the link or a disclosure about the sponsorship.

  3. I just leave the links as a ‘thank you’ note, eventhough I know I can remove it. You are correct, any thing released for an application under GPL are all automatically under the GPL license as well, that’s the concept and purpose of GPL in the first place.

    Sadly, many are confused as to these “free” licenses to the point that “free” and “open-source” licenses are interchanged, making it more confusing. I myself is confused, I have to keep re-reading all these licenses to keep myself in the right track.

    Even in gaming… example World of Warcraft’s addon system. Some addon makers are branding their addons under GPL or CCLicense, or any other license. They’re not allowed to do it, because WoW’s license as agreed upon the EULA and other policies, automatically gives Blizzard the rights to the addon. But Blizzard is just letting them go, they’re customers. WHat they do is they implement the addon as a built-in feature in some future patch.

    Licenses… much to discuss about. Its really confusing.

  4. Edwin says:

    As long as you are creating something that uses a GPL,what your doing is under GPL. People can either remove anything that you put it there because they are allowed to do so. meaning if you put a link somewhere, I have every right to remove it if I wanted to.

    Creative Common License doesnt apply to the themes because the engine is GPL. I can modify the themes and I will still be in the clear because I am also attaching the GPL license.

    murky discussion.

  5. Court says:

    Very interesting discussion! Well done. If I leave the theme intact, I’ll leave the links. If I majorly overhaul the theme, I remove the links.

    I think it’s good Karma to leave them there, but I don’t fell like anyone should feel entitled.

  6. emerson says:

    the problem for me is what “links internal functions and data structures of a GPL program” means.

    if the theme is derived from a modification of the php files, then it’s a clear case of the gpl being applicable.

    but what about themes that operate based on new stylesheets? or new images? by necessity of coding they are logically connected to the gpl’d code – but legally speaking, they may be considered independent enough so that gpl’s rationale (protection of the previously gpl’d code) cannot be applicable.

    the gpl is only a *contract*, not a law. in fact, the gpl derives its power from copyright law. copyright applies to (independently) original works. wp has copyright, that made them free to make all sorts of stipulations as to its subsequent distibution and modification (the gpl). but – and this is a medium sized but – those stipulations can only extend to those sections that were its original work in the first place. the gpl, as contract – cannot dissolve other people’s copyright to their original works. these rights are granted by law, and contract can’t beat law.

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