About a year ago I was looking to start a Geo listing directory and while searching for some examples I found templatic.com which claimed to have the solution for me. I figured it would save me some time coding, so I bought the wordpress theme “Geo Places” and after playing with the theme for a few weeks and realising it just did not work, I put it on the shelf and concentrated on other projects (How many people never complained or never asked for a refund?).
A few months later I received an email from Templatic saying V3 beta had been released. I got excited and thought maybe the bugs would be fixed and the theme would finally work. I sadly was wrong, but hey I understand it was in beta and there are always bugs in beta, so I got on their support forums and started listing bugs for them. After about 3 months, nothing but the very basic bugs were fixed, so I began to think they just could not do it, they didn’t have the time or eventaully even the skills! Alot of MAJOR security bugs went unanswered by their staff. There were also alot of very frustrated users that had the same problems as me.
Eventually after about 6 months from when I bought “Geo Places” and the theme had been declared “stable”, I gave up waiting for replies to my bug reports. These were serious bug reports: anyone could add/edit/delete any post or page on the site even if wordpress user registration was disabled… just to name one.
You could just not have made a live site with this.
I started writing my own fixes to the bugs and making a stable site, but there were still lots of unhappy customers on the templatic forums that had the same problems so I shared a few of my fixes on the templatic forums in my bug reports posts that had still not been answered by staff. Users were so happy, that eventually asked for more fixes from me.
I was then horrified to find in templatic’s next Geo Places release, that a few of my fixes had been used, while my bug report was left sitting on their forum, my fix was added in the theme!
(according to people who still visit templatic, some of my fixes with my name and website comments are still in the latest version of “Geo Places” but I’m sure they will scramble to remove my code comments after reading this)
After deciding that I did not want to do bug fixes for them (not for free) I checked the legality’s of modifying the theme and there were no problems as it was sold to me Under GPL licence. I setup a paid members forum where members could download my “fix package” eventually after about 2 months of bug fixes the “fix package” was replacing about 50% of the files and it seemed silly to provide just the fix package and not the whole theme packaged.
Even although at this point I had only allowed to sign up members who had already purchased “Geo Places” theme from templatic, thus not taking away any profit from Templatic, they sent me warnings about my forum.
Several months later, after I had completed bug fixes and added several new features that members had asked for, I decided to start packaging the whole thing as a new theme, no longer just as “fix package” for templatic’s theme and selling it as a beta of “GeoTheme”. Even although the licence allowed me to do what I’m doing, I would normally be against this as it’s just morally wrong.
However I have changed over 90% of all code and added several new features almost another 50% more code, and this is on top of the fact I tried to work with templatic’s support for 6 months and got no where.
Let me just add a little note here:
I think selling an unmodified version of someone else’s GPL theme is wrong and I would just not do it. I did modified GeoPlaces for a templatic’s “job board” customer and fixed all major bugs. This means I do have a bug free version of Geo Places but I would never sell it as only about 15% of the files were changed, while GeoTheme, which is now coded completely differently from Geo Places, has over 90% of the files changed and about 50% more files.
The selling of a unmodified theme versus a “fork” of a theme are two different ball games in my opinion. We are in the latter, we have “forked” Geo Places and made it our own, this has happend with several other GPL projects, namely for one Mambo and Joomla: Joomla is a fork of Mambo and is used by thousands.
What now for Geo Places?
I have not broken any laws or any terms of conditions when the theme was sold to me. They have however changed there T&C’s now but that does not apply to me and the theme is still GPL.
Has their theme been improved since? I’m sure it has, but testing on their latest demo, it appears to still have huge security bugs that would prevent any site from going live. In addition, they still have my code in it which they never asked to be able to use.
What now for GeoTheme?
Well GeoTheme is now on sale for $125. We have written our own api to work with our white label iOS and Android apps which are due out at the start of the new year. These apps can be bought by users, customised and submitted to the respective marketplace and make their site truly mobile ready.
Your thoughts about this?