GPL: This Deserves a Special Mention, II

A week ago I asked the wordpress project who to contact for source code, especially for those parts no source-code exists for in the zip- and tar-gz-files.

You might wonder: Source for wordpress – it’s already there, right? So what are you asking for hakre?

That’s why I clearly wrote upfront in the ticket that source-code is mostly available – but there are places for which not. Which has been confirmed by others in that ticket quickly.

However, this question made Otto (, who plays an important role for the site, share a view about licensing worth to quote.

I think this deserves a special mention, not because of incompetencies (we all have them), but because it shows licensing attitude and can help to understand dissent and difficulties:

Firstly, the only binary file I can find any reference to is SWFUpload, and that is MIT Licensed, not GPL. The MIT License has no requirement for providing source code.

As for the GPL, we [the wordpress project] are under no obligation to provide anything at all. [emphasis added] Understand that the people here wrote the code and share a joint ownership of it. The GPL places no obligation whatsoever on the actual copyright holders of the code. They can release it anyway they like. The GPL only applies to licensees of the code in question; the downstream people using and redistributing that code.

There is no requirement for WordPress to release the source code for a single binary file which they did not write and which is not GPL licensed to begin with. [emphasis added] […]

Otto; 16 Feb; in answer to “Whom to ask for missing wordpress source-code?” (Source)

I could not believe to read these words. To read this from a person who is important for the website dedicated for distributing the package is hurting me as both – a user and a contributor.

That is especially in the context of asking for source. It could have been any user that is asking that question.

I as a developer make use of the GPL to ensure that users of my software will get the freedom they deserve.

hakre’s reminder: WordPress forked from b2/cafelog (GPL) by the WordPress project and is licensed under GPL (changed to GPL v2+ for WP 3.0.5).


Even hours later I have problems to find words, back in October last year I wrote: this deserves a special mention.

Looks like it still stands.

Opinions vary among each other

But more importantly, the question of the ticket still needs to be answered.

I’m confident, that the WordPress project will distance itself from anything close to such statements and instead will offer sources for the packages. As the simple fact to not offer sources has licensing implications.

Another important suggestion still stands: The wordpress team should pro-actively take care of licensing. E.g. by getting some professional legal or otherwise useful consulting or help from outside. Like getting in contact with the SFLC as Matt Mullenweg did when he needed help with theme licensing.

You can find some documentation about known licensing issues on a codex wiki page of mine.

Previous: b2/cafelog is GPL
Series: WordPress Licensing Issues

This entry was posted in Hacking The Core, Pressed, Wordpress Licensing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to GPL: This Deserves a Special Mention, II

  1. Chip Bennett says:

    There is no requirement for WordPress to release the source code for a single binary file which they did not write and which is not GPL licensed to begin with.

    I really can’t believe I actually read those words.

    If they were true, everything I thought I knew about the GPL itself (and WordPress’ stance on Free Software philosophy) would be turned on its head.

    Of course, clearly those words are not true.

    • hakre says:

      Sure those are not true. Otto must have misunderstood a lot:

      Take it another way: What if we only had the binary? No sources available. Well, the binary is still free to use for any purpose. It’s still under a less restrictive license than the GPL. It is still GPL-Compatible, even as a binary alone. Because it’s GPL-compatible, it can be repackaged and included with GPL software.

      (Source) I can’t believe that someone of the team is writing that.

      Thanks for your efforts btw, the discussion helped me to see more clear.

  2. Otto says:

    You keep going on and on about “binary blobs” and “files that have no source”..

    THERE IS ONLY ONE FILE in there that is “binary”, and that is SWFUpload.swf.

    The SWFUpload Project is NOT GPL LICENSED. We are NOT REQUIRED to provide it’s sources.

    Furthermore, it is MIT licensed. The entirely of the license basically says you can do whatever the hell you want with it.

    The question raised in the ticket has been answered multiple times, and if you don’t stop being completely insane, then I will do everything I can to get the core developers to block you from the ticket system.

    Seriously, I’m sick of it. You are insane. Really. Grow up, stop being such a licensing nazi, and especially stop being flat out WRONG about how licensing works. Seriously, it’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness, and I for one have had it.

    • Otto says:

      Sigh.. I apologize for my angry tone above. but you really get on my nerves sometimes…

      My point is that the only binary file in there has its own license. That license (MIT) does not require downstream people of it to include its source, or place any other requirements on us at all, really. Including the source to build an SWF file that nobody ever builds themselves, and which is totally free and has its sources available from the original source, is more than a little silly. The WordPress package is bloated enough without including a whole bunch of ActionScript sources that aren’t even used by the software.

      If you actually look in the swfupload directory, then you’ll find an swfupload.js file. In that file is the copyrights, the links to the project’s home, the license, etc. It’s all there. The actual binary itself is an unmodified copy available directly from the original authors.

      Your point about “who to ask for source” is more than a little silly, I feel. You ask the original authors of it, whom I have linked to in both your ticket and which is linked to in the source right there alongside the binary and sharing the same name as the binary.

      Unless you have some other binary file that you’re discussing and which I cannot find, I feel that’s pretty much that. The source is available, and us putting it in the WP package is more than a little pointless, not to mention not required by SWFUpload’s license.

    • Sam says:

      Wow. Really proves the impression I slowly started developing a few years ago about the “gang” behind WordPress, and how Matt M (maybe Otto is just his nickname on WP, lol) is just sucking the hard work of thousands of developers to build a CMS that he can put his name on and make money from. Wake up people.

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