*An update. The conflict appears to be over, with DIY adopting the GPL for its Thesis themes.
you’re clued in to the tech world, chances are you’ve heard about the ongoing
war of words between Matt Mullenweg and Chris Pearson. Mullenweg is the
co-founder of Wordpress.org, Wordpress.com, Automattic and VaultPress. Pearson runs DIY
Themes, which develops the popular Wordpress Thesis theme.
the feud is over whether or not Pearson’s Thesis should be operating under a GNU
General Public License, or GPL, since it’s a product that’s
associated with Wordpress, itself a free platform running under a GPL.
Currently, Pearson’s product isn’t available legally as an open source theme
licensed under the GPL.
argues that since Thesis is used in conjunction with Wordpress, and that it’s
whole existence is tied to Wordpress, it’s a form of derivative work and should
run under a GPL. Additionally, it has been shown that large portions of the
Thesis theme contain computer code that was copied directly from the core of
counters with the fact that his product is proprietary and that if he decides
to run it under a GPL, he won’t be able to control who uses it and his revenue
stream will dry up. For his part, Pearson also claims that 99 percent of the
Thesis code was created without using Wordpress.
a whole, the tech community is varied in its viewpoints. Some believe everyone
is entitled to create and make a buck. Still others have been tweeting how
Pearson is thumbing his nose at the very beast that feeds him.
the picture is quite murky. A recent debate broadcast on Mixergy saw the two go
at it, each adamantly arguing his interpretation of the law. While legally the
Free Software Foundation (FSF) hasn’t challenged Pearson’s right to keep
operating Thesis outside the GPL, it’s still a possibility. Pearson is ready to
go to court over the matter, something even giants like IBM have avoided at all
“I've noticed that people are turning this conversation
into professional wrestling. They want a fight. They want showmanship. They
want action,” offers Andrew Warner, Mixergy founder.
in reality, what we're seeing is two successful entrepreneurs with different
approaches to business. And instead of looking for entertainment, I want my
audience to search for business lessons.”
seems to have a lot more support on the contentious matter. His influential
stature has spurred on developers and other devout Wordpress users to publicly
criticize Pearson and paint him as the bad guy. Meanwhile, Pearson claims that
Mullenweg is using his powerful position to persuade Wordpress users not to use
Thesis, thus costing him business.
that said, SBR Forum offers the following tech prop odds:
the Free Software Foundation or any other group take DIY Themes to court for
GPL licensing enforcement in 2010?
DIY Themes relent on its own and distribute the Thesis Theme/Framework under a
GPL license in 2010?
Chris Pearson personally sue Matt Mullenweg for lost revenues, slander, or
defamation in 2010?
debate is going to get hotter before we have an outcome,” predicts Steve Ricci,
SBR Forum Oddsmaker. “Pearson is digging in his heels and Mullenweg seems bent
on getting his way. This thing could go to the courts.”
Ricci and the oddsmakers favor a court battle, as neither side seems close to
conceding or compromising. Thus, we’ve also favored Pearson not to give in and
operate Thesis under a GPL. And, while we have the NO side favored for the prop
on Pearson suing Mullenweg, he clearly isn’t happy with the influence being
wielded by the Wordpress co-founder.
will be a landmark battle, one that will shape the open source landscape for
many years to come. The question is, who will come out on top?
do you weigh in? Who do you side with? Comment now in the forum thread.
a prop question or suggestion? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.