License Suggestions for Hugo Theme Developers

Seeing two instances where theme developer copyrights were infringed has me wondering what guidance, if any, Hugo and the community has on choosing a license for Hugo themes. At this point I believe most choose MIT/ISC because it’s easy to understand. But if a theme becomes very popular down the road will those theme authors be happy with the outcome?

Jeremy Ashkenas recently introduces a new terse, permissive license called The Lil License. From a Hugo theme development perspective, can anyone see any advantages to choosing The LiL License over MIT/ISC. And, if not, any suggestions on the ideal Hugo theme license?


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Why would an author not be happy with the outcome? The theme became popular: successs!

I use the GPL for my themes. I don’t think it matters for developers, but I’d suggest sticking with an OSI-approved license.

GPL is not easy to understand, which makes it a poor choice for developers. It’s so complicated they had to make a compatibility matrix just to make it less confusing. Even the WordPress team, who have been using it for years, barely understand it.

Here’s what Jeremy Keith has to say about the GPL:

The archetypal bearded, sandal-clad free software license. Your code can never be used in any proprietary program, ever! Take that, capitalism!

@maiki Have you tried to apply GPL headers to a Hugo theme? This entails updating every source file with comment blocks. And if I’m not mistaken Hugo does not like to see comment blocks above every file—it’ll error in some cases. So it seems the license chosen does matter for Hugo developers.

I am not interesting in discussing the details of the GPL in the Hugo forums. And I am not a capitalist. Hope that let’s me bow out of this discussion gracefully! :slight_smile:

For those using themes based on the GPL here’s some information which is relevant for publicly hosted Git repos now that theme components are a thing:

Just a note to say that I think GPL licensing precludes some organisations from using your code. I know that IBM, for example, doesn’t allow its use. Some legal issue I think though I’m no expert.

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Given FSF maintains a list of licenses not compatible with GPL, some of which are GPL licenses themselves, I’m not at all surprised. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

That’s actually what Jeff Atwood, the creator of Discourse, and not Jeremy Keith, said. :zipper_mouth_face: