The WordPress GPL brigade is at it again, claiming WordPress Themes are derivative works that must be GPL licensed. This time they have an opinion from the Software Freedom Law Center. According to their web site:
We provide legal representation and other law-related services to protect and advance Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). Founded in 2005, the Center now represents many of the most important and well-established free software and open source projects.
According to this group of impartial lawyers with absolutely no agenda, the PHP portion of a WordPress theme must be GPL-licensed:
The PHP elements, taken together, are clearly derivative of WordPress code. The template is loaded via the include() function. Its contents are combined with the WordPress code in memory to be processed by PHP along with (and completely indistinguishable from) the rest of WordPress. The PHP code consists largely of calls to WordPress functions and sparse, minimal logic to control which WordPress functions are accessed and how many times they will be called. They are derivative of WordPress because every part of them is determined by the content of the WordPress functions they call. As works of authorship, they are designed only to be combined with WordPress into a larger work.
This is absolutely wrong. Writing a theme or plug-in for WordPress does not require copying a single line of code, or anything derived from the code, into the theme or plug-in. Unless copyright now applies to function names and APIs, in which case the WINE and Mono people are in serious trouble.
If you don’t copy anything subject to the GPL then your work isn’t subject to the GPL. It is as simple as that. And I will back up my claim by quoting section 0, paragraph 2 of the GPL v2:
Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted [...]
The GPL-tards conveniently ignore that sentence-and-a-half. In this instance they haven’t bothered citing any text from the GPL to support their ridiculous claims. They try to confuse you by talking about memory spaces, functions, and intermingling while ignoring what the GPL actually says.
I’m not against Free Software or the GPL, but I am sick of their advocates trying to abuse Free Software licenses in order to appropriate other people’s work.
Update: I do, however, fully support their decision to only promote GPL-licensed works in their themes directory. It is perfect reasonable for a Free Software project to choose not to promote non-Free works.