One day in late 2008, Brian Gardner, creator of RevolutionThemes, decided he wanted a different business model: instead of charging for his professional themes, he decided to put all of them on the GPL, so that they could be downloaded, redistributed and modified free of charge. He would make his money on support, customization, and special features.
Some time later, he regretted his decision, removed all download links from his web site and decided to charge for the themes once again. Comments started appearing on his blog, such as this:
December 29, 2008 at 11:50 pm
So after all your hype and going on about risk taking etc you end up making Revolution Two like Revolution One except under a different license and with a partner? Seems like a cop out to me and you have gone down a rung or two in the respect stakes with me. Sorry, but I am very dissapointed about this and that your themes will no longer be available unless people pay.
To which he replied:
Brian Gardner says:
December 30, 2008 at 5:38 am
Chris – sorry you feel that way – the change in business model was an experiment we performed, and we’re making some changes based on the market and things that have become clear.
This bloke is also confused:
December 30, 2008 at 4:05 pm
I’m a fan of you and your work, and that’s not going to change, but I have to agree with Chris on the fact that it’s a tad lame to go through all the “hoopla” and build up in switching to the free model, only to “switch it back” a couple months later. So, if anyone downloads all your themes today, they can still use them forever for free? But, if they want to download them on January 1st, they have to pay…but support will be included? Is that the deal? I was unaware (as I’m sure many were) that this original change was an “experiment”. (your words – “the change in business model was an experiment we performed”). Maybe if you made that more clear from the beginning, then this wouldn’t come as a shock to some. I have to admit that I don’t follow every single update though, so maybe I missed that this whole thing was just a “test”? Also, it’d be cool to read a brief overview from you of why you are switching back, instead of just a link to an interview with someone else. Anyway, your themes kick ass, and I love using them/referring people to them, but please stick to one model! lol Looking forward to seeing what you do next. Cheers! Jay
And he continues “testing” the GPL, completely clueless of what its spirit actually is:
Brian Gardner says:
December 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm
The bottom line is that we wanted to develop themse and make them available under the GPL license – and the model we chose first on the Revolution Two site is being refined. I guess the word experiment is a little on the “harsh” side of things I didn’t mean to belittle the decsion I made by calling it an experiment or test. More or less I found that there is a better way to monetize the site so that I can continue to provide the best support forum as well as keep the spirit of the GPL license. Yes, the bottom line is that on 1/1 the incentive to purchase a theme package is still for the support, as it is now.
He never replied to this one, though:
Mike Schinkel says:
January 3, 2009 at 5:15 am
I came to download one of your R2 themes but was disappointed to find that you’ve taken the download links away. I’m more than a bit disappointed by this. I bought the R1 all-inclusive package just before R2 was released explicitly because you stated you were moving to open-source. I’m a big believer in open-source and think that your themes could easily (have) become defacto-standard if you left them freely available and that potential for defacto-standardization was very important to me. However, unless I misunderstand I think it means that you’ll instead revert back to being just another premium theme provider scratching and clawing among all the other premium theme providers and theming architecture patterns will be much less likely to crystalize much like the lack of a common language stunted all progress at the Tower of Babble. So if I haven’t been explicit enough yet, this is a real disappointment. That said, I need access to several of the themes and since I’m an R1 all-inclusive customer I get them, right. I don’t know if you remember me but what do I need to do to get access, how do I? I need it ASAP. Thanks.-Mike
However, there is no flip-flop on the GPL, as explained clearly by the FSF:
Can the developer of a program who distributed it under the GPL later license it to another party for exclusive use?
No, because the public already has the right to use the program under the GPL, and this right cannot be withdrawn.
Some people pointed this out for him:
January 6, 2009 at 9:08 am
Am I right in thinking that the GPL allows me to distribute your themes for free once I have downloaded them? As long as I do that under a GPL?
If that is the case I will be able to legally get hold of your themes without paying for them. As I predict a plentiful supply of FreeRevolution sites popping up.
I also pointed that out on his blog and on his support forums, warning that I would distributed the themes I had downloaded, since they were licensed under the GPL. My comment never made it past his moderation, and my post on the forums was deleted.
First mistake, last mistake.
He can develop new versions of his themes and license them as he sees fit. But the ones he licensed for weeks under the GPL can, and will be, distributed on this web site.
Above and below are some of his premium themes that I downloaded from his web site when they were available under the GPL. It is our right to download, share and do whatever we want with these themes.