All WordPress Themes Must be Distributed Under GPL

Whether you are a theme developer or a vendor who makes money by selling paid themes, you must distribute your themes under GPL only! As WordPress themes are derivatives of WordPress, and as WordPress itself is GPL, the themes cannot be released under a proprietary license.

Of course, the above rule applies mainly to the core theme files, that is, the .php files which make the theme run. If you want to, you can license the other components of the theme, such as the JavaScript files, images, style sheets, etc., under a proprietary license! More information here!

An exception to this rule is – if you develop a custom theme for a client, it does NOT fall under the category of "distribution", unless your client chooses to distribute it, in which case he would need to distribute it under the GPL license!

One of the misconceptions about GPL is that anything released under GPL must be free! This is simply not true! Just as there are commercial opensource softwares, you can release your WordPress theme under a GPL license and still charge for it if you like; in fact, there are already a number of theme developers releasing premium themes under GPL!

From GNU website:

"When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for them if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs, and that you know you can do these things."


  1. Eric : Manila Blog

    hmmm…it seems this is the reason why Matt (WordPress) and Chris Pearson(Thesis theme) are not in good terms. they have different views on GPL.

  2. Scott

    Glad I stopped by, I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I saw some Studio Press themes in the warrior forum….I think they were altered and wondered how they could be sold …..I guess its because of the GPL licensing. Is this true?

    So I could sell a StudioPress or Gabfire Theme simply because its a wordpress theme?

    Wouldn’t all theme developers go out of business?

    Seems like some murky water!