AppThemes Embraces GPL

Today we’d like to announce that all AppThemes products are moving to the General Public License (GPL). We’re excited about the change and how it benefits our existing customers especially with all our new upcoming themes.

So why the switch?

Earlier this year, I attended WordCamp SF and had a chat with both Brian Gardner from StudioPress and Matt Mullenweg about the WordPress premium theme market. We covered a lot of topics and shared our perspectives on the direction the premium themes market was heading. I then brought up the topic of GPL and how AppThemes (ClassiPress at the time) planned to eventually move from a fixed license model to GPL.

Well, both Brian and Matt we’re obviously strong advocates of GPL and encouraged me to make the switch. I told them we’d definitely cross over at some point but first had to fit it into our strategy and company road map. Matt then raised his glass and toasted, “to GPL software!”. Fast forward five months and here we are today finally able to share the exciting news.

How does this affect existing customers?

Great question and I’m glad you asked. For those of you who purchased Professional or Ultimate Edition licenses, nothing changes. For those who purchased Personal or Small Business Edition licenses, you now can use our themes on as many websites as you like.

What this doesn’t mean

There always seems to be a gray area when it comes to GPL and the terms. Just to clear things up before it’s asked, our themes are not readily available to download for free. You still need to purchase them in order to get a copy and access to your account and support areas. 😉

This announcement should clear up lots of questions we’ve received about licensing limitations and essentially add more value to our customer base (which is what’s most important to us). Happy website building!

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 Comments (64)

  • Wibowo Tunardy

    It’s mean the one who purchased Professional or Ultimate Edition licenses are loosing a lot of money. Is there any kind of compensation for them?

    • author

      @Wibowo, not true at all. Both Pro and Ult licenses include additional features and the .psd source files which are the main factors that set them apart from Per and SB editions.

      Nobody actually loses anything from this change.

      • customer
        Esther Nowack

        Sorry having to say this but the psd file is a real mess (and doesn’t even reflect the actual theme but an earlier development status). The psd however seems to be the only advantage against the small business edition now. How about offering template packages instead of the three present license models? For example price for one theme, price for two themes, price for three themes or maybe even a club price that enables download of all themes as many other premium themes are offering? Just a suggestion …

        • author

          @Ester, not sure what you mean by “a real mess”? Our .psds are layed and organized in folders.

          We did make a change to the featured listings slider with ClassiPress after the design was completed which is what I’m sure you are referring to.

          Yes, we will be offering a club/subscription package soon so customers will be able to download all our themes instead of buying them individually.

          • customer
            Esther Nowack

            Great to hear that there will be a club/subscription package. These are good news 🙂

            Regarding the psd … yes the layers are grouped by color schemes but within these groups you will find the mess. Here you have a hard time trying to find the layer you need. The layers are named such as “layer 97” followed by “layer 67 copy 4” followed by “layer 67 copy 3” and so on.

            It would be helpful if the layers were named or grouped with regard to their region or function. After all these are quite a huge number of layers and trying to find the layer you need can become very time consuming the way the layers are presently organised. Just saying ..

      • Carlos Takemura

        But the PSD files are of no use to me at all, and I suspect this is the case for most people.

        • author

          @Carlos, actually the .psd files are quite useful to web designers and/or those who wish to modify the original design.

          • Carlos Takemura

            I realise that, but what about those of us who have no interest in modifying the original designs? In this case, the PSDs are useless.

  • hazara

    when will the 3.1 version releasing? we will pay for your hard work!

  • hazara

    guys sorry its F*K Vodka speaking, i meant i do not care about the prize charged as long as the product is perfect and customers are able to customize it according to their own needs. but as far as i know i posted many comment about customization NO REPLY from David!

    any way i could hire some local lads for to integrate the theme with 2nd time upgrade costing me 100$ per hour… chezez !

  • hazara

    I am in a very competitive market here thatswhy i always check your themes to load me for the challenge and market place here 😉

  • Jim

    Exciting news David 🙂

  • Anthony

    Hi David,

    Delighted to see you’re going GPL! I know this must be a tricky business decision, but at least it follows the spirit of the core WordPress platform, and I believe other theme developers should have the decency to take the same approach. I realise most users don’t actually know what this means, but I, and I’m sure many other designers/developers do. I’m also certain most of us won’t abuse the situation.

    I think your differentiation strategy should work for you. I certainly hope it does, as we need the kind of quality themes that you provide. I know this from a really bad experience I’ve had over the last two months with other WordPress themes – especially when it comes to customisation 🙁

    Roll on Classipress 3.1 … and the GPL! May it go well for you!


  • David

    A tough decision for the business, but it’s no doubt the way to go. I hope it works out for the best for you!

  • customer
    Mikkel in

    ok i read this is not for Professional or Ultimate Edition
    is that a good or bad thing?

    I don’t really get what this changes for me as a customer?

    i bought classipress professional, and i got plans on buying the vantage theme when it comes out, but this post did not give me a clue what’s going to be diffrence for me, maybe i did not read it clearly?

    • author

      @Mikkel, it doesn’t affect you if you own Pro or Ult Editions.

      If you buy or own Personal or Small Biz Editions, then you now have the freedom to use unlimited licenses.

  • Bert

    I have no idea why I paid $199 for the ultimate edition when being able to use your theme on multiple sites is now offered for free to any of your customers…
    I do hope that you intend to give some sort of discount on your other themes to your pro & ultimate edition customers…

    • author

      @Bert, Ultimate Edition enables customers to use it with WordPress Multi-Site which is the main benefit of that edition.

  • michael b

    The ONLY reason I purchased the developer package was to enable use on multiple websites, which I am still not doing as once again waiting for the “next” updated edition.
    Seem to have been waiting for almost a year now for something which would have the features continually promised.
    Before rolling out all the “new” products it would have made more sense to keep your existing (PAYING) customers happy with the classipress we continually expect but never seems to arrive.
    Why does it always seem to be one step forward and two back?

    • author


      We do our best to satisfy all our customers. Having moved to a theme company and diversifying our products, we’ve experienced some “growing pains”.

      Every change we make (good or bad) will always end up making someone unhappy. Our objective is to try and please as many people as possible and continue on releasing new & updated products.

      • michael b

        David, those growing pains were there before you “expanded” into a “themes” company. Do you actually recall a time when a classipress update has actually been released on time?
        Its your PAYING classipress customers who have “allowed” you to expand but its those same classipress customers who once again end up waiting for updates and you give the impression that we should be happy that not only have we funded the expansion of the company but anyone else who wants to sign up now can do so cheaper.

        • author


          We’ve released numerous updates on time. It’s typically the larger updates that get delayed because they include a vast number of features & enhancements.

          In the future we plan on releasing smaller more frequent updates which will make it easier for us and our customers.

          I believe you mean “customers who have paid” vs “paying customers”. We don’t charge a monthly maintenance fee for our themes and updates are provided free of charge.

          In turn, themes should be purchased for their current set of features and not based on feature rumors or planned features.

          The features we mention in our blog posts will be included at some point. It’s just a matter of time so please be patient. 🙂

          • customer
            anthony meagher

            I feel I have to chip in here!

            we’ve been working on wordpress for a few years now, and there are pluses and minuses to it as a system.
            Getting it to work as a software platform (like with classipress) is not a simple development endeavor.

            I’ve worked in the software industry, and most software is delayed and contains bugs – it’s just an unfortunate fact of life, and happens even with experienced developers and thorough quality checks.

            I have also, over the last few months seen the downside to theme/plugin development with wordpress when it’s done wrong!
            I have tried at least five different solutions to create a non-standard classifieds website, which has had to have a number of restarts due to poor plugin/theme design issues which because of poor support, bad documentation and very poor coding pratices we could not resolve at reasonable cost. Also, you should remember that ongoing updates are a necessity with so much hacking etc.. nowadays especially where you have payments and need a site up to make money.
            If you have to recode a site a lot to get it to work it makes upgrades more or less impossible!
            With classipress we have designed a site which oyur clients and ourselves are happy with and which I know will be stable and upgradeable.
            Delays are inevitable. So is change. And I believe strongly that using the gpl license is a correct move. It takes away nothing from what you are getting and in reality the relatively small financial outlay for a stable, easily configurable and supported system negates the fact of others getting a little more because of the license change.
            So, I hope people will focus on the benefits they are getting and the solid support, documentation (including a forum where questions are usually answered quickly and by someone who is competent) and the stable software that is classipress.
            Roll on 3.1 😉

          • michaelb

            I stand corrected david, yes, paid customers.
            “In turn, themes should be purchased for their current set of features and not based on feature rumors or planned features.”
            I am actually one of those customers who Paid on the basis of what was said in the forum by the mods re planned features, and also told that to buy now before the new version comes out as prices would undoubtably rise. Without going back into the forum can’t remember now whether that was version 2.8 or 2.9
            Looking at the theme release page (altered once again today) you have
            Clipper supposedly target released tomorrow,coding not completed and no testing done.82% complete
            Jobroller v1.2, target release, 30th October, coding not completed, testing not done and 20% complete
            Classipress v3.1, target release, 31st October, coding not completed, testing not completed, testing not done.73% complete.
            Based on the above do you honestly believe that any will actually be coded and fully tested to release on their target date.
            Surely it makes more sense to concentrate on one piece of software and get that right then move onto the next, and as the main software that this new company is built on and paid for is classipress surely that should come first.

  • Ben


    Brilliant move, well done. And great to hear of the theme club coming. I will be looking to get the JobRoller, would i be better off waiting for the theme club ofering? I wonder what the current (theme) customer discount is for an additional purchase.

    Keep rockin’

    • author

      @Ben, thanks.

      You can buy JobRoller now and then just upgrade to the theme club later (only pay the difference for existing customers).

  • customer
    Mirela Silva

    Congratulations on the iniciative. I also bought a package more expensive just to use on multiple sites but i don’t see the change as something unfair. Quite the opositte, it gives more freedom and benefits on the next themes, it is something on our benefit.

  • Aaron

    So does going GPL mean we will be able to download your themes for free soon?

    The tone of this update makes it sounds like you guys are going open source but we’ll still have to pay to download the themes. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • customer
      anthony meagher

      Hi Aaron,

      I love FREE software and I love the GPL! I use WordPress and many other open source tools for development and design.

      But you know what – I don’t have to pay development and design and marketing people to design, build, test and market the software. And I also want to know that someone will take resposibility for maintaining and updating the software so that it is stable, secure and doesn’t become obsolete! Many open source projects die for lack of interest because people are not making a living frm the project and have to support a family or just plain make a living themselves.

      Some questions you need to ask yourself are how much would it cost me to get a system designed from scratch and maintained for myself, and do I intend to gain commercially from the software? If so, then definitely you need to think it’s ok for someone to charge me if they’re doing the development etc.. See also Esther’s post 🙂

      BTW don’t have anything to do with appthemes, I’m just fed up with the general attitude around ‘free’ software. People have a right to make a living selling a product if they create something people want!
      And for the record I am usually very happy to use free software when it’s available (use many lamp based tools) – just so you know I’m not a hypocrite;)

      • Aaron


        I don’t have any problem paying for software. I do agree with you. I’m just confused about the whole GPL open source thing. When Studiopress went GPL you could download the older themes for free and you only paid if you wanted support. Not sure if they are still setup like that?

        I’m just trying to understand what the GPL terms will be for AppThemes. What’s the point in going GPL if you still plan to charge for the themes?

  • Esther

    GPL is not the same as “for free”.

    • Aaron

      Thanks for the link but I’m afraid that just confused me more.

      • michaelb

        Confused me as well.
        As an example, as a user it looks like I can give away copies of classipress to whoever, whenever I like. Doen’t seem like a terrific business model for appthemes.

        • Esther

          GPL says that the code is open source and can be modified and must not set to anything less free. It doesn’t say it has to be free. Anyway I am no lawyer but since many wordpress premium themes (such as woo themes, studiopress and others) are gpl as well there doesn’t seem to be a problem with it.

          • author


            That’s correct. Our GPL terms are just like WooThemes & StudioPress.

            You still need to purchase our themes (which include lifetime updates and customer-only forum support I might add) and you may use them on as many websites as you like.

  • customer
    John Amorosso

    I know…the psd file, etc., but the reason I bought pro was to be able to use it on multiple sites. To me, this is a big slap in the face to customers that bought pro and could care less about the psd files. Although I love the products, the decision makes me think twice about buying something else.

    To me, you give credit (difference between pro and another) to the people that bought pro that they can use towards another product. And not the 25% discount, but an actual credit.

    Now it makes me VERY cautious to bu something else because what I spend on 2 products will probably be more than it costs for the theme club. It’s as if the old customers get punished because they supported the company early on…and I just bought classipress in July and only have one sit up with it.

    I hope this can be resolved for previous customers!!!

    • Carlos Takemura

      @John, I have to agree with you. It’s not OK to say we’ve got access to PSD files if they’re no use to us and especially as the PSD were not the fundamental feature, and selling point, of the pro license.

      The fundamental feature of the pro license was the ability to use the them on multiple sites. With GPL that is no longer a feature, for which people have paid a premium for.

      I don’t expect free, but I do expect fairness.

      • author

        @Carlos, that’s not the case for everyone. Many customers buy the Pro version primarily for the psd.

        Speaking of psd, one of our designers is going through it now and tidying it up a bit. 🙂

    • author


      There will be a special discount on our theme club package for qualifying customers once we announce it’s availability.

  • hazara

    after weeks of searching my comments, i find it today where did actually vodka worked.

  • ClassifiedsNext

    It is good to note that AppThemes is moving towards GPL. But for many users who bought the professional version, mainly for multi-domain usage are at a loss because the price has been reduced to half. PSD files are not used by most users, as based on the above comments from many users.

    My suggestion would be that users who wish to upgrade from Professional to GPL (without PSD but with Multi-domain) and future upgrades be allowed to do so.
    Right now there are 5 themes in pipeline and for Pro users like say paying an additional USD120 they should be able to get all 5 licenses. What do others think of this suggestion?
    This could be a great pre-sell and only for existing Pro / Ultimate users who wish to get GPL licenses at a reduced cost. I think this scheme should run only for 1 week and David could comment what he thinks of this suggestion.

  • customer

    So, for future themes we just need to purchase the standard $69 version, unless we want the PSD? And then we can use it with multisite and or on unlimited sites plus remove the credit link since it’s now GPL? Is this correct?

  • customer
    Esther Nowack

    I think the whole pricing needs to be reworked. There are not many graphical elements or effects in the theme that would require the psd if you want to alter the theme. If you want to change a button or background a designer would simply create a new one. I too think that the main reason for buying the professional release was the option to be allowed to use it on unlimited websites. The psd is not really an replacement for this feature that is now available for all. I hope that there will be a fair upgrade option to the club package.

    • Natetronn

      Yes I agree with you. We have done 4 Classipress sites and never once used the psd. The pricing structure should be reworked for sure. Maybe $69(without psd) or $99(with psd, if you must)?

      • customer
        Esther Nowack

        Actually I don’t know any premium theme site that charges extra for the psd. woothemes, studiopres they all deliver the psd with their themes. There aren’t much graphical elements in classipress at all. A button and a few backgrounds that are simple gradients. There aren’t any ‘special effects’ or similar that would really require the psd. You won’t even need Photoshop to change that.

        • author

          @Esther, actually WooThemes charges extra for their psds. I believe StudioPress is the same.

          • Esther

            I am a pro member of studiopress and all psd are included the same with templatic. I stand corrected regarding woothemes.

            I don’t mind if anybody decides to make psd an extra feature and I don’t want to argue over this. But it makes a difference if some of the features are changed after the purchase and the psd suddenly becomes the only advantage against the other packages. Quite a number of people choosed the professional license for the option to use it on unlimited websites. This was one of the main differences against the other packages.

            I like classipress and don’t regret my purchase. But I wouldn’t have bought the professional license if the other licenses had had the option of use of unlimited websites at the time of my purchase.

            I fully understand that such policy changes can take place from time to time and appreciate the move to GPL. But on the other side it would be nice to see some understanding for those who feel that they now got the short end of the stick.

    • Carlos Takemura

      @Esther I have to agree totally with you here. I think for David to say the PSD files were an important factor for people choosing the premium licenses is absolute hokum! (and slightly arrogant)

      No David, we chose the premium plan because of the license permitting us to the use the theme on multiple sites.

      For me, and I suspect for many others, the PSD are worthless, especially for anyone with serious intentions on customisation.

      Whenever I see people bundle the PSDs as part of the deal in premium themes my thoughts are either “So what?”, “Big deal” or “Who cares?”

      Actually, more often that not my thought is a combination of all three!

      • Natetronn

        You can actually see this to be true by the majority of the sites in the showcase. They just have the header image changed out which by no means requires the psd. I would even venture to say that 90% bought (pro) for the muliti use and maybe even a few for WPMU (ultimate) but, very few because of the PSD.

        David, your current customers are speaking, are you going to listen?

  • author

    The topic of AppThemes going GPL is not an issue open for debate. The change has been made and we stand behind it.

    There will be a change in pricing as well as a club package later this year.

    The customer showcase is not just Professional Edition customers so the argument is not relevant at all. Many are Personal Edition customers who did some nice customization on their own.

    • Natetronn

      David no one is debating the move to GPL, that was a smart move on your part, probably a legal requirement so you don’t get into a showdown with Matt and just better for everyone.

      With that said, you have customers who paid for that right in the past, and who now feel a bit short changed. You do not seem to reconize that fact. From my point of view, and I understand that the money is probably long gone, I feel some sympathy or a good old fashion I’m sorry seems to be in order at the very least.

      • author


        As mentioned above, we will be giving a credit to certain customers who qualify to purchase our theme club package.

        Maybe I wasn’t clear enough but this includes those who may have purchased the Pro Edition just for the intention of the extended licenses.

        We want to be fair to those who feel “short changed”. 😉

        • michaelb

          Well I only bought classipress because i wanted to make classified sites, not coupons,jobs, directories etc, so how you going to be “fair” to me and I presume most of the others who paid and ONLY want classipress.

  • Carlos Takemura

    @David, I have to question why now make the move to GPL? It’s not like the GPL has suddenly appeared from outta nowhere since you started your business, has it?

    I question your reasoning for not going the GPL route from day one.

    If it were me, I would’ve adhered to the GPL from the start because I wouldn’t have been comfortable at all from taking money from people for an illegal (or unlawful) product.

    I think some honesty on your part is required here because to fob off customers who put some points on the board for you, and money in your bank, with the “you get access to the PSDs” line as being dishonest in my opinion.

    The reason people bought the pro licenses, call them what you will, is solely for the reason of using your themes on multiple sites, which now you’re on the straight and narrow with the GPL, is redundant.

    • Carlos Takemura

      I should also point out, that now you’ve decided to go legit and adhere to the GPL, it comes at a price.

      Do the right thing and either give back the difference to those who signed up to your scheme when it was illegal, or give them free access to future legal themes.

    • author


      Neither StudioPress or WooThemes went GPL from day one and there is nothing illegal about non-GPL themes. You can read the StudioPress & WooThemes blog posts announcing their move just last year.

      I can speak for all theme companies by saying it was more of an issue to understand how the GPL licensing model would work overall vs trying to do something against

  • Will Castillo

    I’m also own a “Ultimate” license… and I definetely buy it because it allows me to install it in a unlimited number of domains or a wp Mu installation (which after WP 3.0 it’s basically the same thing for this matter). I don’t use those psd at all… I don’t even know how to open them.

    I think one way to honor your current Ultimate customers is to give them at least one of the other themes for free (their call)…

  • Mister Phes

    I’m a prospective customer and I don’t see the value in paying an extra $60 to get the PSD file.

    That said, for the amount of work gone into developing ClassiPress and the fact customers receive a lifetime of free updates and support, $199 for the Ultimate Edition is quite good value. Plenty of software developers charge that much to upgrade to the latest version. Thank you Microsoft and Adobe…

    Nonetheless, I’d still like to know what’s happening with pricing structure before I go ahead and purchase ClassiPress.

Discussion is closed.