WordPress – Making Money From “Free” is… Wrong?

I came across this post on WPCandy yesterday about a WP Developer named Jake who has been prohibited from speaking at WordCamps (WordPress conferences) because he sells WordPress themes through ThemeForest. Basically, the gist of it is that WordPress doesn’t allow people to speak at their conferences that don’t release all of their WordPress stuff under a completely General Public License (GPL) including their images, JS, and CSS (PHP must be GPL because of the license of WordPress itself.) Envato (ThemeForest.net, CodeCanyon.com, etc.) doesn’t allow their sellers to offer such a license. So Jake gets to pick one or the other – either he can make money through selling stuff on Envato or he can take it all down, loose his income, and be part of the WordPress stuff. Jake’s response on his blog is well over 100 comments including Mr. WordPress himself Matt Mullenweg.

I find this story fascinating! How crazy is it that a company like Envato or ElegantThemes or WPEngine or ManageWP can make hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars off of a FREE platform in the first place? I’ve looked but haven’t been able to find an approximation of the income generated from WordPress related services or businesses. If I had to guess, it’d be in the tens of millions and probably even breaches the $100 million mark – all based off of free. Tens of millions made off of free. The irony.

And now this story… If you want my opinion on this story, I think it will play out one of two ways since this is the way of the economics of supply and demand. I’ll first say that I highly doubt that the incentive to participate in these events or in the WP community in this particular way outweighs the value of the money developers like Jake make from their hard work. As he said on his post, he makes nearly 100% of his income from selling WordPress stuff. So here are my two scenarios:

Scenario 1)  WordPress (or Automattic or The WordPress Foundation or whichever) will reconsider its ways and will eventually allow people like Jake back in because they are such a big part of the community and as such, it would be of a huge benefit for WordPress itself to reap the benefits of their presence within their system. Or…

Scenario 2) These developers are not allowed to be part of the WP community in this way which could cause a significant division in the community. If the demand is great enough, which it probably will be, we might see these other developers host these types of WP conferences and such themselves. I mean, Envato already teaches so much through their tuts sites, why not throw some live events?

How do you think it will play out?

Update – Here’s the response from WordPress – http://themeshaper.com/2013/01/24/envato-license/

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