331 – Why pay full price when we have GPL clubs?

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 10: Why pay full price when we have GPL clubs?” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

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This is the 10th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series and today’s thoroughly unsavoury thought is “Why pay full price when we have GPL clubs?”.

I think to put things in perspective we need a bit of history.

We tend to think of GPL clubs as a bit shady, but you could also argue that they serve as an essential consumer rights movement within WordPress.

Let’s start in the year 0. In the beginning was the Word. A few millennia later in the year 2003 WordPress comes along. It would not exist without the freedoms of the General Public Licence as it was a folk of b2/cafelog.

Freedoms of the General Public License are:

  • to run the program for any purpose
  • to study the program and change it
  • to redistribute copies to help others  
  • to distribute copies of modified versions to others

2007: Premium themes and plugins appear (tentatively selling support and easy updates at a low cost).

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2010:  Chris Pearson, author of the Thesis theme and Matt Mullenweg go head to head over Chris not making his derivative work GPL.

2011: WooThemes forks Jigoshop under the GPL to make WooCommerce with premium extensions.

2013: WooThemes removes the existing lifetime deal on existing customers, citing much disputed business figures.

2013: GPL clubs first appear with WP Avengers, a response to WooThemes handling of premium add on costs from someone called Captain Woo!

You can find out more here:

2015: Automattic buys WooCommerce (drops discounts and bulk buying of extensions but does not restrict GPL use – in fact they bought AutomateWoo and removed their restriction on needed a licence key for it to work).

I actually think WooThemes was a little odd. I was caught up in this and gave them the benefit of the doubt and bought the Canvas child themes, which they retired just after the 2nd year renewals.


Different type of GPL clubs

Slick marketing ones with hired presenters for Youtube videos. Looks legit:


https://www.nobuna.com/plans_2-2/  (this link has a video!)

Membership clubs


Some take care of the updating within WordPress with their own plugins that access their own repository.

Some plugins are only within GPL as far as they need to be legally. Issue with Themeforest and copywriting the styling.

You might recall that Elementor froze their functionality of pro widgets.

FlyingPress WP optimization plugin (used to) flag up on the front end if there is no licence key. Public shaming, but to be fair they give much for free in other plugins and content.

Argument against GPL:

  • Dodgy code – certainly true the earlier GPL club downloads from nulled sites that contain extras. Now there are enough to ‘steal’ from each other!
  • Developers will go out of business, so all lose out eventually.
  • Encourages some truly bloated sites.
  • Not up-to-date with security issues – (slower updates – but usually within a day or two).
  • Need to fiddle with the code when it will not work without a key.
  • No guarantee you will get the updates . They ‘steal’ from each other so when one GPL club is stuck on version 1.0 they nearly all are.

Case for GPL:

  • Reminds us, and plugin authors, that WordPress is GPL.
  • Testing or reviewing software.
  • Security fixes on software are no longer part of the regular toolkit. Some have been good at supplying  fixes for people whose licences have expired. But it probably has to be high profile.

David’s thoughts:

Many GPL clubs are simply redistributing copies to help others.  

The ones I use are very cheap and they have fair bit of work updating the version of 1,000 of plugins and themes.

I am now using them on live sites as I wind down on the use of certain software. I have a clients with some GPL WooCommerce extensions. They were given the options of paid and we have since been removing them. It would have not been an option I would have given if it were not for the dropping of the 50% which sealed my commitment to dropping WooCommerce for client work. I can not trust my supplier any more!

Is it much worse than using free, but not taking up the premium offering from the companies or only buying lifetime deals.

I’ve measured the risks of cheating the system and mostly decide they are not worth it. I mostly took pride in paying my subs and being in the club.

Nathan’s thoughts:

I’ve never used one of the GPL clubs, so I’m ignorant really!

I guess that my only concern is that these clubs might install something malicious into the plugins, or end users might suffer from a man-in-the-middle attack in which they themselves get hacked and carry malware on behalf of the hacker. You really don’t have a leg to stand on in this situation.

Do the GPL clubs always seem to have the latest plugin update? If so, how do they go about getting it? This seems a little odd! Are they buying the licence and then using a key to get their one ‘legit’ copy which they then resell?

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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now, welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 331. Entitled, why Pay Full Price when we have G P L Clubs? It was published on Thursday, the 22nd of June, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and I'll be joined in a few moments by David Wamsley so that we can have that chat.

But first, a few bits of housekeeping. If you would like to join me and Mark West Guard, we'd be most grateful. We're reviving our WS Forum webinar series. We took a bit of a break so that we could both attend WordCamp Europe, but we're back. It's happening at 3:00 PM on the 21st of June. That's a Wednesday.

That's 3:00 PM UK time. 10:00 AM Eastern. And 7:00 AM Pacific. We have links for calendar booking systems on the WP Builds.com homepage. So join us live. You can get your comments straight from Mark, any questions that you've got about WS form, and we're getting towards the end of this series, so it's getting nice and complicated.

Now, if you want to view the episodes that we've done so far, head to WP Builds.com, go to the archives menu in the main navigation, and then the demos archive. They're all nestled in there. It really is a really marvelous form plugin. Solution. We were supposed to have a show with Peach and Harry, the UI ux show, but we've postponed that because Peach's a little bit busy at the moment.

It'll probably be happening next week, but I'll keep you updated, but if you've put calendar events in for that this week, it is no longer gonna be taking place. Okay. Some other things to mention, if you are keen to get away from Twitter, we have our Mastodon install, which I'm keen for people in the WordPress space to sign up for.

It's at WP Builds.social. Yes, that's a url. WP Builds.social. Go and sign up there. You never know, you might find it's a decent alternative to Twitter. Also, as always, if you fancy subscribing, WP Builds.com/subscribe. And if you're in the market for some deals, WP Builds.com/deals. Go and check out a searchable filterable list of coupon codes for WordPress products.

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Okay. What have we got for you today? It's the 10th episode in our Thinking, the unthinkable series, and today we're tackling the thorny issue of why pay full price.

When we have G P L clubs, I dunno if but it is possible to go out there and use the services of G P L clubs and these clubs will give you free access. Sometimes you pay, but you pay significantly less to get access to plugins and themes and so on. And because WordPress is built on the G P L, this is completely legitimate.

But is this a good idea? Are there some problems that may be attached to it? If you've got any comments or thoughts after listening to the podcast, we'd really appreciate them. Head to WP Builds.com and let us know your thoughts. I hope you enjoy the podcast.

[00:03:52] David Waumsley: Hello. Welcome to the 10th episode of Thinking The Unthinkable and today's thoroughly unsavory thought is why pay full price when we have G P L clubs?

Nathan, you've no experience of this, have you? No. This is

[00:04:06] Nathan Wrigley: genuinely the truth. I have absolutely no idea about how these things operate, so I think it's gonna be a bit of a q and a episode because I think you, more about it than I do. I'd also like to point out, this is probably the first of our thinking, the unthinkable episodes, where that really does stack up, I think.

There is a area here where we are genuinely gonna get into the bounds of, no, this shouldn't be allowed. We should stop talking about this. So this will be

[00:04:33] David Waumsley: fascinating. I know the pitch folks are gonna be out and they're gonna be pointing at me, not you.

[00:04:38] Nathan Wrigley: Maybe not. Maybe I'll ask some ignorant questions.

But I guess we should spell this out because the bound to be a subset of users who have no idea what GPL is, let alone what a GPL

[00:04:49] David Waumsley: club is. Yeah exactly. Shall I start with my little bit of history? Cuz I think, oh, okay. We need to put this in perspective and I can explain that along the way because G P L clubs generally are thought of as a bit shady.

But you could argue if we look at our history, that it's an essential consumer rights movement within WordPress. Okay. So if we start at the very beginning we get WordPress coming in and it wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for, and this is the G P L general public license because it was a fork of something else that carried that same license, which was B2, stroke cafe log.

So with, without it, there's no WordPress is there. It's this open source license that grants certain freedoms for. In fact, I'll just quickly go through those, the right to. Run a program for any purpose to study the program and change it to redistribute copies, to help others, and to distribute copies of modified versions to others.

So any piece of software that covers with that license, which is WordPress comes with these freedoms. Yeah, so we get there and then where is where we get GPL clubs? Really, we have to have premium themes and plugins to appear first, right before we can even have a reason for them. So that happens in about 2007.

And then there is a bit of a debate over gpl. In 2010 when we have a guy called Chris Pearson who was the author of the thesis theme and Matt Mullenweg, obviously the head of WordPress or the head of automatic going head to head over derivative works of G because his thesis theme, he was actually put in his own rights on the pro version of that, and that was generally seen as not a good thing.

So that was a big victory for. Things in WordPress saying, staying true to those kind of freedoms. And then, and I think this is the key moment, really. So in 2011, woo them's Fork jingo shop to GIGO shop. I think it is Jigo Shop. Yeah. Sorry, J I said Jingo. Yeah. To make The w well to make WooCommerce and to sell premium extensions from that as well.

And then in 2013 Wiz removed the existing lifetime licenses on existing customers. Citing some widely disputed business figures. So that was quite a controversy, changing the roles on things. And then we got in the same year, the first G P L club appearing called WP Avengers, which was a response to this handle of Premier Madons.

Here's the interesting thing. Here's where he starts to get a bit shady again. The guy behind it was called Captain Woo.

[00:07:49] Nathan Wrigley: Of course, course they were.

[00:07:52] David Waumsley: Yeah. I just think it's fascinating, isn't it? Because in a way, I dunno if we would've had these G clubs selling for a much lower rate premium plugins if it hadn't been for the first premium plugin to really disappoint its own customers.

[00:08:13] Nathan Wrigley: That's interesting. So the idea being that the woo themes irritated their customers because they removed some lifetime deals, presumably then wanted a subscription basis, and because of that, there was a move movement to say we're now just gonna give these things away. We've got copies of them, we're now just gonna start distributing them freely.

And then some bright spark thought, actually maybe I could. I could turn a profit on these. I could put them onto a website and start to sell my copies of these things for a small fee.

[00:08:49] David Waumsley: Exactly. And I and who knows? I don't know. Perhaps there is some information out there. WP Avengers has disappeared and lots of these have turned up around the same time, but maybe that was the first step and they've closed down since.

So I, I don't know if they were truly doing it as a response to this, whether they just saw there's a way of making money, but. It seems, it was done for that reason. It was done because that's enough is enough. This is, remember, let's get back to our roots. This is all G P L, the earlier plugins.

It wasn't until, four years after WordPress was. Forked that we started to get premium stuff and then for them, someone had just taken us too far, do you know

[00:09:33] Nathan Wrigley: that? Do you know, just a quick question, and I think this is true, but I could be wrong. If anything builds on top of WordPress, it is.

Automatically, by definition, I'd use the word automatically in its strictest sense of the word there. It's automatically by definition comes under the G P L. If it in some way leverages WordPress, it itself has to be under the g l license.

[00:10:01] David Waumsley: Yeah. The problem is with this, and it's a gray area, and I'm sure we'll get ticked off if we try and get into the legal side of it, I think, one interpretation, running alongside this has been, as we talked about, theme forest used to allow or I think it was one of their standard policies or something that the CSS and the design. Could still hold the rights, but the PHP functioning underneath that had to come under g p. So they held, they still retained the rights through anybody selling through theme forest or the, the Envato marketplace.

Yeah. And that saw that people who were selling through that weren't allowed to talk at Word camps. Because you know that they were sticking to a strictly legal definition as best as we know where Matt Mullenweg's view that it should be in the spirit of how he sees G P L and that, They really shouldn't be keeping back certain stuff because it's an integral part of the system itself, yeah. To try and detach it. So yeah, so I don't think there's any certainty over this. I think everything has to be tested legally and it hasn't, and I guess the same may apply to G Clubs. They're sending a lot of things under the. Under the belief, and I'm sure they've grown more confident over the years that they can do it because they haven't been challenged.

But I suspect there's a number of plugins that do retain Yes. You know the rights, Elementor is one that I can particularly think of who didn't make their pro version initially gpl, and then did make it gpl. But I think you'd need to be a lawyer to understand the rights that they retain on some of their templates.


[00:11:59] Nathan Wrigley: really interesting, isn't it? So the idea being that. These GPL clubs are at the minute, at least, anyway, our understanding of the law, which is very poor and which certainly you and I wouldn't wanna test it in court is that all of this is completely legit. You are allowed to go to these G Club licenses.

They're not contravening the law, despite the fact that some people might find it peculiar. And you can download all this stuff for let's say free or modest amounts of money. It looks like a lot of these G clubs charge a really significantly smaller amount than you would have to pay if you went to the original distributor.

But all of that being said, the G P L itself has never actually been tested in court, so we are really not sure if in the future that whole edifice could come crashing down, but nobody's ever tried it.

[00:12:55] David Waumsley: I I've certainly heard again, Elementor in this case where I've, a lot of their people are appalled to see that GPL clubs have been carrying elementary.

Though, they pay the full license on it. And I've heard certainly in their Facebook group in the past, I don't know more recently, but where they said, yes, we'll be trying to tackle some of these people who are as they see it violating their terms, but, I've not seen any action that comes with that, guess. Yeah. And you'd imagine

[00:13:29] Nathan Wrigley: The lack of action is, yeah. Is maybe because they've realized that they really don't have a leg to stand on. I suppose the closest analogy for me would be, it's a bit like in the music industry where you. So I'm going back years cuz obviously nowadays it's very easy to, send a song everywhere in the world in a heartbeat.

But when I was a child, you could buy a CD or a cassette and it was trivially easy to copy that you could just copy it and give it to your friend. But the record labels knew that was happening, but they realized they really couldn't do much about it. And there was just this hope that enough people would pay to own the authentic thing and have the, the best experience and all the packaging and the best sound quality and what have you.

Enough of them would do that to keep the whole edifice up and running. Because if everybody copied everything all the time, then the whole system collapses. And the same would be true here. If everybody acquired everything through GPL clubs, there'd be no economic incentive for anything to build. Sorry for anybody to build anything on top of WordPress because you know you can't put food on the table with good wishes.

[00:14:50] David Waumsley: Yeah, you've just taken me back to a childhood memory. Yes. Every Sunday night. Yes. You used to go listen to the radio. Yes. From the top, top top 40 old. Top 40, was it? Yeah. And you used to sit there with your tape recorder. I had to start it just after the announcer stopped speaking. Yeah. I used

[00:15:07] Nathan Wrigley: to have a little ca Sorry, total digression.

I used to have this little cassette. Player, which was separate to the radio. So I had to, and it had a little microphone built into it, which by today's standards would be awful. And I literally used to push the little microphone up to the radio. And when the song, when the DJ announced that he was about to play the next song, you'd click the play and record buttons at the same time, try to hold it as still as possible so that there was no noise of creaky plastic or whatever.

And then when the song finished, you'd quickly press pause. Yeah. Just

[00:15:38] David Waumsley: exactly that memory.

[00:15:39] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. And yet we were breaking the law, David.

[00:15:42] David Waumsley: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Mind you, we're breaking the law. I think the law still exists in the uk that every male over the age of 14 is supposed to practice archery on a Sunday.

[00:15:55] Nathan Wrigley: Yes. I must admit I've definitely missed a couple of weeks of of archery practice. Yeah, that's true. Anyway, total digression. But the, here they are, GPL clubs. Go on then let's get into the whole thing. Do you have you any experience with these

[00:16:11] David Waumsley: cough? Yeah. Quite, quite a lot. Oh God, what am I saying here?

Yeah I mean I've used them and I've even used them on live sites with. Clients have known what I'm doing this kind of thing. So in actually going back a little bit, and I'll explain where it, I first started using 'em on live sites. So after we got to the point with Avengers, again, it's back to WooCommerce, but then automatic bought WooCommerce.

Ah, and it's interesting for them. So in 2015, they They dropped the discounts and the bulk buy-in of extensions, and for that reason made it suddenly expensive. And actually for me, actually stopped me from wanting to do woo copper because it became more of an expensive proposition. So in those cases you could, because interestingly as well, they stuck true to the word that they didn't.

So they also bought some extra extensions, things like. Automate Woo, which actually they used to try and restrict the use of it where you needed a license key before the program would work. Ah, and when it came to. Automatic owning it that was removed. So with all of WooCommerce's extensions they've stuck to the, that agreement there where they don't hinder you from using gpl, but they did increase their prices.

So in that case, yeah, one client I just thought he wanted some extra stuff for a short time and I said look, this is what it's gonna cost you and or we could do this, but here's the risks, yeah. It's an interesting

[00:17:48] Nathan Wrigley: proposition. I. E-commerce and G. Yeah. Because it feels that if you are in the market for a plugin Yeah.

And you are, you've got an a website, which in some way has e-commerce, it does feel that, and we'll get onto how these G clubs work in a minute, but it does feel as if you are more likely to pay for something. Without thought because it, it props up your business, if something fails to function in your Yeah.

E-commerce store, then you know your cash register stops ringing and yeah, your revenue dries up. And so that's an interesting thing, isn't it? Automatic, were able to make that. But I do wonder what the conversation was that was had back then in terms of, was it just purely being honorable to the G or was it, was there more of a conversation around, okay, look, this is a great business to be in.

There's gonna be a massive proportion of people who were willing to pay for this. I'm pretty sure it was probably the former in terms of it just being honoring the gpl. But it's, it does feel like e-commerce particularly. Would be in some way immune to this a little bit more than just, I dunno a small plugin, which does something interesting on your site, but isn't crucial to its wellbeing.

[00:19:10] David Waumsley: The, the. Dropping of the discount, which was 50%. It was a massive change in the cost, but in a way, it's pretty much in line with Shopify, which was their nearest competitor. So I understand, but in certain circumstances then that changed the deal, yeah. On what you had with your client. Suddenly it was no longer in control. So there was this kind of what do we do? Do you go g p with, use that and take a gamble cuz it's even greater a risk, isn't it? If you are, taking money through your website as well to use Plugins from a source unknown.


[00:19:50] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of security updates or even, who knows, back doors that have been popped in there. I do remember actually right at the beginning of our podcast, Ron, so probably like episode well under the 20, we did actually talk about that. We talked about the pricing and about the fact that this 50% discount had been.

Removed. And I remember at the time I wasn't doing e-commerce, so I had to learn it from others, but I do remember at the time there being a lot of angst and annoyance about that. But it, it doesn't really affect this whole GPL discussion. So right back to you. Yeah. How, what were your what have been your motivations for using these GPL clubs?

Is it just because is it just because it's a bit cheaper or you wanna try things out? Is there some. Is there some bit of you, which thinks that if I try it out and I like it, I'll go and pay for it from its original source, if you like. Yeah,

[00:20:43] David Waumsley: you just covered it with the last point. I think really mostly it's, because I'm doing the YouTube channel and checking things out, sometimes you wanted to see what else is out there and it's behind a paywall, and just to check it out, I wouldn't, I'm not gonna pay that.

So I'll G Club. I think that's initially the reason to try things out and I've always fairly much distrusted them. My first experience with a GPL club. I was checking the, what I downloaded, and definitely there was, because the earlier way of getting this kind of software was from those kind of online download where they'd null the programs.

Yes. There were a lot of people sorts. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And clearly this earlier GPL Club had done that. They'd picked some stuff and I told them as well, and it did look like they cleaned it up. I don't think you see that now. And that's what most the argument against the GPL Club is. You can't trust it.

You don't know who you're buying it from, which is absolutely right. And that is probably likely to, can contain lots and lots of dodgy stuff, which definitely was true in the earlier days, but I think now because they are they're everywhere now, aren't they? That they can steal from each other that I think most of the time if you do download it, it's going to be the agile same program with few modifications.

[00:22:08] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting you use the word steal inadvertently there. Yeah, steal from each other, but I guess under the auspices of the G P L, you are just, yes. I like, you're just taking, what is rightfully yours. We,

[00:22:22] David Waumsley: yeah, I think that was, can I just say why you use that term actually?

Because it's actually all, I can't remember which G Club it's on, but they literally use that word that you're not allowed to go and steal. Steal this for your own. You can't use it for your own clubs. You can't pass it on to other people, which is the very premise in which they are operated in the fact that you can do that.


[00:22:45] Nathan Wrigley: dear. It's a bit like a criminal saying, there's a load of gold bullion that I stole. Don't you dare steal it from me. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That's fascinating. Okay, so with these GPL clubs, it, I had a, we had a look at one of them before. I, we started this podcast recording. You gotta say they, they're not like, they don't look dodgy, do they?

They're quite slick. They look like they've been in business for a while. They've got everything, searchable, filterable, and all that kind of stuff. But the question for me is, where are they getting them? How are they getting their hands on this stuff? So let's. Pick random plugin, we'll call it plugin a and plugin A has a free version on the WordPress repo, and it also has a pro version.

As far as I'm aware. The only way of getting plugin a's pro version is to sign up, pay your subscription, go to the website, download it. So there it is. I've got a copy of it. How are these websites amassing? Hundreds, possibly thousands of these plugins. You mentioned. In, in, in air quote, stealing from each other.

I'm sure there's a little bit of that going on, but do you think these are, do you think these are people who've got legitimate accounts with these organizations? They're downloading it and then putting it onto their repository, their G P L Club? That's the bit that I don't understand.

How is it, they've got so many.

[00:24:05] David Waumsley: Yeah. I honestly, I don't know. And I think they're getting them from various sources. I think I, I imagine the first one that I ever joined where I did tell them they got this old stuff in there. And I. Yeah, I think it's one of these like I'm revealing my dirty little secret here that I use them and I'm sure a lot of other people do.

And somebody who told me about one club, which I joined said that you used them and they knew the guy behind it who was always hidden. Another captain. Woo. Yeah. Yeah. And but I think from what I understood of that small conversation I had is that they obviously had a mass their own programs, they, they were somebody who built sites for people and, bought every lifetime deal that was going.

So they would've updates for life on that. And then the rest of the time, I guess they were just, Padding it out with other ones from other G clubs and wherever else they could get the stuff from I don't think there's one method. The, here's the thing though. There are different types of, these GPL clubs aren't there.

There's some really new ones, which is like una.com that does, YouTube advertising with a proper presenter and it looks totally legit, if you see one of those, wow. And then they. They're, they explain, it's g this is stuff you don't get the support with us, but you get, and they do that and I, I'm not sure if they do this, but some other ones have their own plugin, which means you can update that from their repository like you would with WordPress, the new premium plugins.

So you've got that. So wait, hang on.

[00:25:47] Nathan Wrigley: That doesn't just, let's just dwell on that for a minute. So on some of these, GPL club sites, you can download a plugin, which essentially is a bit like having the WordPress repo in your but for G P L, again, in air quotes, stolen plugins. And so what you go, so you're in the WordPress admin, you click on the link to their plugin in the menu on the left, and then you're suddenly presented with.

The things that you can download, so you can update it from within WordPress? Yeah.

[00:26:20] David Waumsley: Yeah, I've tried one of, I, I've never put this on the life site but yeah, there was one of those clubs the next to nothing the, I've only joined three in my lifetime, so it sounds like I've tried them all.

But one of those did have its own plugin and it was quite slick how it worked. It would do the same. It would give you notifications when your plugins were up outta date. So through it you could update those with the latest version they add. But here is where it goes wrong is because If you have genuine plugins in it, and I dunno how the other ones work, if that are up to date it will tell you that you'll not up to date and to update with their plugin.

Ah, which meant rolling back. So it can all go horribly wrong with that. So I did test one of those out and I thought, yeah, it sounds like a really nice idea. But if they all work in that same way, The ones that you have paid for won't be as update up. So you can end up, reverting your paid for plugins just to update your non-paid for plugin.

Yeah. Yeah. I understand.

[00:27:31] Nathan Wrigley: So the traditional process though, with a WordPress plugin, which is a. Premium plugin is you go to the website, download it, upload it to your WordPress install, and then typically there's some settings page where you have to enter your license key. And during the period of that license key, it updates the plugin just like any other plugin.

So you know, you get an update, you click. Update and presumably it does some sort of license check and you're all good to go, and it updates, and when that license expires, it stalls At that point, you might try to update it, but the license says no, and you're stuck on the version that you're on.

You can't move forward from there. Presumably that's how this works. If you're on one of these G clubs and it doesn't have this automatically updating plugin, you then just have to keep checking back and hope that the GPL Club will have. Found some way, the latest version, and then download it from the GPL Club and upload it, upload it and wipe out the old version and upload the new version.

So it's a much more manual process.

[00:28:33] David Waumsley: Exactly. Yeah. I, you can, you can get round that easily with something like Main WP, where you couldn't upload the plugin of your choice and send it out to all of your sites in one go. So you can make a nice manual. But But I was saying about different types of clubs, cuz there are some other ones as well, which is g l dl.com as well, which is a sort of I think the basis of that one was more of a membership, where people could effectively come together to distribute as members, you could add in your contribution to this club.

With your plugin that you Oh, I

[00:29:14] Nathan Wrigley: see. It's a bit like Napster. It's file

[00:29:16] David Waumsley: sharing. Yeah, it's that sort of way, because it's built into our freedoms. I have the right to help out a friend with my program, so I go and buy it and I say, Nathan, would you like this? Which we do occasionally pass them on to try some account.

We don't give away the license key. That's the only thing. Yeah

[00:29:34] Nathan Wrigley: so you sign up to this service and then if somebody wants something, you might have it and you donate it to the service and then everybody can get hold of it. It's fascinating. I'm just looking at the list of things now. Oh my goodness.

It just goes on and on. It's literally hundreds and hundreds. My, were,

[00:29:54] David Waumsley: I think that. I think that club's changed. I've never really followed it too much, but I think it's probably changed a bit, a little bit more like the other ones where someone's in charge and you just pay an amount for it.

But it's, yeah. But here's the thing. There isn't,

[00:30:09] Nathan Wrigley: sorry, go on. No, I was just gonna say, you, you raised a really good point there. I wonder how many people listening to this US firstly, are gonna be going. This all sounds very immoral. I can't abide this. Maybe other people are secretly saying, yeah, I'm a member of several of these as well, but I don't like to talk about it.

But also there definitely will be, and I'm even gonna say maybe even a majority of people who have air quotes lent their plugin to somebody else, their premium plugin to somebody else. Because a friend has said, look, I just wanna try this out. Can I borrow it and use your license? And I'll bet that happens.

All the time, and you are in effect servicing the same need. You're doing the same thing, right? Yeah, exactly.

[00:30:53] David Waumsley: And I think I see nothing wrong with that. I think where the whole thing gets a little bit naughty, and also for G Clubs and how much you can trust them, is that, Not everybody is entered into the spirit of G P L automatic, have, so as I say, when they've bought other plugins, some of those have blocked the use of the program without the license key, right?

So until you stick that paid for license key and the program doesn't work now. Automatic. Haven't done that. They've stuck to this sort of spirit where you can share it freely and you don't need that key. So good on them, I think. Cuz it's true to that kind of spirit. But here's the interesting thing.

These g clubs have to also carry other plugins where you do need those license keys and in order to make them work, they have to modify the code.

[00:31:44] Nathan Wrigley: And yeah, I guess that raises questions as soon as you're running into something where, The code has been modified. Yeah. The, my spidey sense is starting to go, hang on a minute.

Wait. And that, that really is a bit of a concern for me with all of this is that I just wouldn't, I, there's no trust there for me. I just thinking, okay, I'm downloading this software from some organization. I don't really know how they've got it, but it certainly.

Peculiar how they've got it, put it that way and I don't know if it's been tampered with. I don't know if a backdoor has been added. I don't even know if there's some sort of man in the middle attack on that G P L club such that every download is being distributed with malware. Even if the owners of that website don't know anything about it.

And of course that's possible. It might be that almost everything is gonna bring problems to you. Caveat, temp tour, it's up to you to, up to you to go and check these things for viruses or suspicious code prior to actually sticking them on your website.

[00:32:54] David Waumsley: Yeah, you could take the trouble really to compare.

There's tools out there where you can compare the code with an original code, but of course you have to have that original, you gotta, yeah. Yeah. It's

[00:33:05] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Self-defeating there, isn't it? Yeah.

[00:33:07] David Waumsley: Yeah. You could do check, when I found. Clearly the first time I used it and it was just, as most of this has been from, for me, just trying out tools out there.

The first time I saw these obviously null dangerous plugins being sent, it wasn't difficult to find them really just to run, run a virus check, on them, and that would pretty much find dodgy code straight

[00:33:33] Nathan Wrigley: away. Oh, really? And you found some in some of them,

[00:33:36] David Waumsley: did you? Yeah.

Yeah. That's why I was able to report it. I've got no skills in this kind of thing if I can find it, you wonder. Yeah. Yeah. That's much

[00:33:45] Nathan Wrigley: on the surface, right?

[00:33:46] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. If I can see it. So yeah, that is always the biggest risk. I think genuinely I, it's not in the interest of.

Companies like Nuna who will do some advertising to put any of that stuff in there. And you might guess, I don't know, it would be a guess that they probably do buy their plugins directly from source.

[00:34:13] Nathan Wrigley: I've just clicked on the naa website, the link that you sent, and it's quite interesting.

The thing right at the top is for just $15 per month, and prior to that, they've crossed out 89. So they're, they're definitely in this, aren't they? They've got all the marketing going on just for just $89, no, $15 a month. Then they've got all the benefits listed out of being a part of the club and how you can build amazing websites and then, All the different plugins and so they sell them individually as well.

You don't have to join the membership. Yes. You can just buy them one at a time for, a handful of do. Wow. Boy it's full on, isn't it?

[00:34:53] David Waumsley: I'm pretty sure the clubs that I've joined, they've been like, I, that's really crazy money about $30 or something for Lifetime. So you just think, oh, I'll join that just to.

Download these things. I know I have to put it safely locally or something like that. So to try them out and but it is interesting. Certainly, I ran a Beaver Builders beginners group and certainly a couple of people have couple in from that who have generally bought Beaver Builder from one of these clubs, not knowing.

That wasn't right.

[00:35:26] Nathan Wrigley: Do you know what if I was a novice to WordPress, right? Yeah. So they've got the word WordPress in their, in, so the strap line on this Nuna website right at the top is get the ultimate WordPress plugins and themes for web design professionals and business owners.

They've actually gone asterisk next to the word. WordPress. I don't know where that ends up, but I can't see anything in the footer, which might tell me why it's

[00:35:53] David Waumsley: No, it's there in the bottom of, it says, it's just saying they're not affiliated in any way. Oh,

[00:35:57] Nathan Wrigley: okay. So anyway, the point is they've obviously, they're thinking about search engine optimization.

So if I wanted to get some WordPress themes, there is a chance that I would stumble across this. And there's nothing here to make me think that I'm not buying the real thing, and if I'm new to WordPress, I have no idea what. What website to go to, to download a plugin or indeed anything to do with the cost typically for plugins.

So you are saying that you encountered people in your Facebook group who'd bought plugins from these types of places thinking Yeah. That this was the place to buy it from.

[00:36:33] David Waumsley: Yeah. Huh. And let me just have, it is interesting actually, what Yeah, that's definitely the case. But it's interesting.

I'm pretty sure with most of 'em, I think I'm just looking at their page there, whether they advertise that they're not modified in any way that they are. No, they just say that they are. Most of 'em. No. It says guaranteed that they are secure and virus free,

[00:36:58] Nathan Wrigley: don't they? One other thing. Yeah. It says here benefits of the membership.

It says, all our products are scanned and verified by McAfee Secure. This means that all of your plugins are a hundred percent virus free. Yeah. Interesting. I guess if you trust McAfee's security scanning, then you're good to go. Couldn't possibly anything. Couldn't get past that. Surely not.

[00:37:24] David Waumsley: And people do say, like they try and stand out. They say they're not nulled or cracked versions, but I would be, I'd be, I think it depends what you call noll. Really. I don't know. I can think of one example that's WP Rocket, who you definitely need to put in a key for that one to work, and I think pretty much everybody co puts that in is WP

[00:37:48] Nathan Wrigley: Rocket, therefore

[00:37:50] David Waumsley: not G P L.

No, no, I mean you can do that. That's the thing, isn't it? You set up to your own interpretation and spirit of it, right? So it can still be G P L and it, I think it has to be, but what I'm saying is it won't work until you've put your license key in. But the very fact that they are able to pass that on shows that they must have done something to it.

To be able to make that work. Yeah. All they need to do is, I'm sure, is to modify one file. There'll be one file, which will go and say, check here that there's a license key, and make a call back. And I'm sure all they need to do is to change that, to say, don't make a call back and stick in this arbitrary key or something.

I see what you

[00:38:36] Nathan Wrigley: mean. Yeah. Got it. Got it. I wonder I wonder if plugin developers not being a, in any way, shape or form a plugin developer myself, I wonder if there's any metrics which they are able to gather, which gives them an indication of how many of the, let's say, pro licenses of plugin A are B used.

With a license key. So in other words, there's a million people using my plugin and 700,000 of them have got the license key installed, but there's these other 300,000 somewhere. So we know that roughly three out of 10 licenses are yeah, they're not being licensed in that way. They've been found in, on other ways, shall we say.

[00:39:18] David Waumsley: I I doubt there's any metric they could get on this kind of stuff. No, I would've thought not as well. Yeah. And I think it gets really interesting when, I've no idea cause I've never tested it out, but something like elementary would be a good example. And there'll be other page builders as well where they have cloud template in, I suppose you don't get access to that.

Yeah, that's a good

[00:39:39] Nathan Wrigley: point. Yeah. Yeah. There'll be things which are. Limited to you. I do remember in the day, do you remember when Elementor came out? They had, their unlimited license was available for this annual subscription, and at some point they, they changed that, didn't they? They made it only a thousand.

Only, yes. It's still rather a lot, isn't it? But a thousand installs off one license because they discovered that this one license or a handful of license keys were being used. In thousands and thousands of websites, you know much more than any individual or company could possibly make use of.

So I guess the principle there was this license key has found its way out onto the internet. Our licensing system allows it to be used infinitely, so they reign that in and put this. Limit of a thousand on it, and at the time it caused great uproar, but I have to confess, I always thought, boy, if you've got a thousand websites, that does seem like you could probably get another license.

When you get to the 1001st website, you're obviously doing quite well.

[00:40:44] David Waumsley: I'm sure it happens. In fact, you've remind, reminded me of another one of my dodgy dealings. Got on no far too much look after this David. Yeah. But long before I was doing this professionally, I mean I've had a gravity problems license for about 10 years now, which I've paid for every year.

But before that, when I heard about it and the lifetime deals that they initially had with that and expired, I did find somewhere when I was looking at that, cause I wanted to try it out, somebody. Had a somebody was sharing a license key. It was out there, there was a hand handful of these lifetime deal license keys being shared around.

I tried one of them out. It worked. So you could see what, you could see elementary's point, that can simply happen, couldn't, it gets out there in the public and everybody can start using it.

[00:41:32] Nathan Wrigley: But I guess these companies are the beginning when they're, it's okay. So rewind the clock. 10 years. Okay.

When it was the beginning of all of this, no. Nobody knew what this model would look like anyway. So there's prob, gravity forms never had any expectation that there'd be thousands and thousands of people sharing that license. Yeah. But then also companies like Elementor, I'm guessing they just, they hadn't figured out that same abuse in inverted would occur.

And they just figure it out as they're growing. Yeah. But I'm sure that, if you're starting a WordPress company now, I'm sure that you'll probably have much more chops about you. You're not gonna set up an infinite license for a small fee. I imagine that most companies these days put some kind of limit on things.

[00:42:17] David Waumsley: Yeah. If a key did get out, unlike with Gravity forms, where at that time at least everything was on your own system with Elementor having a sort of cloud library, if you let a key go out like that and infinite number of people could use that one license there. Yeah. And access their paid for hosting, for the, could, it would really cost the company quite a lot of money.

Yeah. Yeah. Really could. Yeah, there is one. Again revealing more of my dodgy goings on when I was testing, I was really interested in performance, so I wanted to test out a whole bunch of optimization plugins, and one of them that I found was f. Flying press, which is a very good one of those optimizing plugins.

But I got it from a gpl just to try out there, pro version of that one. And it really knows how to publicly shame you. It actually, on the front, it actually says that you need to put your license key in on the front end of the site when you Oh, really? Yeah, it does say it doesn't have it puts up some kind of warning about not having up-to-date key on it.

And I thought that's the first time I've ever seen that.

[00:43:30] Nathan Wrigley: That really is, yeah. Presumably there's nothing wrong with that. The plugin will still work, it will function. But that is an interesting line of defense, isn't it? Publicly shaming. The person, the purveyor of this website is Okta.

Is not been beneath in air quotes, buying from a G P L club. Ah, that's interesting. So they're on the attack there. That's fascinating.

[00:43:56] David Waumsley: Yeah, it's a, it's interesting. I've, I have no issue with that one. It's fair enough. It's a premium plugin only and the author gives away a lot of good free plugins on the repository.

But it is just an interesting take on how everybody does this, all the individual companies, some decide to, limit which isn't, as I say, this isn't, Matt Mullenweg's interpretation, the program, we should be able to share it. I should be able to hand everything over to you without you having to share my license key with you.

Yeah. Yeah. From their perspective, but not everybody's doing that. Everybody's trying to protect their business in interest in different ways. Yeah. One

[00:44:36] Nathan Wrigley: of the lines of defense that I've seen is that the premium license has to. In some way be certified in the purveyors website. So you have to go in and say I'm gonna be running it on this site.

So you copy and paste the URL of the website and then that authorizes it for that website. And so in that way it, it obviates this problem because obviously whoever's got that license key, can't do that. They don't have your username and password for that service, so they can't get in. But I haven't seen that too often.

The last time I saw it was quite a while ago, but I know that some people have done it that way.

[00:45:11] David Waumsley: I, I dunno if it's still the case element is get mentioned a lot here, but there's always been a lot of talk with them, with G and their relationship with it. And because it's such a big important plugin in WordPress, you can see, but they.

When they went g p they also restricted when the license expired that you could do anything with a premium add-on. So your site wouldn't break, but you just couldn't do anymore with the premium widgets. Okay. So yeah.

[00:45:42] Nathan Wrigley: Interested let's sum it up. You've got these in our show notes, you've got the arguments for and against summarized.

So should we just go through those before we wrap it up? Okay.

[00:45:52] David Waumsley: We'll start with the arguments against those. Yeah. So dodgy code. That's certainly the one. Yeah, that, that is the one

[00:45:58] Nathan Wrigley: for me. That's, that is the reason I wouldn't want to do it. Just who knows what rubbish could happen. Yeah.

[00:46:04] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. I've much of why I'm against it is the second one, which is developers will get out of business if everybody was doing this,

[00:46:14] Nathan Wrigley: anybody who listening to this, who's a plug-in developer is gonna be, with a pro. Version of whatever it is they've got. They're gonna be screaming at us, aren't they? Just you haven't mentioned this yet. This is a big thing. If you've put hours of blood, sweat, and tears into your plugin, must be incredibly galling to see it on a G P L Club knowing that's not where you intended it to be.

[00:46:40] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. And I, I've taken real pride. A lot of the plugins that I've bought, I've been so happy with them for so many years that it's just not, I wouldn't not want, I would, it. The money doesn't matter. I wanna be part of the club. It's simply that I want to support the developers.

So I, and I think that's how it should be. I put in third here, it encourages some truly bloated sites, that's the fact that suddenly you've got all of these premium plugins that you could stick in. If you, in fact, if you look at some of the GPL clubs, they are so bloated because, and they, as you said, they look professional, but it's.

Because they've pretty much got every plugin out there to choose from, haven't they? Yeah. Yeah. They're like

[00:47:24] Nathan Wrigley: a full on marketplace. Yeah, you're right.

[00:47:26] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I, the next issue is really that they're never going to be as up to date as if you're buying from the, from source. When there's a hot fix that needs to come for security, you're gonna get it straight away.

With these, you're gonna wait a day or two or even longer for them to update. Yeah.

[00:47:43] Nathan Wrigley: And in some cases, especially with. Some of the bigger plugins you've gotta imagine they have a big target painted on their back. So again, we keep talking about Elementor. Let's say that Elementor has a disastrous security problem.

That's gonna go around the internet hacker community like wildfire, because there's so many millions of sites that could be compromised and. Element or release a patch, everybody clicks the button. It gets updated on those websites. Yeah, but of course it doesn't in this scenario, you have to wait for your G P L Club to somehow get hold of that.

Upload it to the site. Yeah, you download it. That could be a totally indeterminate amount of time, including it never happens. It may be that plugin never gets updated on that website. Who knows? So you are totally opening yourself up, I think in that scenario.

[00:48:36] David Waumsley: Yeah, absolutely. And we've mentioned they're fiddling around with the code for the, to make it work when a key's required, and finally, there's just no guarantee you're going to get the updates from them.

Yeah. Yeah, I've seen it on lots of 'em where they, as we, you can guess they are, as I've said, stealing from each other because, often if you go and look at a certain plugin, they're all stuck on an earlier version. Yeah, none of them got updated, so know they must somebody, they were relying on one person to have a license for this and they no longer do.

[00:49:10] Nathan Wrigley: This is interesting as well because prior to clicking record, you and I had a little look at a couple of random selected plugins, and they were actually up to date, weren't they? Both of the things that we looked for were bang up to date and in one case, the plugin had been updated fairly recently.

And there it was the, at least it claimed to be, it was the change log number matched with the official website. So it would appear at least some of them are keeping up to date, but there's no guarantees. Okay. That's

[00:49:44] David Waumsley: the no. Go on, sorry. Yeah. No. I knew because I was really, there was a plugin that I paid for, but I didn't wanna update it because the only site I had it on was a demo site for this. And so I looked around at the G thinking and they were all stock. But now we just looked at it, didn't we earlier? And now they're all up to date oh, this one was so amazing. Yeah. Amazing. Somebody's gone and bought it. Okay, so the slightly

[00:50:11] Nathan Wrigley: shorter list of case. Yeah, case. The arguments for GPL Club.

I'll start off. No, you've gone, you wrote them, so you should

[00:50:19] David Waumsley: do it. Okay. I think it just takes us back. It reminds us and plugin authors that WordPress is gpl and I think, when you listen to, particularly again, Elementor, because of the type of audience that they bring in that have come in there that.

That instantly expect to pay for a premium thing. They think people are stealing and you think maybe not. It is, it's part of the freedoms. It's why WordPress exists. So I think it's good to remind us of that. I think that was

[00:50:49] Nathan Wrigley: really eloquently put. I like that. That's quite actually quite a strong I argument, isn't it?

I like that.

[00:50:54] David Waumsley: Yeah. Testing and reviewing software. That's what I've mostly used it for, which has been fascinating, which I can't do. Yeah.

[00:51:00] Nathan Wrigley: Again, if you just, so the curious thing there is you've. There is a high probability in your case, given your proclivities, that you will, you'll go and test it because you know you haven't got enough skin in the game to go and buy it, to test it.

So you'll test it with a view to buying it, which is interesting.

[00:51:19] David Waumsley: There used to be a few plugins out there that used to put the pro version on GitHub. Oh, not many of those, you could get it and still buy it because I was sticking to the fact that really all we're selling is the convenient updates and the support.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. And yes. Here's another interesting one. Security fixes on software that are no longer part of your regular toolkit. So let's say you decide, which is what a lot of plugins sell themselves, is that you don't need to update. You could, we want you on subscription and you renew every year, but this software won't break immediately.

So if that's the premise, here's the problem that happens sometimes is that if the author. Has a terrible security issue with that earlier version if they don't go and make that fix available, which some have occasionally when it's been high profile, but if they don't, you are stuck with something which you were sold to believe in, that you could keep it running for as long as you decided to, but now it's got a security fix and you've got no way to get out of it.

So A G P L could might save you in that case. Yeah. That's

[00:52:34] Nathan Wrigley: interesting. I have a plugin, I'm not going to name names, but I have a plugin that I'm still paying a license key for. And it hasn't been updated in over 24 months, so it's two years. There's been no, there's been no hint of an update of any kind.

And I, yeah, there's a bit of me, which is questioning what am I paying for here? Yeah. The plugin. Does what it does, and there's no features been added, nothing's been taken away, but nor has there been any kind of update process at all. And it, yeah, it, I can see that it's quite an interesting argument.

There is a,

[00:53:15] David Waumsley: Just from that, it's come up. A few times recently for me is that there is no way in the WordPress system, so you download a free plugin from the repository and you just do your general updates. But when there is no update, and even when they've removed it from the repository, you've no, in inkling that plugin hasn't been updated or been removed from the repository.

Yeah. Yeah. And it could have a serious. Security problem in it, and you would have no idea as a user.

[00:53:45] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that was a bit of a debate in the news recently, the WordPress sort of news recently, wasn't it? That pulling plugins entirely from, in this case, the WordPress repository isn't always the best option.

Let's say that they contravene something and they get pulled, maybe it'd be better to have. The option for it to be updated because let's say it's a security fix. Do you don't really want every, the plugin author to have to go through the theme, oh, sorry. The plugin review process, which might take weeks to get it back up when really they've managed to fix the thing that was wrong.

You want that them to be able to just resurface that fix straight away so that everybody can get Yeah. That fix. Yeah. Oh, that's a bit of an aside, sorry.

[00:54:28] David Waumsley: No. I think we've come to the end of what we're, what's our final thoughts on this? So you're never gonna touch him, are you? No. I'm

[00:54:35] Nathan Wrigley: coming to you with handcuffs, David.

I'm I'm gonna phone the authorities almost immediately. This podcast is over and and wish shall have you banged off in jail before the day is out Now I dunno, does I find it a bit strange? I've not done it ever, and I can't see myself ever doing it. But yeah, there were some solid arguments in there and the strongest one is really, in terms of the law, I guess you're not doing anything wrong.

[00:55:05] David Waumsley: I. Yeah, exactly. And I, I definitely wouldn't have recommend them to anybody who didn't know what they were doing and to use them, it's, but that's the thing, isn't it? It's, this is all, we're all in one big g l club, aren't we? Yeah. All take your risks. Yeah. You take your risk with these people and you think, yeah, it is is shady and most of them do hide away do you know many of the plugins you download for free from the repository and how much different is it from, there's lots of people who say, I hate the g p but I'm only ever going to buy lifetime deals or something.

Effectively it's still not, it's still not put in a lot of money in the pockets of developers. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:55:51] Nathan Wrigley: We didn't really get too much into the. The whole developer, yeah. The financial side of it all. We maybe should have done more justice to that, but yeah. Good episode.

Interesting. Definitely. I'm sure people will be screaming at us, but if you've got any comments, let us know what you think. But that was nice. I will see you in a couple of weeks.

[00:56:13] David Waumsley: Yeah, thanks. Bye.

[00:56:14] Nathan Wrigley: I hope you enjoyed that. Always a pleasure to chat to David Wamsley in this case about the thorny subject of G P L clubs and how legitimate moral and so on they are.

If you've got any thoughts, head over to WP Builds.com, search for episode number 331, and leave us a comment there. We'd most appreciate it. If you fancy boosting the podcast, please go to your podcast, player of Choice, apple Podcast, Google Podcasts, and so on, and give us a review. Five stars or something like that would be most welcome.

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We will be back next Thursday for a podcast episode. Remember, we also do our this week in WordPress show WP Builds.com/live. That's 2:00 PM uk time. Come and join us and leave some comments.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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  1. Hi! Interesting topic. There is one big thing that I think is overlooked by people creating these sites and people using them – all premium GPL plugins have protected trademarks. And that’s exactly what makes it ILLEGAL to resell these plugins. Sure, you can take ACF Pro or Yoast Pro plugins’ code, remove all the trademarked stuff (logos, names) and then create your own and sell it. But that’s not what these sites are doing (and it would be a huge undertaking). So, they’re outright stealing whole products and reselling them. There are whole companies and thousands of people who provide these products, quality plugins and themes, so using such membership sites hurts the whole community. And using GPL in the name is actually just making fun of what GPL really stands for.

    • I’m with you Dario. It all seems a little shady to me, and given that you work for a plugin company in the WordPress space, the whole thing takes on a new level for you. I don’t know how to square this circle TBH.

      • Well, I think it’s great that you’re talking about this subject, it’s definitely an interesting one for the whole community. 🙂

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