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Why GPL Products and Limited-Site Licenses Don’t Make Sense

Happy New Year! We mentioned in our last update post that we're going to shift formats on our blog. In this post, we're going to answer a question we hear all the time:

“Why don't you guys offer a cheaper license for only one or two sites?”

Many other companies in the WordPress space sell licenses based on the number of sites the product is being used on. For example, $10 for 1 site, $50 for 5 sites, or $100 for 100 sites.

We considered offering a similar license structure but ultimately decided on allowing unlimited sites for all of our license packages. This approach provides the best user experience given that Beaver Builder is a GPL-licensed product.

What does the GPL have to do with site licenses?

After deciding to fully adopt a GPL license for Beaver Builder, we've learned a LOT about the implications and nuances of the license. The GPL enables anyone to use, modify, and distribute our code. The code is free. We don't have to make it freely available, but nothing is stopping you from taking your copy of Beaver Builder and giving it to your friend. More importantly, nothing is stopping you from changing the code and releasing your own version of it. This is how WordPress was started in the first place. It was a fork of a GPL software project called b2.

Over half a million websites now use and depend on Beaver Builder's codebase. If Billy, Justin, and I get fed up with technology and decide to start a rock and roll band (which, admittedly, we do joke about sometimes), the code will live on. The project doesn't end with us.

What's the Catch?

The catch is (and this is how most WordPress companies protect their business interests) our brand is not under the umbrella of the GPL. The Beaver Builder brand is protected by a registered trademark. You can not take our code, redistribute it, and call it Beaver Builder. Furthermore, we ask anyone that wants to fork Beaver Builder to remove our trademark from the codebase. There is a clear distinction between the code and the brand.

Back to the original question, why don't we offer single site licenses? If you buy a copy of Beaver Builder, you're supporting the team and the further development of the product, the convenience of automatic updates, and access to our awesome support. If we offered a single site license, it wouldn't be illegal for you to update a single site, then take that code and go manually update however many other sites you were managing.

That said, it feels disingenuous to force this arbitrary restriction on our customers. We believe in the value of our product. We don't want to ask you to jump through hoops when you purchase from us.

What About Support?

Support is another can of worms. Some companies in the WordPress space offer fantastic support and some not so much. We take a lot of pride and invest a lot of resources in providing excellent support. It's completely reasonable for a company to only offer support for a certain number of sites. We want Beaver Builder to appeal to you if you're building one site or if you're someone that manages 100+ sites. Whether you're a small business or a powerhouse design agency, we want to offer the same level and quality of support to everyone.

Surprisingly, we've found many of the people using Beaver Builder on 100+ WordPress sites use fewer support resources than some of the folks who are just getting started in web design/WordPress. For us, the number of sites managed doesn't accurately represent the number of support resources any given user will require, or how much time it will take for us to solve the issues.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the “power users” of Beaver Builder are the ones discovering legitimate bugs and working with us to help fix and solidify the codebase. Power users are also more likely to be using Beaver Builder along with other tried and tested plugins and themes that are far less likely to cause conflicts. In the WordPress space, premium software products are almost always more stable and well-maintained than their free alternatives.

GPL + WordPress = ❤️

This post isn't to make a claim that our approach is right for everyone, but we hope to reference this post in the future when the question inevitably arises. We believe in the freedoms of the GPL and—call us crazy—we do our best to maintain a business selling free software! 🙂

If you're curious to learn more about the GPL license and its implications on starting or running a software business, these are a few of the articles we learned from. And if you're choosing a plugin or theme for your WordPress site, review the license terms. Join us in using, creating, and championing GPL-licensed products (or, see the article about Mullenweg and Pearson to see what might happen if you don't).

A human-readable summary of the GPL by attorney, Richard Best

The GPL License Doesn’t Provide The Freedom To Infringe Registered Trademarks by WPTavern

Trademarks in the WordPress ecosystem: An interview with Carl Hancock by Chris Lema

And one of the more entertaining grudge matches in WordPress, Mullenweg and Pearson Square Off on Patents, GPL, and Trademarks

Robby McCullough's Bio

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