Syn-thesis 1 and Chris Pearson

I ended up in an impromptu conversation with Chris Pearson and Andrew Warner earlier today regarding the issue of Thesis violating WordPress’ license. For entertainment purposes you can read some choice quotes on Hacker News (here’s another) but the whole thing is worth a listen even though I did not articulate the issues as well I could have. Ultimately the legal, community, and pure business arguments fell on deaf ears, so no minds were changed but yours might be after listening to it. Unfortunately it ends with Mr Pearson basically saying “sue me.” See also: Jane’s post.

268 thoughts on “Syn-thesis 1 and Chris Pearson

  1. Matt.. you always come across as an educated and compassionate individual. I think everyone who takes the time to listen to the conversation will reach the same conclusion. Thanks for everything & much support.. J.

    1. Ditto that. Sue him. I, for one, would love to see how it turns out and then maybe this horse could finally stay dead.

  2. Chris Pearson is so rude. Reminds me of Bill O’Reilly not letting his guest finishing their sentence.

    If you break the licence, you’re breaking the rules. It’s totally disrespectful and against the law. It shouldn’t have to go to court, but I don’t think it’ll change any other way.

    I’m not an expert nor a lawyer, but I don’t think I have to be one to know that when someone is breaking the licence agreement that person is breaking the law.

    It’s sill that’s it’s come to this and I hope a solutions comes quick before it becomes nastier.

  3. I squirmed when I saw the tweets between the two of you and squirmed even more when I heard about the podcast.

    It seems the interview went pretty well for you though as Chris came across spectacularly badly IMO.

  4. As a Thesis user, my question is: aside with the pure legal stuff, what’s the point? Do you mind Chris can make money out of what he developed on top of your platform?

    You both are doing a great job but you must be aware that, for me, Thesis is one of the reasons why I stick with WordPress. You should take this into account.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. I love when people make money out of what they develop on top of WordPress — that’s why in the interview I call out Brian Gardner’s quotes, the WooThemes example, iThemes. These businesses and others are making many tens of millions of dollars and employing hundreds of people.

      It is not an issue of forcing all premium themes to go out of business or go free — they’re already GPL and doing great, making a ton of money. In the interview we even talk about how Thesis would make more money if they were GPL, hence would be able to invest more into better features for you, the user.

      I removed the link from your comment since the site seems to be 100% Thesis ads. (I counted 6 on a single page.)

      1. It was just my blog but it’s OK, I admit there are Thesis ads on it, not appropriate for my comment. 🙂

    2. You mean to say that if there was no Thesis you would move away from WordPress? Cmon stop lying, WordPress is the main coffee and thesis is just some kind of vapour over it. Just because you have purchased a copy of Thesis does not mean you are with WordPress only because of that.

      Why not move to paid CMS like Six Apart and ask the egoist thesis developer to develop the same for sixapart and move away from WordPress?

  5. Well Matt, frankly, if you do believe what you say is 100% correct you should sue him. The twitter messages you’re sending sound like sabotaging his business to me. This kind of counter-marketing, from the very WP creator, sounds much pettier than suing to me.

    Do you honestly believe his actions are violating your rights as a GPL adopter? Sue him. You don’t? Leave him alone and stop campaigning against his business.

  6. I almost wet myself with laugher over the following quote:

    … I’ve done great things for WordPress since 2006, I’ve been arguably one of the top three most important figures in the history of WordPress. You, Mark Jaquith and myself are the three people that I’m talking about.

    1. The one that made me laugh, and the one who shows what a big of an imbecile he is, was:

      GPL is something that is artificial and improper. I don’t think is a good thing.

  7. I think you did a great job Matt. It was a study in restrained intelligence winning over aggressive bloviating. I respect Chris for his conviction but you convinced me that there is no reason he should allow that personal belief to disrespect the community license. I hope and believe there will be a positive outcome.

  8. I’m only like 60% through but the thing that struck me was how cluelessly he kept insisting that his personal sentiments about the ‘systematic’ nature of the GPL demurs him from using it. Dude, your aesthetic or technical objections to it don’t annul the fact that you happen to be unambiguously bound by it. And how lucky are you that you can still change things (either your compliance or the platform you develop for) without getting stuck in the mire of being held accountable for your infractions so far?

    Then there’s the line about him being one of the top 3 influences in WordPress’ development which just made my brain fall out of my head. He started doing wordpress stuff in 2006? That’s an year *after* Kubrick started to be the default theme isn’t it? Damn. The fact that he skipped Ryan Boren’s name shows he hasn’t even paid attention to an issue he wants to make such a strong claim about.

      1. Matt that isn’t really fair to one of your core contributors, Denis.
        Semiologic was around maybe 2 years before Revolution.
        I am not a customer of Denis’ so I haven’t examined the code, but there is a good chance he sticks to the letter of the law on code he has to.

      2. I am not a Semiologic customer so I don’t have details of which licenses apply to which parts of his package currently.

        Certainly back around the end of 2005 I didn’t get the impression it was 100% GPL, just some of the components, with others under proprietary license.

        In 2005 there were plenty of other commercial themes such as Optiniche.

        I am not saying this in any way to criticize Denis or Teli, but lots of people attribute the first premium themes to Brian, and that really isn’t true.. Brian’s true claim to fame is single-handedly creating a market for magazine themes.

  9. Thanks for the link, seen a lot about it on twitter, but wanted to see the video myself. Thanks a lot for the link!

  10. It’s a shame, really. You have my greatest respect for acting and speaking in this discussion as you did, Matt.

    It’s one thing to start out building software on top of a platform and not realizing the rules that come with it. It would have been easy to admit to this failure, switch to GPL, and nobody in the community would have been angry. But it’s a totally different thing to basically question the GPL as a whole. That’s just ridiculous and very, very sad.

    1. We’ve been trying to get him to switch to GPL for several years now, privately and publicly, to no avail.

  11. Unfortunately, Chris comes on sounding like an a-hole, one who thinks within the letter rather than the spirit of the licence. Some argue the GPL isn’t very clear and a lawyer’s minefield/gravytrain, depending on if the lawyer is defending or attacking. I suspect a popular vote based on tweets and blogs might reveal what the user and GPL community feel about it. Having met both of you I know who I want to support and Chris might want to reconsider biting the hand that feeds his “business”

    1. While I agree that it is good for the community and more importantly to Chris just good business to be GPL in this case, he seems to value holding his position above his own self-interest. Exact quote: “At this time I feel like my method of operation is exactly congruent with my feelings about everything.” I imagine attorneys will want to focus on the letter of the license he’s breaking.

  12. I really hope it doesn’t come to legal actions. But, we’ve known that this is something that would likely happen one day – we’ve got your back.

    Nice work on staying calm. Try not to focus on the personalities involved, the quotes underline that there are some *ahem* articulation issues there as well.

      1. If your project isn’t hosted on, it essentially doesn’t exist to the vast majority of the community.

        WP got into the module/theme directory thing much later in the game, which seems to be part of the reason this sort of thing is still an issue – people got used to going to Google, not, for their stuff.

  13. As sad as it is that people are willing to disrespect you and WordPress in general, considering how much you’ve both changed the face of the internet, the whole ordeal has helped me to understand the whole concept of GNU/GPL much more than I previously did. If that’s happened to others as well then at least some good may have come out of it.

      1. I had no idea about the GPL before today, and I really don’t understand it completely, but what it sounds like to me is it means that ANY product I have purchased under it I can freely distribute, no matter what the developer says?

        If that is the case, and this is all brought out in court, don’t you think that will hurt the entire premium developer community? I do, because I don’t think 95% of users actually know this about GPL.

      2. Nope, that’s not correct. Check out some of the links people have posted. The vast majority of the premium developer community is already GPL and doing fine.

  14. I guess suing him is the only way to settle this debate.

    He’s headstrong and says the GPL license is unenforceable. Let the courts decide then.

  15. Hi Matt,

    I only became WP user recently and till today I had no idea that there are companies producing themes that are not in commpliance with the GPL.
    I have searched for premium theme – and Thesis have been an option – because of the big names backing it up.
    I believe that it is important for new WP users to be aware of licence issue of Thesis.
    You showed a great deal of respect in the interview and I hope you take an action that you feel comfortable with.
    BR, Irma

    1. Thank you for taking time to consider the issue and voting with your pocketbook — there are a ton of fantastic premium themes out there that are 100% GPL, so an excellent foundation to build your business on.

    2. Not only Thesis there are hundreds of similar themes. And for your information if you check out most of those big names which are backing up WordPress, their final blog designs are not any special and you can find better lighter themes with more functions just a Google search away.

  16. Some of us wish you would sue him — not only because it would lead to some facsimile of a resolution (facsimile, in that it addresses just Chris and not necessarily every other alleged violator) but also because it would prove you have the will to back up your own rhetoric on the issue. Without some sort of new action on your part, the “falling on deaf ears” you refer to above will be ongoing.

  17. Matt, the GPL issue is very important, however, how Chris Pearson has (not) dealt with the recent malware issue is even more revealing and should give Thesis users even more to think about:

    * Chris had known about the malware problem since July 12 at least:

    * It took him a few days just to tweet about the problem:

    * Thesis users have not been officially informed about the issue so far.

    Some information on the malware problem can be found at and (Germany only, I have not been able to found any Web sources in English.)

  18. Sadly, maybe you actually should sue him. If he won’t listen to any of the arguments (facts) then maybe he’ll have to learn “the hard way”.

    I’m sure if the court doesn’t find any GPL licensed code (which I bet they will), at least they will find out he links to core WP files.

    Can’t be easy having to deal with all this BS, but I think you’ve been kind enough to give him a chance to actually make his project legal, which he refuses to.

  19. I am not an attorney, but it seems obvious to me that a theme that merely works with a content publishing platform without incorporating its source code is neither a derivative work nor violating the copyright of the content publishing platform. Is the Thesis framework incorporating WordPress code? If not, is it somehow otherwise violating the GPL? If so, what part of the GPL?

  20. Wow, I’ve always enjoyed Chris and his ramblings, they are OTT but pretty harmless and pretty funny sometimes.

    This however seems a little scary and different to all of the previous Thesis-GPL discussions. Its like it just got ‘serious’.

    I hope no-one sues. That would be too much. Both Thesis and Chris are getting a battering right now on twitter and in the blogosphere, that should be enough of a penalty. Personal attacks never lead to anything good so I hope this dies down pretty soon.

    Ironically for me, I missed the live show as I was working on my slides for my themes-related talk at ‘WordCamp UK’ at this weekend and this: is one of my slides.

    Looks like I may need to throw in a little more content before Saturday.

    1. Yes, given the situation I don’t think it’s good to promote Thesis to anybody, especially a group of new users at a WordCamp.

  21. So, basically, will you/WP sue him?

    Or, maybe more cynical, buy one copy of Thesis and redistribute it freely to the world? 🙂

    1. If Matt bought a copy of Thesis and redistributed it, he would be in violation of Chris’s license.

      Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  22. This guy is unbelievable…

    The bottom line is he chose to develop the theme for WordPress, and by doing so he accepted the license.. Anything else he says about economic systems is BS because he ultimately CHOSE WP when he knew it used GPL.

  23. “Sue me” ?!

    So basically, if some people where to buy the product and then re-release it under GPL (and for free) – would he then sue them?

  24. Seems like all Chris is doing is taking someone credit, and thinking that he is THE BIG GUY behind the WordPress community. And the worst thing, he is getting paid for this.

    1. 27,000 paying customers * $87 per transaction (assuming the lower priced “Personal Option”) = $2,349,000.

      Assuming all of those were referral sales (33% commission), then Chris is still profiting by $2,349,000 * 67% = $1,573,830.

      So yes, he’s getting paid for this. Paid very, very well, considering that number is on the small side (plenty of people buy the more expensive $164 option and a good deal of people aren’t buying via referral, I’d imagine).

  25. Hi Matt,
    I’m not going to pick sides and so I’m with one and not the other. I love you all, mostly because I don understand all the licensing issues.

    I am concerned though. If this gets bad, and got forbid wp and thesis breaks up, what will have to my wp site that uses the thesis theme.

    I’m more conceded about the hassle of finding the new theme and dealing with the redesign.

    Thanks Matt

    1. As I said on Twitter, if there’s another premium theme you’d like to try out I’m happy to buy you a copy, just send a link and your info to my contact form. It’s better to choose a solid platform now rather than put it off until later. I’ve heard good things about Hybrid, Genesis, and WooThemes Canvas, but there are lots of others you can explore.

      1. I tried a few in the past, but I have to say Thesis is very well done. My question is: does this discussion really matter for final users and bloggers?

      2. Here’s one reason users should care:

        Thesis’ terms of use (the ones that say that you can’t remove the credit link, can’t run it on sites you don’t own, can’t redistribute it, etc) can change at any time, without notice. Tomorrow, the license could change to say that you have to post a picture of every meal you eat (sorry Matt), and you’d have to comply or your license to use Thesis would be revoked. The GPL, on the other hand, cannot become more restrictive. Take WordPress. We can’t change the license. We can never introduce new licensing terms or removing existing ones. We can never force a footer link by changing the license, or tell you that you can’t redistribute WordPress code. You’re covered. Forever.

      3. I second the vote for Canvas – all of the features and still a beautiful “blank” theme to start with. It’s my framework of choice when I have to use one.

    2. I myself have purchased multiple copies like WooThemes, theme-junkie, nattywp, etc and most of them are 1000% better than thesis. Why? Because the other ones have professional looking ready to install themes while the later needs you to customize and get a boring design.

      Go for Woo Canvas which I use at my blog and its awesome!

  26. In my opinion you articulated the issues extremely well with superb integrity and politeness. Well done Matt!

    1. While I agree that Matt comes off much better in the Skype “argument”, I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s been completely polite about all this: some of Matt’s tweets to Chris prior to the Skype were baiting and sarcastic, not something I would expect from the founder of a well respected organisation.

      On this one point Chris was right: Matt is in an extremely powerful and responsible position, and he has incredible influence because of that. It’s therefore naive to indulge in childish twitter baiting and still expect to be completely respected in the community, regardless of how egotistical the other party is being. It’s just not OK.

      While I can understand your personal frustrations around this emotive subject Matt, I’d expect better.

      1. I agree with you Matt Hill on a couple issues. At some point when you are in a position that some would consider “knowledgeable” you should respond with a sense of responsibilty. Matt has shown a bit of immaturity regarding that issue.

        I realize also that there are frustrations with this situation, but it’s naive to believe that all business disputes can/will be settled without legal action.

        Any business owner/CEO who isn’t willing to go to court to protect his business interests is destined for failure.

  27. Matt,
    I hope you will consider all the WordPress and Thesis users and the impact us before you make any decisions.

    Dave Wilkinson has a great post that speaks for many of us:

    I respect both of you and value what each of you offer to the WP community. I would love to see you and Pearson work something out that is for the good of all. This doesn’t have to go to court just because he egged you on.

    1. I don’t think there is any other option at this point. As a user, you’re getting an inferior product because of one developer’s stubbornness. To ignore him would be unfair to the dozens of other premium theme vendors who do the right thing, and disrespectful to the thousands of people who have chosen to make their contributions under a license, the GPL, that prevents exactly this type of violation. As a user, you should demand better, and you deserve better.

      If I were making a long-term decision about something to build my web presence or business on, I wouldn’t choose a framework so at odds with its platform.

      1. I don’t see as a user gets an inferior product just because it’s not GPL’ed. This is the kind of argument a non-technical user will never understand.

      2. What if developers were aware of a security issue in the theme and didn’t report it because they didn’t want to contribute to a non-GPL (or worse, GPL-violating) codebase? Not theoretical, this happened last night.

      3. Matt, in this case it’s the developers’ ethos damaging the theme, not the license applied to it. It’s like a doctor refusing to treat someone who doesn’t sign a piece of paper: patient gets worse, but is it his fault?

      4. All that time, money and taxes spent into the courts can be used towards development.

        I have no problem paying for a tool that will make my job easier. Less will be spent if you two sat down and conversed about it.

        Is Chris hurting you? If not, I see no reason why you two can not work it out and find a win/win for everyone.


      5. He is hurting the community by undermining our license and encouraging others to do the same. From the interview he believes that the GPL is invalid (I think) or at least doesn’t apply to him and presumably all themes. Some quotes:

        “I think the GPL is something that is artificial and improper to induce upon a system. I don’t think it is a good thing. Nothing is going to convince me to do something that I think is a bad idea. Nothing.”

        “However, however, I think any astute economic analysis of economic systems of the way businesses and economies actually work would very quickly notice that the GPL does some very inorganic things to what are otherwise organic systems. From a systemic standpoint, on a systemic level, I disagree with the way that the GPL perpetuates economies.”

        “I think that is how you conduct a proper analysis and chose what is good for your business. By seeing how systems work and what consequences are when you introduce inorganic things into those systems. When you introduce inefficiencies like the GPL on natural things.”

        “When I encounter something like the GPL that seems contrary to many things that I have learned and experienced in my own life, yeah, I am going to be hesitant to adopt it because my learning and my experience suggest otherwise.”

      6. So the point is not protecting the end users from an inferior theme, it is protecting the GPL license, making sure Chris respects it and doesn’t constitute a dangerous precedent. I might be unaware of some cascading consequences of theme makers ignoring the GPL, but I don’t see how that affects WordPress. There’s plenty of software running on Linux which is not GPL’ed, I don’t see that undermining the Linux’s foundations.

  28. Matt,

    I don’t always agree with you on this, but I think you handled yourself exceptionally well and did so under duress. Chris was unreasonable and quite frankly he was rude in cutting you off all the time. Anyone listening to that conversation will come to the conclusion that Chris is a reactionary not worth listening too – he probably harmed his own position more than anything you could have said (despite your good arguments).

    For the record, I agree with your core principles, but can’t agree with turfing people’s GPL plugins/themes out of the directory if their site promotes non GPL software in anyway. If they put their blood, sweat and tears into something and release it free to the community, they shouldn’t be told they can’t even mention a non GPL product on *their* site if they want their product to be included in the main ‘marketplace’. Telling people what they can put on their site if they want is bordering on censorship. Note: the exception to this if it’s a cynical attempt to promote a non GPL product directly, in which case it’s spam.

    Anyway, sorry for my rant, you must get totally sick of the GPL issue and I think you deal with it very well.

    1. But given the many thousands of plugins and themes out there, why would we choose to promote one which is just a driver to license-violating software? I wouldn’t want to link to a site that sold counterfeit handbags either — our users deserve better.

      1. Matt,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond.

        I understand if it’s linking to a site that is only about non GPL software. That’s spam. But what about this hypothetical situation:

        Say I’ve written 10 plugins, which have taken me hundreds of hours (including ongoing support), all of which have been released under the GPL. From the directory, I link back to my blog where I write about my plugins and where I provide value to the community with general WordPress tutorials etc. After tens of thousands of downloads of plugins over several years, I’ve received a total of $25 in donations – no problem, I didn’t do it for the money, but I decide to put ads on my site to cover the cost of hosting etc.

        My understanding is that if I put one banner ad for a non GPL WordPress related product on my site, then all 10 of the plugins will be removed from the repository.

        In such a case, they’re not plugins that are *just* a driver to license-violating software, they are providing real value to users.

        Sure, I know there are other ways of making money through WordPress, etc, and plugins can always be distributed outside of the repository, but that just seems too harsh to me. I don’t think it’s WordPress’ place to try to control what ads users can show on their blogs if they want to be included in the community.

        As I said, I agree with your core principles, just not the lengths to which WordPress is trying to control this by telling people what they can do on their sites.

        As for the bigger issue in general, I agree wholeheartedly, and I truly do appreciate everything that WordPress and yourself have done for the community to start with.

        I better run now and make sure Adsense isn’t showing ads for counterfiet handbags on one of my posts without me knowing! 🙂

      2. We look at everything on a case-by-case basis to make sure the policy isn’t applied blindly or with disregard to people’s contributions. I’ve never seen something as marginal as the hypothetical you describe, but probably what we would do is just email you.

  29. Hmm, so what he basically says is “I’m so big that I don’t have to play by the rules”. That *is* dangerous for the community. Plus the “sue me” attitude, indicating that he believes that he can weasel out his way around the GPL, is the same one that street thieves have – “I can do what I do because I can outrun the cop”. Society at large fights these attitudes, because society without respect to the rules is not conductive to peace and prosperity. See Somalia. Sad as it is, because it drains resources, I believe the WP community must fight these “strongmen” too.

  30. Previously, (to me) Chris Pearson was just an opinionated person that I didn’t always agree with, but I thought I could respect. That interview changed my opinion. His ego has destroyed whatever credibility I used to hold in him.

    Even if he switched Thesis to GPL right now, I don’t know how much trust I could have in him anymore.

    And though you did wander down the “low road” a couple of times with your responses to him, I certainly can’t say that I would have held my temper any better.

    1. Yeah I’m sorry about that — the “three most important people in WordPress” thing really got my goat.

      1. And with good reason. That was an awfully audacious and pretentious thing for him to say. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it.

      2. Yeah, but I did get a really good laugh when you said, “I forgot that you were one of the top 3 people in WordPress and that I should consult with you before speaking.”

        That was truly classic 🙂

      3. If you had to pick 3, what would be a solid list of the 3 most important people in WordPress?

        Matt Mullenweg, Ryan Boren, & Donncha Ó Caoimh?

        Or Matt Mullenweg, Michel Valdrighi, & Mike Little?

    2. I feel the same was you Dougal. I actually had some respect that he had stuck to his guns and stood up for what he believed in.

      After that interview, I now just think he’s in arrogant self-righteous little prat.

      The “three most important people in WordPress” comment just blew my mind. How he could even consider himself remotely close to that is just baffling.

  31. It is obvious that Mr. Pearson is in over his head.

    I used Thesis and had problems with automatic updates. I received error messages that stated that I had exceeded available memory, or something to that effect. Also, I couldn’t use security plugins like “Secure WordPress”, “WordPress Firewall” and “WP Security Scan”.

    I think premium themes are overrated. I could pay for a theme, but I prefer TwentyTen.

    1. Of course, your point is that developers must respect the license under which they are allowed to create supplemental products like themes. I agree.

      Licenses protect original work and encourage new innovation.

  32. My Twitter stream is full with ranting from both sides on this particular matter.

    The legal argument should be sound and distinct and crystal clear.

    Anything else comes across as “doth-protest-too-much-methinks” – which doesn’t seem to set anyone up for a civilized resolution.

  33. Here’s an even better idea: release the Thesis theme for free via your blog. See if he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is and sue you.

  34. If you feel you didn’t explain yourself well, it’s because Pearson couldn’t stop listening to himself talk long enough to allow you time to speak.

    For the times you were able to actually talk, you articulated very well, as always.

    Take a day off, eh? 🙂

  35. I say sue him. He is wrong. He doesn’t understand (and insist on violating) the same license he uses. Sue him (or his “company”). Take him out of business.

  36. Thanks for having this discussion in a public venue… it was good to have so many folks listening and hearing directly from you and Chris (at the same time even, since he wouldn’t let you finish sentences…).

  37. Goodness! That interview was very difficult for me to listen to. I was getting ssssooo frustrated during that. Lord knows how you felt Matt!

    You did a fantastic job handling yourself during that interview. Great job.

    I’m glad there are other existing frameworks out there so people can steer away from Thesis.

    Maybe a few of us could get together and start a new Github project called “Freesis” and emulate some features from any existing framework perhaps? 😉

    1. In Chris’ defense, I’m the one who contributed that particular chunk of code to Thesis. A lot of stuff in that particular file was done by me simply because at the time I didn’t know any better & I’m not sure if Chris & I had even discussed the GPL at that point or not.

      You said you had other functions, though? I’m just curious if any of them were actually written by Chris.

      … I feel terrible for having made use of WP code now; I had no idea it would become a semi-prominent issue in such a debate… especially such a debate as to garner the attention of Matt himself.


  38. So, it looks like getting a link on this site is just as server melting as getting a front-page link on Digg. I tried to go to mixergy to listen to the podcast, but it’s throwing a DB error. Anyone have a mirror link?

    Also Matt, I do appreciate your stand on WordPress, Thesis, and the GPL (although I am an avid Thesis user.)

    However, seeing Chris’s reaction and reading some of his comments makes him come off like a total jerk and is making me consider other available solutions besides Thesis.

    @Bronson – I’m game for a Freesis mod. lol

  39. I use Thesis with WordPress and saw this post pop up in my WordPress I have had training as a (tax)lawyer and as such have worked in a derivative way with copyright and licenses…

    I have listened to the debate. Ive listened to Chris’ rant. I’ve read Jane’s personal post but I still fail to understand the issue. What is it that Chris does or doesn’t which in your view constitutes a violation of the licence. Can you explain us that in a paragraph?

    1. One sentence summary: It uses core data structures, functions, is loaded through WP, and even includes GPL code copy and pasted from core.

      Check out the links from an earlier comment for more legal-y stuff.

    2. The WordPress license is GPL. The Thesis license is not.

      The belief here is that themes and plugins must also be licensed as GPL.

      The GPL requires that when you distribute code, the recipient has the right to modify and/or redistribute the code, unfettered (other than any derived works must also be governed by GPL). If themes do indeed inherit the GPL from WordPress, then Thesis is in violation of the license.

      See my comment on Mitch Canter’s post for a section from the GPL FAQ which I believe clears things up a bit.

  40. Not trying to jump on the “chew Chris out” bandwagon, but as a 4-year student of speech and debate, I can say that you did a much better job of appearing more reasonable and humble than Chris did.

    Don’t let that go to your head, but remember that the next time that you’re facing a rather defensive opponent. You may not persuade him but you’ll persuade your listeners.

  41. I hold a very different opinion that is not influenced by Chris’s presentation of himself (which ticked me off last year, so I just dont follow him on networking sites, and it doesn’t bug me anymore!) In speaking with other sponsors at our WordCamp last summer, I’ve come to the conclusion that GPL is like a virus and spreads itself without regard for what any other developer or creator of code would want on their own site. It is an impossible license to work with for very technical reasons. I know you are strongly in the GPL camp, but why??? It prevents so many freedoms for other developers. Anything with a GPL is no longer considered usable code by anyone who can / will/ could create the next best thing for users. I just dont understand how anyone could support the GPL period.

    And in regards to thesis, I understand you both hold different opinions, but you(being the bigger influencer) will ruin his business simply b/c he doesn’t see the license thing your way.

    And one more point – the “sue me” although perhaps said with a bit of a boyish angle, is undoubtedly the only way to determine if the GPL is even legal or simply some sort of virus spreading far and wide without regular users even being aware of it.

    1. I most confess I don’t know so much about GPL but it’s plain simple to me as a regular user of WP, You either use it or leave it, I preffer tweaking on the twentyten theme rather than paying on such “premium themes” and IMHO if you or anybody is such a great coder why you relay on the work developed for others? why not develop your own WP like blog system or CMS? All the way I’m with MATT on this, and basically because I’m happy that WP is free.

    2. @Cathy: While the GPL isn’t perfect in all things, it has it’s place for those who want to see a community form around software by ensuring that extensions are contributed back to the community; not everyone is focused merely on personal gain. WordPress wouldn’t exist today as it does if it were not for the GPL. And it’s hard to argue that WordPress isn’t benefitting a lot of people financially.

  42. I’m almost compelled to feel terribly sorry for Chris Pearson right now. Even if he GPLs it right now, he’ll never be able to recover from “I’m one of the three most important people in the history of WordPress.”

    I say he pulls an AIG and just renames DIYthemes and Thesis itself, GPLs it and cuts his losses.

  43. At this point even if Chris decided to be rational I would not buy it. Had I actually purchased the Thesis Theme I would not let that hold me back from whats right and wrong. Heck Matt has offered to buy you a replacement.

    We have all said horrible things in arguments just look at Mel Gibson. But bottom line is not to bite the hand that feeds you. I have purchased from @bgardner and plan to buy from @jshuller great people making an honest living.

    Matt what ever you decide and what ever it is that has to be done you have my support and best wishes. I am not a big roller but should a defense fund be started I will be there to support you as best I can.

  44. Hey, Matt. I listened to the debate a bit ago… As a former minor developer on Thesis, I want to apologize and ask what, if anything, I can do to make up for having supported Chris.

    I’m no stranger to the antagonism that Chris shows to those he disagrees with; I absorbed a lot of that back when I was Thesis’ only paid support rep, and I left the project over a year ago with the impression that he really doesn’t care about his users — at least not the ones who need help — but seems only interested in the ones who can make Thesis look good so that he may profit more. Maybe I’m wrong in that assessment — in fact, I hope I am — but combined with his treatment of you in the debate, I suspect I’m not too far off the mark.

    Whatever the case, I offer the following…

    Check out the OpenHook plugin on the WP repository (87,000… pretty significant for the incredibly niche market of “Thesis users”); it’s my independent contribution to the Thesis community, and it’s fully GPL. Many — hundreds! — of users have told me that they stuck with Thesis simply because of OpenHook allowing them to get past the obtuseness of Chris’ coding practice, allowing users to customize their sites with actual code, like they want.

    Further, check out Thesis’ handling of comments (thesis/lib/classes/comments.php). Large chunks of it are ripped right from WordPress. I know they are… because I’m the one who did the ripping. Whether I informed Chris of that or not doesn’t matter because I no longer have any of our old chat logs to prove one way or another, but suffice it to say the latest public release of Thesis (and numerous versions before hand) contain obviously GPL code. Whether those portions get rewritten in the impending 3.0 release, I don’t know… but for Chris to claim that he was responsible for and devised all of Thesis at 13:33 or so in the debate… Well, he was lying to you, either intentionally or not. (Actually, it’d have to be intentional; he should know that I contributed several important bits of code & features.)

    So there are my transgressions. I have a long way to go to in removing Thesis from my sites, not to mention tracking down my myriad referral links… but I will be.

    Again, I apologize. The WordPress community deserves better than Chris & his delusional egomania.

    And I’m happy to help in giving it better in any way that I can.

    1. Also, if I may offer one of the real reasons why I think Chris doesn’t want to GPL Thesis and why his defenses of his practices so often break down into nonsensical gobbledygook:

      If Thesis were GPL, Chris would have to compete with others for Thesis’ business. Why should people buy from him when others are giving it away for free?

      Other premium theme authors provide killer support for the price people pay.

      Support for Thesis, by & large, has always depended upon volunteers (or a select few that Chris paid to monitor the support boards; I was once one of ’em).

      Chris’ own public support of users is rather lacking. I just don’t think he’d have the patience to earn users’ loyalty when they could get the same product elsewhere for cheaper or free.

      His livelihood depends upon locking users into his business model, come hell or high water.

      Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but if I am, I sincerely hope he’s willing to prove otherwise.

      1. As I said in the audio, I’ve heard the community pointed to as one of the big benefits behind Thesis, which I suppose included the forums. You shouldn’t downplay how much that can have an impact.

      2. Absolutely not. I’ll be the first to admit that the community surrounding #thesiswp mostly rocks; I’ve met some great people and made some awesome friends via it. Wouldn’t trade that for anything!

      3. Can you say suck up? Why change your stance now Rick. By admitting your role.. that would make you a party of any legal action, right? (I already know the answer)

        It all sounds like people are taking personal shots over a business disagreement which SHOULD be settled in court, because that’s what they are there for.

        *side note* court settlements happen because someone doesn’t want to spend $$ to prove their case in court or they don’t have a case. It’s usually a dollar and cents issue.

      4. Eathan, I came to most of these conclusions well over a year ago; folks involved with Thesis early on know that I was one of the foremost promoters and evangelists for Thesis & DIYthemes, not to mention their primary support provider. I believed in the product.

        And then I started raking in the cash via affiliates (and employment with DIYthemes), so it made it rather easy to stick with the product even as various things (outlined in comments I’ve made to this post already) became apparent to me.

        A few months ago, I even sent out an update to my OpenHook plugin which made note of Thesis & the GPL at the top of the admin panel as well as the FAQ on’s plugin page.

        The only change of mind I’ve had would be a couple weeks ago when I finally got around to checking out the latest version of Thesis and within an hour found a few bugs & usability issues. I could have left it alone, but I decided to get back in touch with Chris, whom I had not talked to for well over a year, to let him know of the issues.

        That li’l taste of giving back to a community reminded me of just how much I was making with the affiliate program, so I dove back into Thesis (admittedly, nowhere nearly as heavily as I once had).

        The events of the past few days, though, have more jarringly shaken me back to a reality that isn’t tempered by a desire to do right but is instead centered more upon the greater community of bloggers.

        If it seems like I’m only just now jumping ship to Matt’s side of things, I apologize; I haven’t been very vocal about my opinions re: Thesis over the past couple of years, aside from the notes added to OpenHook.

        As for doing what I believe would better benefit the WordPress community (which Chris says he cares about), would the community not better benefit from Thesis if it were GPL, (more) freely available, and was able to integrate tried & proven GPLed classes/systems/functions rather than relying upon one man to arbitrarily code the whole thing?

        Chris is a great designer; he knows aesthetics & usability well, but he’s given me the impression back when I worked for him that he was learning the PHP as he went. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — I learn as I go too — but having an open developmental community would allow for some amazing things to coalesce that would otherwise not be possible.

        One notable example, OpenHook would have been in Thesis core years ago, much to the delight of many users who have asked for it.

        But he’d also be able to roll out releases more often because he wouldn’t be pressed to create everything from scratch; the GPL would allow him to source from thousands upon thousands of projects & repositories, preventing much reinventing of wheels.

      5. Very interesting stuff there Rick. The one thing that I like about thesis compared to other “themes” is how efficient it runs. And if that means that he needs to do everything from scratch.. I as a user, is ok with that. If that’s the big advantage of caving into the pressure, I say resist and take it to court.

        I love how the WordPress community is making a moral standing on this issue like there is a right or wrong point of action that is already ruled in some type of court case. I don’t recall game developers loosing sales because of some Nintendo or Sega claiming to be right, because they didn’t follow their feelings on licensing. I’d rather see Matt do the adult thing and go to court or just move on to something else.

        If Chris wins… it will change how everyone else does business. If he loses… he will become innovative and find another way to protect his business interest.

        Either way… he’s going to have the same amount of people hating him.

        If you’re don’t have haters… you’re not doing something right… success creates haters – P. Diddy

      6. Thesis isn’t as efficient as advertised.

        For instance, on pages, WordPress automatically looks for page.php; on month archives, WP automatically looks for month.php… and so on.

        All of those checks are still there, and they eventually all fail until Thesis’ index.php is loaded, at which point all of the conditional stuff is run yet again to process through the layers of abstraction which Thesis contains.

        That’s a high level bit of template selection, and Thesis’ model causes logic to be run twice. Exactly what is efficient about that?

        Why would the theme be set up that way? If I had to speculate, I’d say it ties into DIYthemes’ well publicized belief that users should not touch Thesis’ code. So rather than provide them with familiar files as found in most other WP themes, everything is abstracted backwards until it’s all but unrecognizable to most users.

        These users are then dissuaded from modifying the theme while becoming reliant upon either a custom functions file, the finite set of theme options, or the OpenHook plugin interface.

        Creating child themes (an amazingly powerful means of customizing a WP site) is also made more difficult because the necessary markup for changing up, say, author.php is hidden in a maze of abstracted conditionals & functions.

      7. Is it possible that the great thing about thesis is that it protects the novice from themself and allow all of the development community to geek it up? Which is why I’d rather make one purchase of a theme instead of purchasing several as I did previously. I don’t have the answers.. I’m just offering a different perspective.

        **lawsuit tip** – always invest in a jury consultant. The common man could be your nightmare.

    2. Well that should settle it. Thanks for bringing this into the open. This kind of copying would be a non-issue were it done under copyleft. I hope some more internal evidence of such practices will come to light.

    3. Rick,

      Kudos to you sir! I remember when you approached me about using my plugin, K2 Hook Up, as a basis for the Open Hook plugin. You respected the GPL & sought permission first (which isn’t necessary with the GPL). First class integrity all the way – even including admitting to the GPL code you put in the theme yourself.

      Glad to have you in the WordPress community.

      ~ Eric Marden

  45. First of all, props Matt for the way you handled the interview, especially on the “three most important people in WordPress” bit (lol).

    Secondly, I got to admit my knowledge on GPL isn’t that big, but it’s a no-brainer to abide by the rules of the platform you use as the base of your “economic systems”, licenses exists for a reason, they’re not there to look pretty (or to chose weather or not to follow them), it’s the conditions on witch you use the software (free or paid).

    Thirdly, in pulling the theme from the directory, I couldn’t agree more, why should a theme that doesn’t abide by the rules be promoted over themes of designers that do spend time and effort applying the GPL model?

  46. Hello Matt,

    I listened to the whole conversation on Mixergy yesterday and I read a lot of the statements and posts out there, but in the end I still dont get it why this whole thing has been taken to such a level.

    Since years I am following your work and posts and I always have been thinking that the way you approach things is a smart and cool way. But I dont get why it is so difficult for you and even for Chris Pearson to sit down at a table and talk about the whole issue like intellectuals.

    This whole thing is running out of control from you and even from Chris and in the end the only people who will get hurt are we, the users and the community. Leaders like ou and Chris should know better how to communicate and how to solve such an issue without harming the work of each other and without blackmailing around like little ego-overrated kids.

    I dont mean this in a offensive way, but what did you really expect to come from Chris Pearson after you sayed to him that there has never been a legal case about the GPL but the big players in the GPL community would love to make Thesis the first case?

    You knew exactly that he would and will step back after such a comment from you. He even cant because if he would he would loose this face in front of the thesis community. So what is this all about? A revival of the Davig against Goliath story? Or is it just another game played from ego-driven people?

    I have been teaching and coaching CEO all over the world and I knew exactly that a smart person like you did every statement on the interview yesterday on purpose – even the inappropriate laughing during Chris statement´s to provocate him to say things you can use later, while taken out of context.

    It makes a lot of people very sad to see this happen – specially because two smart influencers of this industry are unable to solve such a situation in a cool and smart way. Instead of provocating each other and starting legal actions against each others BOTH of you should step up as an example to prove the community and the world that these kind of things can be handled and resolved in a good and positive way – without all that game play which is going on now.

    You started WordPress to make a change in the world. Now you have another special chance to make a change in this world by starting to be an example in a good way instead of showing the world with enough power and money you can “blackmail” and force anyone.


    1. I tried and partially succeeded to keep the conversation about the issues. I have reached out to Chris since Thesis started, several years now, to resolve this issue without any publicity besides promoting Thesis as one of the recommended premium options. (Which apparently doesn’t drive much traffic, but it is a token of our appreciation.)

    2. Fil,

      I notice on your website you claim that there is a “confusion” that Matt is creating:

      You say, or, you CLAIM —

      “Why does a authority like Matt Mullenweg starts a discussion like that by spreading some statements which leave a lot of open space for free interpretation and in the end just causes more confusion instead of clearing the situation.”

      Well, the CREATOR of what is now WordPress, a valuable blogging and CMS that has been FREELY DEVELOPED AND FREELY DISTRIBUTED EVEN TO CHRIS PEARSON, just might have a more than casual interest in where WordPress is going in the future.

      Matt has stated his position clearly and you say that this is creating “confusion”? Are you saying that the authorities that have studied these issues intimately, far more than you, are “creating confusion”?

      If there is anyone who is contributing to confusion it is Chris Pearson. His convoluted mealy-mouthing “rationales” are quite evidently hiding his self-serving childlike attitude: Money GOOD!, Me like Money, Me, Me, Me… Me Afraid to lose a Dollar because Me not understand what GPL really is.

      You, Fil, claim “I have been teaching and coaching CEO all over the world and I knew exactly that a smart person like you did every statement on the interview yesterday on purpose ”

      Fil, if this an example of your business “coaching” you must leave these CEO’s similarly as confused as YOU on this issue.

      There is a bigger issue here, Fil, than Chris Pearson and his little theme empire and it is Matt who is pointing out the “slippery slope” if a man who MAKES HIS LIVING OUT OF PIGGYBACKING ONTO WORD PRESS refuses to ascribe to the one upfront STATED Requirement of WordPress.

      This issue did not sneak up on Chris Pearson when he decided to capitalize and monetize on the freely developed and freely developed software of WordPress.

      Matt decided years ago to improve on what was available in blogging software and he decided to make it Free to Download and available for millions of us to make our own livings using this software.

      Chris Pearson makes his living off of developing a complicated theme that DEPENDS ENTIRELY on the WordPress platform. Note the word DEPENDS.

      It is the LEAST Chris can do to ascribe to the GPL which so many people have found does not impede making money piggybacking onto the world’s most sucessful CMS and Blogging software.

      Chris Pearson benefits everytime WordPress updates its functionality and the improvements come because of not despite the GPL license.

      Chris is a branch, a small branch growing off of a very large worldwide tree. Let him go develop Thesis for Drupal or some other program.

      What is it, Fil, that you think Matt owes Chris? It is the other way around!

  47. It is unfortunate that this issue arose, but really helped me to understand GPL and other open licenses.

    NOW, “I see GPL as the foundation for a tree to grow. If just one project disrupts and doesn’t follow the GPL that particular project becomes a STUMP, not allowing any other projects to sprout off of it. There for un-balancing the “tree” (the original project, in this case being WordPress)”

    I know I can’t spell (lol), but would what I said really sum the issue up, of breaking the GPL?

    1. That’s an interesting way to think of it. WordPress itself sprouted from the trunk of B2, and all of us are built on the work of the vast PHP and MySQL projects. (Among many others, WordPress includes a ton of OS libraries including our WYSIWYG.)

      1. You know, I think it might be a good idea for to create a market place similar to themeforest created by envato. I think many developers may complain at first, but allowing a marketplace on may help honest developers gain the credibility they deserve, as long as the moderators for the mrketplace screen products closely..

        For, I know this would be a massive undertaking, I don’t know, I just think it would do well for the entire community.
        I think that with people like you (Matt) at the helm, profit from this could be put towards the wordpress project.

        Do you think creating a market place on would make people scream “monopoly”?

        (I am going to begin work on my Business Sales and Marketing Management Degree in the next winter semester, this is why I try to follow things like this as close as time allows me too)

      2. That’s an idea, but third-parties are already doing it pretty well (Like Envato) and it’s probably a better discussion for a separate post.

  48. Like the comments said above Pearson just comes off looking like the wrong end of a mule.

    You’re better than me, Matt, cuz in Detroit that’s a vaseline rub down and removing the earrings.

    I was feeling the frustration when I listened to the audio. My stomach was literary turning.

    I applaud your patience and intelligence. You’re the better man and certainly the smarter (and cuter).

    PS Love the new artsy website. Keep up the great work you’re doing!

  49. Seems like this kind of activity of putting what should be GPL’d themes and plugins behind a paywall is what killed WPMu’s community, and reining this in is crucial. Seems to me BuddyPress and Multi-Site are already taking this direction with sites like BuddyDress and WPMuDev premium. There’s a lot of work to be done in this regard, and some kind of precedent may be useful to realigning a community of open development. Very interested to see how this all plays out, but man I don’t envy your position right now.

    1. It’s important to note that a paywall and respecting the license are not mutually exclusive. If the PHP code was licensed under GPL but housed/sold from behind a paywall, that would be perfectly acceptable.

    2. Jim

      I know there might be rare exceptions, but most people using WPMU/Multi-site like functionality are likely to have some kind of financial reason to do it, or a large enough budget of some kind to pay for the premium access.

      From what I have seen compared to paying a developer directly for custom work such a community is a bargain.

  50. I just listened to the podcast again.

    I’m surprised you kept your cool as well as you did. Congratulations for not going into a rage and hurling abuse at the man. I think I would have blown my top at some of that crap.

  51. I use Thesis, because I want my site to look good and I am not a web designer. I am willing to pay, in order for it to look professional.

    The beauty of blogging is that you can write about what you know, with little obligation for technical expertise. I appreciate what Pearson is doing, because of that, but it seems a stretch to say he is super important to WordPress generally. He makes a great theme, but that is rather secondary to making the core software itself.

    Also, I am seeing more and more sites using Thesis, which makes it seem less distinctive. Before long, I am probably going to have to roll up my sleeves and learn some CSS, if I want to have a site that looks both attractive and distinctive.

    1. I’ll repeat my offer: if you’d like to try any other GPL premium theme I’ll purchase it for you. Just drop a note on my contact form with your information and the link to the theme you’d like.

      1. I use StudioPress Genesis theme framework and I love it – it is younger than Thesis but further ahead with custom widgets you can drag and drop. Plus, as a theme developer, you can sell the child themes without purchasing extra licenses (the Thesis model requires a $40 license per theme that I sell).

      2. Wait that’s crazy — isn’t your child theme its own creative work as defined by Chris Pearson? By his own logic, how can he put restrictions on your themes?

  52. Matt doesn’t have a choice. Clearing up this issue one way or another is his – or WordPress’ – responsibility towards other theme developers.

    As a sidenote: WordPress and its licence are what these premium theme businesses directly or indirectly thrive upon. That’s another thing to take into consideration, regardless of legal details.

    Obvious, but massively important points in my opinion, even though they might not have much immediate bearing on either side’s legal position.

    Now, if it’s true that GPL has rarely or never been legally tested, Chris Pearson’s willingness to serve as a test case should probably be welcomed. This chain of events might eventually come to be seen as a good thing, despite its ugly nature.

    And all this can be said without the need to judge either side’s behaviour, positively or negatively.

    Also, I’m a really important dude in WordPress’ history and stuff. Downloaded it like… A LOT.

  53. While distributing Thesis for free would be emotionally satisfying in the short term (and probably even defensible), you are right, it wouldn’t be good with a cleaner option available, suing him. It’s why we have courts.

  54. Monday night I finally started a project I’ve been meaning to do once I got free time–writing my own WP theme for the experience of doing it and because I don’t want to have Thesis on my site forever. I chose it because I had a dev copy for client work and had enough experience to set it up very quickly without it looking too Thesis-y, but I’ve never been a fan of the framework (and don’t get me ranting on the awful shilling that goes on). I sold that license with my business (both happily) earlier this month and didn’t want to buy another.

    Now I’ll be even happier to have Thesis off my site.

  55. I’ve always wondered about Chris Pearsons Cutline theme, which is available if you’re a user. It’s distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5, according to the license document in the zip from Tubetorial- Since the attribution has to remain, it’s not GPL compliant. It’s odd that a non-GPL theme is available for users.

    Would you regard dual licensing – GPL for PHP, basic copyright for css,js & images – as also being against the spirit of GPL?

    1. It used to be GPL, they changed the license — regardless we’ve always had attribution on it. We’re replacing it anyway, don’t want any of his junk touching our sites.

      1. It isn’t “his” – he sold it before launching Thesis (or around the same time)

        It is owned by Splashpress and they were the ones who relicensed it as GPL, not the other way around.

        If anything you should just get an updated version from them as they have continued to maintain it, and switch the credit links to the owners.

      2. I’m fairly sure Pressrow is CC, though, seeing as it was a sponsored theme… I assume that will be nuked too? Seems harsh to get rid of themes purely on ideological grounds, but it’s your site, not ours.

  56. Hey Matt, I am not a great judge of character, so I’ll spare my thoughts on the way your recent nemesis 🙂 came across in that debate. But here’s the thing I concluded eventually after going through the discussion, and after multiple re-reads of the GPL license:

    That while he does not articulate well on how GPL may not apply to his work, reading through it (in a pragmatic way—without falling for the obnoxiousness of who or how it is being said) it seems to me that that may indeed be true? And if it seems to appear that way to someone like me looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes and ears on the topic (and perhaps others too), then may be it requires second, third, fourth opinion on the matter—if I may suggest humbly. And what makes me think that is the following phrase in GPL v2:

    The “Program”, below, refers to any such program or work, and a “work based on the Program” means either the Program or any derivative work under copyright law: that is to say, a work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications and/or translated into another language.

    I think the second part of this above is an important reading in my opinion that requires a re-read. Following is your post also requires a re-read:

    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.

    The above to me, upon a re-read is a bit of stretch of GPL’s interpretation in my view.

    If the theme or any piece of code in question makes calls to functions within a GPL’d software (in WordPress’s case to display user generated content from a database), can it really then be called a derivative work —even if it does not use the code verbatim from the WordPress’s natively bundled package?

    To reiterate, the contention here is whether or not function calls are made, but whether making calls to functions be considered derivative? That’s what a judge may contest.

    [Just to clarify, I have developed a couple of themes for WordPress, but even if it would be concluded that GPL is not required on themes, I would continue to release themes in GPL.]

    1. Legal minds smarter than mine have opined that it does because of how deeply intertwined the functions, data structures, filters, actions, and execution are.

      1. I’ll caveat my comment by saying that I would like to see the GPL position prevail and that is why I challenge you to ensure that your argument is as solid as it can be because what any of us want and what the law allows are not always the same.

        Those legal minds, are they from the SFLC or the FSF? If so, I’d have to discount their opinions because both SFLC and FSF are advocacy groups for the GPL. Their opinions are just their legal positioning and they are biased. Stating their opinion as fact is like quoting The Heritage Foundation’s position[1] on the applicability of the Third Geneva Convention; it’s not going to sway “unbiased moderates” on the subject.

        I guess what I’m saying is I’d far prefer to see you arguing a position that reasonable people can’t debate rather than an ideological position and I’m hoping there is actually something like that in this debate. To hear you are planning to sue is actually very good news because it will take it out of the “opinion” category and move it into the “fact” category.

        Of course it is possible Pearson will prevail if you do sue; what then? Maybe craft an extension of the GPL that’s unambiguous for future versions of WordPress (if that is even possible?) Or enhance the theming and plugin systems to require copying of WordPress core code to operate correct (again, if that is reasonable?)

        Things to ponder…


  57. I hate to perpetuate the pettiest portion of the argument, but funnily enough, the one theme I’ve publicly released just crossed 27,000 downloads in the Theme Directory. Even though I’ve also never contributed to core, that’s got to mean I’m at least the fourth most important person in WordPress history, right?

  58. There seems to be two issues here. The first being whether or not a WordPress theme can be considered a derivative of WordPress and inherent the GPL associated with it. A court decision on this issue would set a legal precedence and be very beneficial to all open source GPL projects.

    The second issue is that Thesis is using verbatim source code from WordPress in its theme files which is a clear violation of the GPL and very disrespectful to the developers who wrote the code and to the whole WordPress project.

    If this comes down to a court decision I hope both issues can be kept separate so the GPL can have a substantiated legal precedence behind it when it comes to defining what a derivative work is.

  59. Matt, I just wanted to thank you for taking the high(er) road in this debate. To me this whole thing is a matter of integrity, not legality. The way you handled yourself in the debate yesterday makes me even more proud to use WordPress.

  60. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to this debate before I heard Richard Stallman at WordCamp SF. He made an impression. Call the lawyers 🙂

    1. Indeed Leslie, till then GPL etc was a bit too abstract for me(just a designer/coder), but Stallman made very clear points on what Free Software is, and what it can bring to us. That’s why protecting the laws surrounding it is so important, although some people might think it’s a petty little offence not worth fighting over..
      I’d like to hear Stallman’s outspoken comment on this, preferrably on video 🙂

  61. @MATT: It is time to take this to court, I am afraid that your non action in this issue has gone way beyond WordpPress and it now threatens the entire GPL and Open source community and the Freedoms that we have come to enjoy!

    From the sounds of the discussions it may be already too late!

  62. Since WordPress doesn’t do copyright assignment (I just checked about that… phew!) couldn’t any contributor independently file a DMCA takedown with his ISP and remove thesis from the web (as well as (not suggesting anyone actually do this!) any sites linking to it)?

    1. Chris can see an end to his business creeping so he might be generating money for his defense fund. He has started to pump massive ads into Youtube every other video I saw there had a Thesis Ad on it.

      1. That wouldn’t be Chris.

        It is most likely an affiliate using behavioral targeting, retargeting or remarketing on you.

        Most likely you will see those ads all over the place, not just Youtube, though they can be set just to show on Youtube, depending on CPM/CPC.

  63. I kind of understand where Pearson is at ‘intelectually’ on the gpl, that he sees a line in the sand between where WordPress finishes & thesis starts, but at the end of the day, you’re either part of the ecosystem & inherit the ‘dna’ or you go elsewhere.

    A big hat tip fella, you showed true composure there…

  64. As a Thesis user, i’m aghast at how this has all played out.

    Thesis is good – very good – but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all of WordPress development. Chris didn’t create WordPress, a massive community of WordPress users did.

    It made me feel slightly ill hearing Chris big himself up as one of the 3 most important people in WordPress. Where does he get off?

    So, i’m going to move all of my Thesis sites to another premium theme. You’ve mentioned Hybrid, Genesis, and Canvas – but which do you feel is the closest in feature set to Thesis?

      1. Thanks for the tip Ryan,

        However I just out Canvas – seems to be the best option with similar functionality to Thesis! Here’s hoping I get to move over to it from Thesis for free 😉

  65. Wow Matt, your composure is impressive. I felt like I was listening to you argue that the earth is round vs. his flat earth. The whole point of the GPL license is to prohibit exactly what he’s doing. I think Chris either needs to get complaint under the GPL or, go get a $500 an hour attorney to come up with some quasi rational legal argument for his business model. Of course, the first thing a $500 an hour attorney would advise is, “don’t do an interview were you admit you are violating a license”

    1. I’m reminded of a Mass Effect 2 quote; “Talk to your lawyer quickly, honey — you won’t be able to afford him when I’m through with you!”

  66. Wow, I woke up and got so much to read! I’ve never been a fan of Thesis, and this just confirms everything I thought. Good work Matt, thanks for making WordPress free, and thanks for fighting for what you believe. It’s great to have a cool guy like you on the side of reason. 😉

  67. What I find funny is the fact that this guy is all like “I won’t adopt the GPL because it will cost me business and I will lose out.” (By the way I laughed when he tried to put himself up their with you and the other actual WordPress developers.) His behavior during the interview was very immature and very unprofessional, especially when he kept cutting you off or when he pointed the finger at you and was very aggressively stating “YOU….” and “YOU did this…” like dude grow up.

    Any ways the point is after that, I adopt the GPL like a religious person adopts the Bible. Even on projects created in Visual Studio, I will package up the project files so others can use them in their projects.

  68. I didn’t remember this until sometime while I was at work last night, but perhaps it’s worth noting that I distinctly recall a period of time when users (well, at least one) were asking about Thesis & the GPL on the Thesis support boards. I fielded the question the best I could at the time, but I was later told by Chris in chat to not even mention the GPL on the site or anything to do with Thesis.

    That was like 1.5–2 years ago, I believe. He knew then that he would need to tread lightly when it came to the GPL; once people came to the conclusion that Thesis — like virtually every other theme — ought to be GPL, people would start treating it as such.

    It’s notably, then, that throughout 2009 on the support boards (based on a search on the boards for “GPL”) both he & his current support (“girlie” on the board) have told users repeatedly that “Thesis is not derivative; therefore, GPL doesn’t apply.”

    Here’s Chris, from July 2nd, ’09 (password needed):

    “Above and beyond all this GPL crap, the market doesn’t care about business-to-business licensing—the market only cares who satisfies its needs the most. As long as I have a pulse, DIYthemes will be committed to bringing a unique, creative, and intelligent product to the marketplace, and no amount of negative press or gnashing of teeth is going to change that.”

    I’m no linguist, but here’s my stab at a translation: “Thesis is bigger than licensing issues; we’re making MONEY here!”

  69. Thinking further last night, (Yeah Matt, I thought about you while I was laying in bed watching a movie last night trying to go to sleep, yeah that just happened)..

    Anyhow, thinking further into the GPL, I have a question.

    If WordPress was not released under the GPL, could his product, “as is” (code and all), even legally exist?

    1. Well, the difference would be somewhat negligible if it were released under any other OSS-approved license, of course — the same people would generally contribute, themes and all, regardless of side effects in other areas. Assuming an All Rights Reserved license, and as for as being able to legally plug in, that would entirely depend on whether or not Matt explicitly allowed it and made the API public.

  70. Matt, whenever I listen to or read interviews with you, my respect grows – congrats on the talk. Most people who prepare for discussion would bring much worse arguments to the table.

  71. @Eathan

    Way to be ambassador for the community. Rick saw the wrong doing and left the company. Over a year ago.

    He’s not changing his story, if anything he’s owning up – big time – and in public. That takes courage.

    Unlike random potshots at people you’ve never met in an internet thread.

    Keep calm and carry on.

    1. Maybe it’s because I don’t know him is why it’s seems a clear and visible to me. Being unbiased might be a plus in this situation. Something that a jury will provide if this issue ever goes to court.

  72. Matt,

    I respect your position on this issue and think you are in the right.

    My recommendation is NO MORE PUBLIC COMMENTS from you or your staff. As any thing you say on a public forum can be twisted and construed in court.

    Good luck!


  73. I’m a WordPress user in Chile. As a computer scientist I share your point of view and I really like your position in this issue.

    I think that knowledge must not be sold, that why I use free software in my projects.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  74. Wow, Matt.

    Chris’ rear-view logic, “I didn’t know about the GPL when I created Thesis,” is appalling. So if I didn’t know about it, I shouldn’t have to abide by it. Unbelievable! Build Thesis off another platform/CMS, Chris.

    Chris actually “does care” what people do (one of his comments later in the call) — he certainly “cared” about the many users of WP he could sell Thesis to.

    I am a Thesis user who knew NOTHING of this until now. I am seriously considering asking for my developer money back.

    I laud your composure, and found my respect for you growing with each minute. “You don’t want to be at odds with a platform you built your product on.”

    Seems pretty simple.

    Oh, and that quote by Chris: ““Above and beyond all this GPL crap, the market doesn’t care about business-to-business licensing—the market only cares who satisfies its needs the most…”

    I, as part of that “market”, does care. And I’ll care with my wallet.

    Thank you, Matt. For being who you are, a gentleman, and for enlightening me on this issue.

      1. No refund. Here is what they said:

        As stated on our website, refunds are available within 30 days of purchase. Therefore you are not eligible for a refund. I want to assure you that DIYthemes in no way deceived its buyers. When you purchased Thesis you purchased software. The GPL is a license not a law. Customers are not liable as you can see in this tweet by Mark Jaquith of WordPress:

        Customer Support

        Mark Jaquith, take note of how your tweet is being used!

        And yes, DIY DID DECEIVE its buyers. They knowingly sold me a product not in compliance with the GPL, which, since I and Thesis are using WP I would expect it to be.

        I sent you a personal message, Matt. Just want other Thesis owners to know what excellent customer service Thesis has along with their fantastic transparency. Ugh.

        I hope to use Headway or something similar.

  75. So, at this point it’s come to light that Thesis uses code from WordPress in the Thesis theme files (literally “copypasta”). So, Thesis then has to be GPL, there’s no choice in the matter, right?

    So we could all put the theme up for download free on our sites and either wipe out Thesis or get sued (and hopefully win)?

    1. If you were sued, you would lose.

      You can’t post others copyrighted content for downloaded regardless of whether that content is itself violating another license.

      Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      1. Yeah, I wasn’t planning on doing so, was just curious how such a scenario would play out. I definitely do not have the funds to be getting into legal battles!

    2. As others have said, it’s best to let Matt and the core developers take care of it. It’ll probably end up going to lawsuit — and WordPress should, by all logic, win. No need to drop to Chris’s level.

      1. Agreed, I’ve been a user of Thesis but side with wp here, especially now that we know there’s copy & paste GPL code in Thesis.

        My one main concern is I have clients running Thesis and this whole situation casts the work I’ve done for them in a negative light. Most of the sites I ended up developing for people were very un-Thesis and could’ve been developed using other themes/frameworks.

        I’m actually starting to move a few of those sites over to Hybrid and in the spirit of GPL and WP am highly considering offering all my Thesis clients a free upgrade to Hybrid or some other GPLed framework.

      2. Moving your clients over is a brave and principled thing to do. If there’s anything I can do to help with your switch, please let me know.

        It’s also interesting that you can build client sites that look nothing like Thesis but Chris believes his license forces you to pay him for every one, but WP’s license doesn’t apply to him because “it’s original work that looks nothing like WordPress.”

  76. Matt, I’d like to take you up on your offer; I’d love to try the Headway themes. [comment redacted — please use contact form as requested.]

  77. 1) Thanks for keeping cool and factual during the conversation, and for defending GPL

    2) I think, it’s time to go to court, so greedy designers, who feel that they are better than us programmers, stop leeching off the hard work of thousands of developers

    3) In the meantime, maybe few good developers could create a GPL-based clone of Thesis and release it for free to everybody. This will teach Chris a lesson that you don’t mess with the whole community!

  78. I feel like I’m the bad guy from both perspectives.

    WordPress defenders are rightfully up-in-arms against the copypasta present within Thesis. I had a rather large role in putting it there. I don’t deny that.

    Thesis defenders (well, a small but vocal minority) are making it seem like I’m single-handedly destroying Thesis or at least its legal standing.

    If I may offer some clarifications:

    Regarding my usage of code in Thesis:

    For a brief period from 2008–2009, I was a developer on the Thesis project. I was able to contribute code to an SVN repository hosted at, but I never (I repeat, never) had access to release copies. What I worked on was sandboxed. Chris had his official copies (release & developmental) on his computer, and I had my SVN repo that I could contribute to.

    My changes, however, were never definite. Certain things I did were undone. Some stuff I never heard of again. But all of it went through Chris, which he’d later merge (or copy & paste) from the SVN repo to his development copy in order to prepare for release.

    When I added threaded comments handling, I told him that I was basically recreating WordPress’ comments classes in Thesis, altering only the markup. And he ended up using the code. (I’m shocked that batch of code has remained relatively untouched, actually; Thesis undergoes fairly regular major code rewrites or restructurings.)

    So yes, I may have injected GPL code into a developmental copy that may or may not still exist in some protected repo @, but if we’re talking about the publicly available releases, I think we’re both responsible. I hesitated to originally take any credit at all for this matter when all of this began to come to light, simply because of Chris’ statements in the debate that he was responsible for it all. But I’m a bigger man than to let him take the full responsibility for something that I did, so I fessed up here & via Twitter, such as this tweet, which I wish I would have worded better. It was posted with regret & confusion, nothing more.

    I have no real ill feelings toward Chris. My time spent working with him was quite enjoyable, regardless of differences in our attitudes or goals. And for the first year I was involved with Thesis, I was impressed at just how humble he came across to the community itself. He didn’t make a big deal of his name by any means. This did, however, lead to the issue that due to my prominence in the support community (especially after becoming DIYthemes employed), many Thesis users became convinced that I was the owner of it. Good times, and I hope users are getting the same kind of awesome experiences on the WP support board (though I doubt anyone’s getting mistaken for the WP owner, but who knows!). 😀

  79. Matt, having followed this debate for a couple of days now, I have a much clear understanding about GPL, but still one thing is not clear. At what level down the line does it stop? I mean if WordPress is GPL and anything which extends it (themes/plugins) are bound to be GPL, isn’t it that the websites running on WordPress are also GPL?
    If so, does it mean that any commercial/business website running on WordPress is GPL?

      1. great! So anything which talks to the core/data structures within WordPress has to be GPL and not others.

      2. Would it mean that “Powered by” imply GPL and not Copyright? – or that term (Powered by) can be used in any sense depending on the release license

        What about those website that remove the attribution of “powered by WP”? (Apart from people removing that attribute – I have even seen ‘advice’ by people that the first thing that should be done is to remove the reference to release number / backend software name to stop the hackers from knowing as what to hack!)

        Also, I have seen that certain softwares speak in terms of ‘give donation and remove attribution’.

        What’s WP policy on such matters?

        Apart from that, I must say, that WP in a very positive way have influenced and involved people to blogging – by making it easier for the code illiterate to express their voice and freedom for the world to see. WordPress to me, is not just a software – but a movement of sorts that is in some ways defining the modernity of our lives – and the easy way to make internet more meaningful to a vast community of people.

  80. Matt – I really like the way you handle yourself. And how witty you are. Are we related? 😉

    I’ve never liked Thesis, and a part of me dies every time someone recommends it on a forum and I see the result. Unless you are (or hire) a professional designer familiar with Thesis, it still looks like a naked framework. They’d be much better off with a cheaper theme from Themeforest or another good marketplace with a ‘finished’ theme.

    It’s so overrated and so hyped up by biased ‘reviews’ by affiliates, it sickens me when people part with their money, really believing it’s the best option. There are free themes/frameworks that are just as good or better (like Thematic). Not to mention the great themes you’ve already recommended.

    All Chris needs to do is a split license and copyright the CSS and images – though Thesis doesn’t really have much in that department from what I’ve experienced.

    The premium theme developers really need a test case, and you have a volunteer, so please, just sue him quick!

  81. Hi Matt,

    I did listen to the interview and I as well applaud you for maintaining your cool and for staying on track.

    All Chris needs to do is answer on simple question: “Can Thesis run independent of WP?”

    He seems like an educated individual, so I am sure he should have no difficulty answering it. More likely than not, he will go around it like he did everything else in the interview.

  82. My primary site (a comics blog) is built on Thesis, for which I have a developer’s license. In terms of the technical aspects, it has its strengths and weaknesses and I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy on making it look very little like the out-of-the-box installation.

    However, I never would have purchased Thesis if I had known about the licensing issues, and I think a great many people who’ve used Thesis feel the same way. I don’t work professionally as a web designer, it’s just something I dabble in for fun (and help friends and family out with for free), so there’s never been a reason for me to look into the details. I assumed Thesis complied with all the rules.

    In light of what’s been revealed, I will leave my site as is, for now, and then probably create my own theme for it from scratch since that’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while anyway. I just wish I would have known about this sooner.

    1. Let me know if there’s any way I can help — your site looks good and so unique the look could be recreated on a new framework like Hybrid, Genesis, or Thematic without any major changes to your visitor experience.

    2. Hey Christine,

      If you need a WP developers help to shift to another framework then head to our site and send us an email. I’m happy to put in some hours for free to get you off Thesis.

      I’m very frustrated with Chris’s attitude to the GPL, Matt and the WP team and community in general so I’m more than happy to help you out with your transition. 🙂

      1. “I’m very frustrated with Chris’s attitude to the GPL, Matt and the WP team and community in general so I’m more than happy to help you out with your transition”

        Hmm, maybe we need a “Thesis Transition Team” that would:

        a) create tutorials on how to move from Thesis to something else
        b) provide direct help to sites to accomplish it

  83. Pingback: Yes, A New Theme!
  84. Wow, very interesting debate about the GPL law. Now as an end user, I actually purchased a Thesis Dev license maybe 1.5 years ago and my site runs on Thesis, my concern with all this going back and forth is troubling me because now I think I need to move away from Thesis and if this goes to court and I would think that @Matt would win this case what would happen to the sites that run Thesis already.

    Matt I think you handled yourself in a very professional manner, calm and composed and in the end I believe that the law is on your side and your name will come out on top. I love WP and I’m now thinking hard to what other theme I should transfer my sites. This semi-cult following that Thesis has attracted is to far reaching and in the end does not help the larger majority of the WP followers.

    When I heard he was one of the top 3 WP folks I then thought he contributed the code to WP but further reading and investigation proved contrary to his statement. WP is so much more than a theme and one guys megalomaniac attitudes toward what standard business practice.

    After reading this entire thread and what’s coming to Thesis, I believe the right thing to do is move my content to a platform that abides by the GPL and in in congruence with the actual engine that makes this all happen – WP.

  85. Hey Matt
    I have gone through almost all the comments mentioned above and I beg my pardon that my understanding of GPL is not too much but from statement and all the posts around the web, I can see some how Chris is liable for an answer to WordPress community.

    Though I have 1 question from you

    1. What are the possible solution here?
    a) Making Thesis GPL b) Court case?

    I have been an avid lover of wordpress from the day I started blogging and Thesis become one of my fav choice and I still use it on my blog. I believe while issue is with GPL and not about the feature rich thesis theme.
    I really feel all this issue on public domain like twitter or other social media sites will hurt WordPress brand more than Thesis. Other Blogging platform like Drupal and joomla might be coming up with their promotional stuff using this fiasco.

    All I meant to say is this concern is genuine because you are doing it for whole WordPress community. Though if this could be done via other method without making more public it could be good for brand reputation for both of you.

    One thing is still here that this whole fiasco doesn’t seems to be ending anywhere and I would love to know your view on: What’s next and how this thing is going to stop?

  86. (@Matt) I understand what your problems with the licensing issue are. And i listened to the interview and you have been much more of a gentlemen. I respect that. But that’s only one side of the discussion. Sympathy doesn’t in this case. In my understanding of the GPL, every work “based upon” means that if i would modify the core and re-distribute, i would have to do in the same GPL-license. If you’re right (and the last copy of Thesis i got is from 08 – 1.3.2) and there’s copy/paste code in it, this would be something that *should* be GPL-licensed. Anyway C.P. could change it a little bit to just mimic the output and be on the legal side. I guess that’s why you didn’t sue him.

    On the other hand: It doesn’t give a good light for each of you. As stated on other sites: You got your company and C.P. is in the first year of really making some living out of it. I would really like to see the stronger one of you (it’s you, who got the community channels on his side) surrender in this particular case. It doesn’t harm you or your company. It’s his work and therefore you could just not care about it – you were the one who said that wp has downloads in the same amount in just 4 hours. So, what makes you so mad about it? It’s not the license, i guess. Let him just live and please stop it. You promised us community improvements, *not! a fox hunt* for this release period.

    P.s.: There are other people out there who make a living out of this, who have to live with pirates, clones and else. Now you got people like Ian Stewart in your theme who do everything to sabotage the premium market. Why not stop at this point. You already *own* enough premium competitioning free-themes and there are more than enough out there to level this to zero (carrington, thematic, buffet, wpf, wtf, etc.). Let some people live, Matt. Therefore, be human and stop you campaign. – Just my opinion.

  87. Matt, what about WordPress plugins with restrictive licenses (such as using encrypted code to stop you using it on more than one site)?

    Is a whole plugin supposed to be GPL, or can it be split-licensed like a Theme (where the PHP is GPL and the CSS and images are copyrighted)?

    One prominent closed-source (encrypted) plugin is WishList Member. You can see the restrictions they place on you here:

    And here is a screenshot of an encrypted file.

    You can’t use the plugin without entering your license key first, so you can’t set up a clone site for developmental purposes, like checking compatibility before a major upgrade of WP.

    So, what’s the deal with plugins that have restrictions like these? Are parts of their plugins copyright-able?

    1. Hard to say without examining the code, or talking to its developers first. I am surprised they took so long to release a 3.0 compatible version, it kind of negates the argument that paying for something means it’s going to have more development. (It’s sometimes true, but not always.)

      1. Totally agreed there. I’ve had nothing but headaches with this plugin on a client’s site. But many people swear by it.

        I happen to have purchased a spare, unused license number for this plugin, so if you want to have a look at the code and how it operates, I’d be happy to email it to you.

      2. @Matt: I thought your position was that an theme or plugin for WordPress by rights must also be GPL (is that not the official position?) If yes, why would you need to talk to the developers? Wouldn’t it automatically be in violation?

      3. Looking at the code to determine compliance, and talking to the developers in private before taking any public or legal action, as was done with Thesis.

  88. In this case, the whole plugin is encrypted (as in every one of the numerous PHP files), and there is no license/GPL file that I can find, so how would anyone be able to tell without finding a way to decipher it first?

    1. @Trica Cupra: I have often wondered about this, the fact that a stink has been made about themes that are not GPL but nobody has mentioned any of the encrypted commercial plugins. Frankly I’d just like to see clarity on the issue; right now it is a war of words that seem to be unequally applied.

  89. @Matt and @Bronson: Thank you both for your generous offers of support. I may well get in touch with you regarding switching from Thesis.

    However, before going ahead with anything, I felt like I had some thinking to do regarding the technical aspects. I think what people looking to migrate from Thesis could really use would be for more experienced developers to put together some proper tutorials, along the lines of what Osborne suggested.

    There are some key features that I absolutely want to keep, and that I know are offered by either various plug-ins or custom pieces of code, but where I would not want to have to redo a lot of the work I’ve already put in.

    Take things like the custom Read more link text (which I’m really fond of for its accessibility benefits). I know there are plenty of ways to get this kind functionality, but I want to be able to retrieve the information I’ve already put into the database.

    In this case, what might be needed is a guide for how to interact with Thesis-specific entries in the database (including, if needed, a way to remove the “thesis_” prefix from these entries by doing a little search and replace).

    I absolutely could sit down and figure out how to do all this on my own, but that’s the kind of thing that I’d prefer someone more experienced take a look at, for the benefit of the larger ex-Thesis community (nice label, huh? ;)).

    It’s a great thing that people are willing to help other users out, but it would be excellent to be able to do something that could benefit a lot of people, without each end-user having to reinvent the wheel to get the theme switch taken care of.

    1. Having a custom read more link is built into WordPress, you just put some text in the more comment. It works in every theme, forever.

      1. I’m talking about a Read more link that’s customizable on a per post basis (which is what makes it nice for increased accessibility) and entered along with the text for a new entry. From what I can see, this doesn’t appear to be a core feature. Other examples I’ve seen of this use custom fields (as does Thesis).

    2. Hey Christine,

      In case you need more detail with Matts response you can see what he means here: under the “Having a custom text for each post” heading.

      I really do like your idea of centralising some tutorials to help people shift away from Thesis but the trouble is that every WordPress install is different because people can use any combination of plugins. I’m yet to see…or even rollout a WordPress install with the same plugins for any client. That’s the part that would make a site dedicated to moving away from Thesis difficult.

      Give me a yell still if you would like me to assist you moving away from Thesis and we can run through your customisations to make sure I can fix everything for you 🙂

      1. Let me know how it goes Christine, if you need any help feel free to email me via the contact form on my site.

        The one possible hiccup is if you set a unique $table_prefix in your wp-config file (if so, just replace wp_ with that prefix).

  90. Oh my goodness! How did I not know this?! I’ve seriously seen tutorials where they do this with custom fields and, based on my Thesis experience, I assumed that’s how you were supposed to do it.

    This brings up another gripe I’ve had with Thesis, and that’s that it’s put a stop to my actually learning to do things on my own, the right way. I’m 100% self-taught when it comes to HTML, CSS and (a little) PHP, and I want to learn tons more. I like poking around in the code, read tutorials and try new things by trial and error and I want to know how and why things work.

    With Thesis, it’s complete voodoo to me. Yes, I’ve written dozens of custom functions to make it do what I tell it, but there’s no way to customize the loop at all (the closest you can get to it is hooking a custom query into the code preceding it), and there are lots of little things I see people doing out there that I can’t figure out how to incorporate into the way Thesis works. I’ve actually printed out most of the php files at one time or another just to study them and figure out what the heck they do. Real documentation is very hard to come by.

    And, thanks again Bronson, for your offer to guide this lost little soul along. I will definitely take you up on it! 🙂

  91. Yes tutorials on how to migrate away from Thesis would be cool, I have 500 plus post on Nokia Mobile Talk and the thought of tinkering with this just makes me shiver. I sure hope that more tutorials come out and to help us move away and into a gpl licensed theme. I would love to hear some recommendations on what themes are available to respect the code and are highly customizable.

    So Matt are helping folks migrate to a new theme, if so I’d like to know how can I qualify, I freaking hate the fact that I got a Thesis Dev license $170 and now its going down the drain.

    1. Me, too, Jorge. I already asked for a refund for my Thesis dev license (see above) and they declined…even though they deceived me into purchase with their lack of transparency re their non-compliance with GPL (Hello, BBB?).

      1. With Paypal I believe it is 60 days… with credit cards depending on how you purchased there might be other options.

        As far as I can see you have no license agreement visible up until the moment you get sent to Paypal which pretty much sucks.

  92. Matt, could you possibly add a page to the Codex with licensing guidelines for themes and plugins – especially premium ones? Something that outlines what you can and can’t do, split licenses, distribution, restricting running on concurrent websites, work for hire and so on? It would add so much clarity. The GPL isn’t exactly in ‘plain English’.

  93. Reading through all the variuos comments – I guess, apart from the forum, it is the documentation that needs to be updated and popularized among the users.

    The functionality of the themes depends on the way wordpress works. And different theme developers only exploit that in different ways – and to some extent some premium theme developers make it seem as if it is their theme that is doing all that.

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