The Douchebag Principle


A douchebag. Or, a greeting one might give a douchebag.

Now that commercial GPL themes are on the forefront of everyone’s mind (not that it’s a new idea, of course) all sorts of prickly ethical issues have been popping up. The most general version of these issues is: “How do we play nice with each other in this new environment?”

To be clear, anything released under the GPL license is very much available for any means of modification and distribution. This goes for my GPL themes, your GPL themes, and anyone else’s GPL Plugins. (Let’s set aside the question of whether anything built on WordPress can be non GPL. Use the forum for that bickering.)

Alex King was torn apart last week for supposing a scenario, based on what I’ve said above, wherein someone so inclined could redistribute the now GPL themes being sold by major WordPress theme developers. You know who they are.

Alex was making a point, illustrating a possible, and likely, scenario (see his followup post, by the way).

The question: how far should developers go when using others’ GPL themes and redistributing them, whether for free or for profit?

I propose an answer: don’t be a douchebag.

What does it mean to be a GPL douchebag?

A GPL douchebag will take a theme, change the name, and redistribute it with the code untouched.

A GPL douchebag will grab your theme or Plugin code, use it in their work, and fail to attribute it.

A GPL douchebag will undercut and resell commercial themes, giving the virtual middle finger to the original developers.

Note: none of this is in violation of the GPL (except the failure to attribute code). My only criteria for the douchebag title is that your colleagues would refer to you that way as you walked away after shaking hands.

Douchebag? So how can I play nice?

You wouldn’t be developing with WordPress if it wasn’t for tons of beautiful people playing nice with one another — attributing sources, improving and adding to themes and Plugins, and generally making the world a better place.

When you’re sifting a colleague’s code through your fingers and picking out what you like, consider what you would want them to think about you if you were shaking their hand for the first time. If you stay in this game long enough, you will meet the people you’re trying to screw over. Odds are that if you wouldn’t want to sit down and describe your use in front of the developer, then to avoid being a douchebag you should toss that idea.

The existence of more high quality GPL themes (call them premium, commercial, whatever) will expose those of us who are douchebags. The bright side is this will also highlight those of us acting professionally.

Share your shovels. Don’t kick sand at people. Let’s make this a happy sandbox.

18 thoughts on “The Douchebag Principle

  1. This is not only the problem actually.

    Just look at several warez sites. Without GPL, they still can distribute it freely

    Also, if you scare of this unprofessional people act towards GPL themes, just don’t make it GPL.

    Don’t go to the zoo if you are scared with animals 🙂

    • It’s not really a matter of being scared, Izuddin, it’s a matter of people treating each other as equals. GPL is a beautiful license, specifically because of the power that it grants the user. Of course, with great power comes great… I forget exactly how it goes ;).

      The GPL does allow people to act irresponsibly if they wish to, of course. But this is more about The Douchebag Principle than the GPL, isn’t it?

      • “Great power comes with great responsibilities”

        We can only advice people on being professional as bad guys are everywhere in the world 🙂

        Maybe if every single WP Theme Lovers out there support what you said, then WP Themes Makers can sit and enjoy.

        I also have a sight on this problem as I would create my own premium theme site.

  2. i have seen some guys downloading premium themes for free from torrent sites, changing the header and icons and reselling the theme as their own.. lol

    i hate people who sell themes.. all themes should be free, for the simple fact that wordpress itself is free…

    it makes no sense to sell a theme when the complete CMS is free…

    WordPress is 500 times harder to code than a theme and is free.. why should a theme cost 30, 50 or 80 bucks like the worthless thesis theme by Chris Pearson??

    chris pearson makes 50,000 dollars per month with his sites.. copyblogger, thesis, diythemes… i think everyone should open their eyes and stop making this guy millionaire..

    • You are missing the point. You are not capable of doing what chris pearson does. Think of it like this: you can go to a forest, chop down a tree, drag it back to your house, cut it, carve it and make your own table. Or, you can go to IKEA and get a table for $100 that is 1000x better than anything you will ever be able to make. But wait, wood is free so shouldn’t all tables be free?
      Besides, you aren’t mad because his stuff costs money, but because you aren’t making any.

      • Technically speaking, this whole post was about GPL themes. So Thesis isn’t even a part of the discussion, since it isn’t GPL. That’s fine by me, but again it doesn’t really have anything to do with this post.

      • You don’t even know me…

        I coded a theme similar to thesis (or thesis is similar to mine), but I released it as GPL (which means free).

        You are obviously someone who has NO IDEA how to code a basic theme, that’s why you post that nosense message.

        I think you don’t even know how to move a mouse. lol…

        BTW, I think that there is a very thin line between GPL and paid theme, for the simple fact that some guys are reselling GPL themes coded by others.

        • Anti Chris:
          How did you know that I can’t move a mouse? I love how your arguments rely SOLELY on ad hominem attacks. Also, I am very glad that you have enough respect for animals to not name them after yourself. That would obviously be cruelty. Btw, big shot, what is your theme again?

        • Indeed.. you put it into words very well, Ryan 😉 I was guessing Cory meant something else and was thus wondering his motivation behind it.

          • Remkus, if I said that, people would automatically question if I was “100% GPL” or not, or “fully onboard” and just start to call into question all kinds of stupid stuff that I don’t have the energy anymore to defend myself or my company. I have my opinions but I mostly keep them to myself. (In my 33 years of existence, I’ve found that to be the wiser way to go anyway.)

            But yes, Ryan, said it much better than I could have. 🙂

  3. the message above was for that guy named “SCOTT”…

    What a coincidence… Scott is the name of my dog..

  4. Well said Ryan. This was pretty funny, especially the post image. That gave me a good LOL. While some might be offended by the douche word, I think you’ve provided a number of “To the point” references to not be a douche bag.

    Perhaps you should start a thread in the forum called: “You might be a GPL douche bag if…”

  5. Fantastic. 😀

    It’s been an interesting couple of months!

    Personally I haven’t wanted to wade into the ‘premium’ debate – but definitely a good call that you will eventually run into the people you’re trying to screw over. It’s like geek-karma.

    Always be helping, giving, supporting and offering value in any given community – and no-one will ever criticise you for trying to put food on the table… though I think the real douches are the shameless profiteers who offer no value beyond a few overpriced lines of (WordPress-dependent) PHP code that, frankly, my 9 year old sister could have written.

    Much love,

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