There’s been lots of questions around yesterday’s 100% GPL and WooThemes announcements, and three forum threads worth of discussion. Sorry it’s taken me some time to respond, it’s been a day full of meetings, and I asked the team to leave me the threads! So just read through most of the commentary and hopefully I’ll manage to answer most of the main questions. I’ve closed the other three threads to try to centralise, but in case you want to find/read them, they were:
Exclusivity & 100% GPL
Essentially the concepts of ‘Exclusivity’ and ‘100% GPL’ are separate and distinct things:
(1) Exclusivity is an agreement between an author and Envato where the author says “I won’t sell the same items somewhere else”. The author is saying that irrespective of what license they are offering the items under (regular, ext, or 100% GPL).
(2) Licensing completely under the GPL (or otherwise) is an agreement between the author and the buyer saying what rights the buyer will be getting. In the case of the 100% GPL that includes many rights, such as the right to redistribute or resell.
What is tricky is that theoretically the buyer can use GPL to sell the item somewhere else making the item no longer exclusively available through ThemeForest. This is an important consideration that authors need to factor in when choosing to use the 100% GPL option. My own personal opinion is that licensing under the 100% GPL option is something of a philosophical decision. If you do it, you have to be comfortable with the idea of giving up a certain amount of control.
To be honest I’d like to believe that no marketplace worth their salt would allow someone other than the creator of a theme or plugin to sell it. Certainly at ThemeForest we would prohibit anyone trying such a thing.
Our exclusivity programme is an important part of selling with Envato and has helped us create the unique set of libraries we have today. I don’t believe the 100% option is going to end up undermining the overall library exclusivity because I think most people are fair and sensible, and I have a lot of respect for our competitor marketplaces out there. There are exclusive authors who want to use the 100% GPL option, and they are free to do so, but must comply with the obligations it sets out (i.e. don’t sell the same items elsewhere).
What is Envato's Preference - 100% GPL or Not?
The choice of licensing completely through the GPL or not, belongs to you - the theme or plugin author. A few people thought that because we are promoting this launch that we are, or will be, favouring the 100% GPL option. This isn’t the case at all. With any launch we usually do some promotion. My intention in publicising the feature and choosing a launch partner is purely to encourage more authors, particularly those who have shied away because of licensing options, to join us here at ThemeForest! As I mentioned in the other thread, in retrospect I really should have promoted a homegrown author too! So I’m going to find someone to add in when we run our newsletter story.
So, no we’re not suddenly going to start only promoting, featuring, talking about 100% GPL authors. There’s no hidden agenda to try to get authors to go one way or the other. Now the option is here, it’s here as just another part of the Marketplaces.
Do WooThemes get the usual 33%?It's important to us that we have a fair and open approach to things like rates. The vast majority of authors are on the standard advertised rates. Beyond those we do in fact have a Special Rates policy which we added to the knowledgebase some years ago.
We give out these kinds of rates pretty rarely, and as the KB article explains, they are used to kickstart new initiatives, or help us grow into new categories and niches. So for example when we launched PhotoDune we contacted a number of very high profile stock photographers and negotiated individual rates for each to ensure that we entered that marketplace with a competitive starting library.
These agreements are on a case by case basis, and they vary depending on how big we think the category or initiative will be, how much value the author would be bringing, how hard it will be to accomplish the same things with a different route (like a seed competition, marketing spend, or commissioning of content). The agreements have additional clauses that those authors agree to as well which other authors don’t have.
In the WordPress theme space, we’ve used special rates a few times. Kicking off 100% GPL is indeed one of those times, so yes WooThemes is not on the standard rates table. Another instance was when Frameworks looked like they were going to be big, and we negotiated with a couple of authors of leading WordPress Frameworks and landed two (though one has since departed!)
Anyone can apply for a special rate, but we do them very rarely, and only when there’s some serious merit or purpose. From memory, there’s been maybe five or so in the last year across all the marketplaces. In every instance they tie into a particular push, initiative or launch.
The only reason we go beyond the standard rate is in order to grow the Marketplaces. Ultimately this benefits everybody, and the cost of giving up some of our standard rates is one that Envato wears like we do other marketing and launch costs.
Did WooThemes go through the usual review process?
Aside from the release timing, yes they did. But from what I understand we didn’t do a super job of it!
Release timing is something we occasionally do for bulk imports or for a particular launch. Again this doesn’t happen very often. A good example is once we brought in a few hundred vectors all at once to open a new subcategory on GraphicRiver. That time we did a bad job of the import and they really swamped the browse pages. We’ve gotten better these days happily - though I think there were still a couple of kinks to iron out. Our aim is to get a bunch of stuff in quickly, on a coordinated day, with minimum disruption to regular authors. It’s harder than it sounds!!
In terms of the other pieces of the review process, from what I understand we seem to have missed some things that we catch in review normally. There was a normal process of submission, soft rejections and so on. I’ve chatted with Jarel our Review Manager who is investigating what went wrong and starting a re-review of the WooThemes items.
This definitely is not a case of different rules for different authors. If anything we were trying to be really extra standard. It is really bad when a high profile author seems to get favourable treatment. This isn’t what is happening, this was a much simpler case of us not doing our best work.
Unlike the special rates policy, there is no special review policy! We sometimes rush things through, but all items are supposed to get the same inspection and quality look over. Consistency is important, and hard. Again Jarel and his excellent review team are investigating and re-reviewing.
Whew so that was a lot of stuff. I’m sure I must have missed some burning question, so will try to revisit tonight to keep an eye on the threads!
Overall, I think we did a great job of getting community opinion on the new feature, building and delivering a good solution to the problem, and everything seems to be working on that front. In hindsight I think we could have done better on the whole launch partner side of things, picked someone from our own community as well, done better on reviewing, and been a bit clearer about what was happening.
We’ll work hard to do a better job of those next time! Thank you for raising all the great questions, hopefully this post answers most of them!