A few days ago I wrote a short post about the new Photo Workshop theme from Graph Paper Press. Since I have spoken a lot about the GPL license recently due to the Matt Mullenweg vs Chris Pearson debate, I thought it would be great to hear a theme developers point of view on the GNU General Public License.
Q. Have Graph Paper Press themes always been GPL?
No. In 2009, we updated all of our themes with GPL licenses. Previously, only our free themes were licensed under the GPL. The discourse in the WordPress community over the course of the last year has helped clarify for us and many other developers and designers the terms and business implications for embracing the GPL license.
For me, it became apparent that the positives of the GPL far outweighed the negatives, especially when it comes to code with lots of moving and evolving parts. Without that collaboration, WordPress themes would probably look hideous as they did in 2004 and advances in WordPress core would have come at a much slower pace.
Q. What were your reasons for changing?
We had a couple of reasons for changing all theme licenses (images are not GPL) to the GPL.
First, we were worried about others syndicating our hard work for free. We feared that licensing under the GPL would give impetus to warez sites and others looking to profit from our work. We decided to quit being concerned about the lowest common denominators online and instead focus all of our energy on providing our users with the best support, tutorials, and regularly maintained themes.
Second, we had benefited greatly from other GPL licensed code, be it from WordPress, or learning from the early, tubular WordPress themes. Not embracing the GPL would be a bit of a double standard.
Q. You have a membership business model. Has this proved to be a popular model with users and has it been a profitable one for Graph Paper Press?
It has been profitable, but it is a lot of work. We have five developers (myself included) who provide support on a daily basis, for users with a wide variety of skill sets. Somewhere in between, we focus on design and development of new products. I wouldn’t trade it for any job, period.
We do offer free themes too. Check out our comparison chart to see which themes are free and which ones are not.
Q. Would you ever consider using a different pricing model?
Sure, I think about different models all the time. Originally, our model included only single theme sales. About two years ago, we moved to a membership/subscription model, which enabled us to define terms based on the support needs of our users. I still see benefits in single copy theme sales. It can open up the marketplace to other designers & developers, which would be exciting.
That said, the main reason why single copy theme or plugin sales doesn’t work best for Graph Paper Press is:
- Support is important, and it’s expensive. Providing lifetime support for rapidly evolving software that has grown exponentially in popularity is not sustainable or realistic from a business perspective.
- Our support usually crosses the line into providing general web help, CSS, HTML, PHP code tweaks so our users can make cool, unique websites. Providing good support takes time. Companies that advertise “lifetime support” for products that require regular updates are being overly optimistic because it makes for good marketing.
- Setting sustainable terms for our products via our subscription model helps ensure that customers who need help, get help.