WordPress.com Copies Core Drupal Branding Theme Citing GPL

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Drupal is known to be geeky (read hard) for casual CMS users. Drupal was all set to change its geeky image with a super cool theme - Garland. WordPress.com’s founder Matt Mullenweg asked for free help in porting this special theme to WordPress from the WordPress hacker’s community. It was generally perceived as a bad idea in the mailing list. However he went ahead and ported it with the help of one of his employees.

Matt also asked for permission from Steven Wittens, one of the key developers of this theme. He replied, while acknowledging the GPL nature of the theme, with:

From this point of view, if Wordpress or Wordpress.com were to make the Garland theme available, it would be a direct hit to our goals, especially because it’s going to take us a couple of weeks to get our final Drupal 5.0 release out the door and really get the buzz flowing. And then, weeks or even months to see the spread of Garland-themed Drupal sites.

He never got a reply to this email. In his words:

I never got a reply or any sort of news about it, until Gerhard pasted me the link to the Wordpress.com announcement. My immediate reaction was disappointment. If Wordpress.com serves up Garland before we do, all hope of promoting it as an original Drupal style is pretty much flushed down the drain.

I’m also disappointed that they did such a poor job: Elements are missing or badly styled, the positioning and spacing is off too and they didn’t even credit Stefan Nagtegaal in the footer.

Matt responded to the criticism with:
“WordPress has done a lot for putting hundreds and hundreds of themes out there under the GPL, and I’ve always encouraged folks to port them for other systems as it raises the quality of Open Source design throughout the ecosystem.”

The reality is that it is mostly the unpaid theme developers who developed these themes for WordPress.

While technically Matt hasn’t done anything wrong as the code is GPL’ed, I think it is not fair to copy and release a theme which had been solely designed to be at the forefront of branding of a competitive product, and subvert Drupal’s branding efforts.

I hope Matt reconsiders his decision and either doesn’t release the theme of gives Drupal at least a 6 months lead.

BTW: The most beautiful part about the Graland theme is the color chooser which allows you to choose colors with a Adobe Photoshop like chooser designed in pure Javascript.

January 26, 2010: 10:51 pm

Great information, Thank you so much… keep up the great work.

October 1, 2008: 1:54 pm

Doesn’t surprise me. Matt’s lack of ethics is well known.

January 6, 2007: 11:47 pm

Drupal is too geeky for me. Its hard to understand how to create good templates with it.

January 6, 2007: 1:32 am

In spirit of Opensource, why didn’t Drupal just forego GPL until 6 more months…

Because putting it under GPL, while having marketing plans for its release, is just contradictory…

While, I don’t condone Matt’s plan, Drupal should’ve planned for this… Like you say Angsuman, avoid GPL if you want total control of your project..

December 24, 2006: 7:55 pm

This is exactly the reason I tend to avoid GPL. Author / developer loses lots of right on the product. In Durpal-WordPress case I think it is very unfair for WordPress to release this theme.

December 24, 2006: 12:26 pm

That is one major problem with GPL. It’s legal to copy even when at times it is not ethical!

Especially when you have no written permission.

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