WordPress as a platform has invented numerous businesses, including both themes and plugins, however, I am neither a pro or against both of these, because, I use themes which I develop myself most of the times to run my site and run plugins to which I donate.
The question here arises, whether you should pay up and shut up so as to not include external links in the site. I certainly disagree with that philosophy. To give you an example, I am the author of WordPress Automatic Upgrade, which was used by numerous amounts of people, however, I did not charge anyone to use it.
If I wanted, I could have made tons of money with it, but I did in the spirit of open source, not just GPL or WordPress. Yes, I did win some monetary benefits here at WLTC in the plugin competition, however, I supported the software for free till WP came out with the internal upgrade. I am not saying that I am a big person to do that, but yes I did help several people for FREE, including support.
Going back a bit before, I don’t know how many of you remember Better Comments Manager? It was the first plugin I wrote one week after I started using WordPress? Why? Because, I searched high and dry and could not find any plugin which would allow me to reply from the comfort of the admin interface. I enhanced it and added AJAX support for it because users requested it.
In the end how many $ did I make out of BCM? $10 to be precise. To be frank I learned programming in WordPress and AJAX just for this plugin, so all this efforts and only $10. Isn’t that an injustice? Well, not exactly. Why? Because, I learnt two new things in the process, something that helped me do much more bigger things in future.
However, learning is not everything. WordPress has quickly grown from a blogging platform to develop for, to a profitable platform everyone wants to develop for. You have to pay for themes, plugins and everything, which is a fair model. No open source license curtails you from selling anything as long as you credit your source and include the license AND allow for FREE future distributions, without modifications in certain cases. It is a fundamental that is and will be a part of open source, however, you have to remember that open source is a free choice, and anyone can sell open source software to you, so don’t get fooled by the fact that you spent money to buy an open source software, it is a problem, which I will refrain from discussing here.
If you provide an open source theme or plugin which has built in restrictions about removing links or whatever you decide to include in them, please do not call it OPEN SOURCE. Ask us to pay up and shut up, but don’t abuse something which is FREE and provides freedom, and please don’t tell me that you are free to edit the code, tell that to 95% of the crowd who can’t edit code.
There are FREE lunches, but don’t add in the fine print. Open Source is Freedom. Selling themes and plugins and saying it is open source is perfectly alright. Saying that you would remove a link or do something which you force on us if we pay up, is telling us to pay up and shut up, and anti open source. There are business models around Open source software, revolve around them not against them.