While legally GPL doesn’t change based on what the original developer wants, ethically I think you have to think about it.
This is a good point, and I’ve also thought and read a lot more about this since my original post. Yes, as a fellow programmer, I want to support Elliot, and would be loathe to suggest anyone considers not doing so. Yes you could get the code from anywhere for free (and distribute it yourself anywhere for free), but if everyone does that, Elliot’s going to have to go get another job and stop working on ACF, so you’re not doing yourself any favours in the long run (much less Elliot!). A much better option would be just to consider the ACF licensing fee as a ‘donation’ to Elliot to thank you for his excellent work. 🙂 (Or even better, contract him to develop some bespoke support and addons??)
Having said that though, I have to say I’ve come to the conclusion that the Distributing ACF in a plugin / theme page is misleading and unethical in itself. Why is that? Because as well as us respecting Elliot and the work he has put into ACF, Elliot also needs to respect WordPress and the work put into WordPress by thousands of other developers. There are good reasons why WordPress is licensed under the GPL, and as a derivative of WordPress, ACF (including ACF Pro) must also be (and quite rightly is) GPL-licensed.
The restrictions put around the distribution of ACF Pro are therefore misleading because they take advantage of the fact that anyone reading them who is going to be impacted by them is not aware of their rights while using GPL-licensed software. That is, the restrictions (apart from the license key distribution) are not enforceable, and – depending on your view – also not ethical and shouldn’t be stated in the first place.
In particular, the stipulation that it must be ‘made clear in the copyright / information that the ACF PRO files are not to be used or distributed outside of the premium theme/plugin’ would appear to contravene the GPL’s restriction on adding additional restrictions to the license, which gives the user freedom to redistribute it as they see fit.
I don’t mean to imply this is intentional on Elliot’s part – he’s stated above he doesn’t know much about licensing – but when it has the end result of disrespecting the license of the software it is built upon (WordPress) while simultaneously requesting respect of its own license (which is the same license), it’s ingenuous at best.
I don’t say any of this in an attempt to disrespect Elliot or the countless hours he has put into ACF (which we have all benefited from) – and I should state that I do use a developer license for ACF Pro – but I think that it would be wise to reconsider ACF’s stance on the GPL so that its users aren’t misled of their rights when using WordPress.
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