In March 2013 Envato made it possible for authors on ThemeForest to licenses their themes as 100% GPL. An initial survey revealed adoption of the full GPL license was very low. It’s now two years since the 100% option became available so we conducted another survey to find out how many themes on ThemeForest have the 100% GPL license and if authors have finally embraced the freedoms this license offers.
Very Low Initial Adoption of the 100% GPL
Three months after the 100% GPL choice was introduced we did a quick survey of the new themes released since the change to see if authors were embracing the fully GPL license or sticking with the regular ThemeForest license.
The survey results were surprising and disappointing. After three months only 14 out of the 420 new themes had the 100% GPL license. That was just 3.3%! It seemed that authors on ThemeForest really didn’t care for the GPL! But was it just too soon to really tell?
When the 100% GPL option was first introduced on ThemeForest it was evident from the hundreds of forum posts by authors there was a lot of confusion, misunderstanding and even fear about the 100% GPL license and the implications for their business and theme sales. It was clearly a big issue and a major change in thinking for many authors. As one person pointed out in the comments on our first survey, 3 months wasn’t a long time and many authors may have still been waiting and watching to see what others do and what happens before making the decision or not to go 100% GPL.
It’s now been two full years since Envato made the 100% GPL option available to authors. So I thought it would be interesting to see if things have changed. Have ThemeForest authors overcome their initial misunderstandings and fear to embrace the 100% GPL license like most independent theme shops? Or were there never enough authors initially making the change to influence everyone else to switch to the 100% GPL license?
The 100% GPL Two Years On
Unfortunately it’s difficult to find were these 100% GPL WordPress themes are located on ThemeForest. When you browse the site there are no category, tag or filter options to find the 100% GPL themes. The only indicator a theme is fully GPL is a small note in the license information box on the theme page stating “This item is licensed 100% GPL”.
Since there’s no easy way to find the 100% GPL themes (poor effort Envato!) we had to do it the hard way and manually look through every single theme page. To keep our sanity we limited the number of themes in this survey to the newest 1,000 WordPress themes (themes released from 3 September 2014 through 5 March, 2015).
Out of the 1,000 newest WordPress themes on ThemeForest only 26 had the 100% GPL license. That’s a meagre 2.6% of themes with the full GPL license!
We made a public collection of the 100% GPL themes on ThemeForest you can browse.
It’s clear that ThemeForest authors still don’t care for the 100% GPL and are happy to stick with the standard ThemeForest (split GPL) license. Why are so few ThemeForest authors choosing the fully GPL license? If you’re an author on ThemeForest I’d love to hear why you do, or don’t use the 100% GPL license.