Harsh, but understandable from WordPress Foundation’s point of view.
— The Next Web (@TheNextWeb) January 23, 2013
You know, I really don’t want to take sides here, but as I said, it’s totally understandable. I think user Caldazar, in an ActiveDen forum discussion, explains the defensiveness of this matter quite well:-
Now WordPress happens to strongly support the spirit of the GPL. It’s not just some peripheral legal thing but central: You can’t say WordPress without saying GPL.
Still, up to now, everything is fine. Until you choose to represent the spirit of WordPress and by that the spirit of the GPL. It’s not about using it, attending meetings or whatever; it’s about representing.
By doing this while selling themes on Envato, you’d send a mixed message at best. More probably you’d reduce the the GPL in the eyes of unaware attendees to ‘just another legalistic licencing thing’, which actually is just the hack to get the real message about cooperating in freedom through, while operating in a proprietary environment.
When this matter is put in that context, then I’m leaning towards WordPress Foundation.
It doesn’t deter from the fact that the biggest losers here are the WordPress developers in the Envato marketplace. The don’t have the option to change the license. It’s not a choice.
The main issue is their involvement in WordCamps, yet it is important to understand how GPL and using WordPress play a role, so that you can comprehend the chaos this is causing to the premium WordPress developers.
Do you understand how your WordPress codes fall under GPL?
Part of this license outlines requirements for derivative works, such as plugins or themes. Derivatives of WordPress code inherit the GPL license. Drupal, which has the same GPL license as WordPress, has an excellent page on licensing as it applies to themes and modules (their word for plugins).
There is some legal grey area regarding what is considered a derivative work, but we feel strongly that plugins and themes are derivative work and thus inherit the GPL license. If you disagree, you might want to consider a non-GPL platform such as Serendipity (BSD license) or Habari (Apache license) instead.
The codes aren’t yours if you make it to work with WordPress, because your codes become a WordPress derivative.
Maybe this is a better explanation: your codes becomes a WordPress derivative if your codes requires any core functionality of WordPress to make it work. Which, of course, is why themes and plugins fall under the GPL.
The safest way to adhere to the licensing and spirit of GPL is this: don’t put a price on your codes. Period. And, publish your codes to an open source repository, like at WordPress.org or GitHub.
So how do you make money as a WordPress programmer/developer?
Focus on the services you can offer, not the product. This can be hosting support, troubleshooting work, website setups, and other content development-related services. Heard/read of anyone complaining “I can’t get X plugin to work / I can’t make my Y theme align in such way”? That’s when you come in.
As a programmer, you can go the way Thomas Griffin did with Soliloquy, which is a service that generates code sliders for your WordPress sites. It’s the path I’m moving towards, with WPFork (formerly DiffPress), although I think I might have to open the codes up in GitHub soon, seeing that I’m extending many of the core features of WordPress.
Otherwise, you may want to think about crowd-funding your theme or plugin development.