We have a customer that has built an application on top of WordPress (they are based in the UK) and intends to sell access to this software in two main forms on an international basis.

  1. A monthly licence fee to use the application hosted by them. (Where the user gets access to certain levels of the platform)

  2. An upfront fee for someone to purchase the software and use it as a full internal system within their own business and have access to the full range of software, in this scenario our customer will also be providing the hosting.

The question is how does this tie in with GPLv2? Does our customer still have the obligation (in either scenario) to provide the source code as this would obviously hamper their business model.

There have been no changes to the wordpress core code base (that we are aware of) but the developer has made several bespoke plugins and themes.

  • 1
    Does our customer still have the obligation ... to provide the source code as this would obviously hamper their business model. If you copy GPL software and then distribute it, then yes, you are obligated to adhere to the license terms, even if it hampers your business model. For some open source software you have the option of contacting the copyright holders and buying a different license.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


In Scenario 1, there is no obligation to provide source code under the GPL (but there would be under the AGPL).

In Scenario 2, your customer would have to provide the source code of their plugins and themes, at least according to the opinion of wordpress.org. While there is some uncertainly whether plugins really count as derivative works, and I don't think this has been tested in court, I doubt your customer wants to be the model case for this.

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