Pirated Themes and Plugins Banned on Official WordPress Repositories

February 18, 2021

Pirated Themes and Plugins Banned on Official WordPress Repositories

WordPress.org reported that plugins and themes that are pirated versions of paid plugins and themes will be eliminated from the official WordPress repositories. The WordPress community discussed if that approach abused the WordPress Open Source GPL license that allows derivative works to be distributed.

The announcement itself affirmed that premium plugins are created under the GPL that allows the creation of derivative works. But it also reserved the right to remove the plugins from the official plugin repository.

WordPress Hosts Pirated Themes and Plugins?

Obviously the official WordPress theme and plugin repositories have distributed pirated versions of premium plugins and themes previously. One developer affirmed that WordPress actually does.

A developer asserted he had made WordPress aware of plugin security and that WordPress had failed to address it.

“But but… 2 or 3 years ago I alerted you to a plugin which stole code and functions and even ‘word-for-word’ dashboard items from my plugins and you didn’t want to do anything…”

WordPress GPL Open Source

WordPress states that plugins and themes created for WordPress that contain WordPress code are derivative works. Thus, those plugins and themes acquire the open source GPL license.

WordPress clarifies the GPL license like this:

“GPL is an acronym for GNU Public License. It is the standard license WordPress uses for Open Source licensing https://wordpress.org/about/license/.

The GPL is a ‘copyleft’ license https://www.gnu.org/licenses/copyleft.en.html.

This means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD license and the MIT License are widely used examples.”

It’s clear that anyone is free to make derivative works dependent on all plugins and themes that are viewed as derivative works.

That said, the WordPress.org GNU Public License page recognizes there might be legal gray areas about what is viewed as a subordinate work.

The WordPress page about the license states:

“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.”

Pirated Plugins Prohibited from WordPress Repositories

WordPress.org keeps a directory of free plugins and themes that are available for download. The directory is called a repository. For instance, the directory where themes can be downloaded is designated “the official WordPress.org theme repository.”

There is an approval process that should be undergone before getting listed in the repositories. However, when a theme or plugin is affirmed they are gone into the WordPress environment and are accessible to all WordPress distributers for free.

Be careful with Pirated Plugins and Themes

Some plugins cost many dollars each year since it takes teams of people to develop it. Using such software denies those people of earnings.

It’s enticing to download a free WordPress theme or plugin that is actually similar to a premium version that can cost a hundred dollars or more.

However it’s imperative to know that pirated software can also contain backdoors and programs designed to take over a site.

Generally speaking it may be a smart thought for the whole WordPress community, from software developers to the distributers who depend on WordPress that rogue software thieves are not allowed to distribute their pirated plugins and themes from the official WordPress repository.

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Read the official WordPress Announcement:

Reminder: Forked Premium Plugins Are Not Permitted

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