A GPL Club, looks enticing, thousands of dollars worth of plugins and themes from the biggest names in the business. Who could resist that? It’s not all as good as it first looks, though.
What is a GPL Club?
A GPL Club is at it’s most basic, a website that sells WordPress Plugins, WordPress Themes, and other software for one low monthly fee or a one of payment. Normally with massive savings. One of the most popular sites is called GPL Vault, and they claim to offer over 1,000+ Plugins and Themes all for just $79/year. There isn’t one GPL Club that offers WordPress Plugins and Themes that were developed by the owners.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy From a GPL Club
The owners of the GPL Club style websites aren’t the original authors of the plugins. This means they have no idea how the code works. What it should do and how the functionality works.
Traditionally the GPL Clubs offer no support for the plugins or themes they distribute. They claim this is because they offer such high value, whereas the truth of the matter is because they didn’t originally develop the plugins or themes provided. They have no idea how to provide support or what to do if something breaks.
This means that if you find a bug in the plugin or theme, you download from these types of websites, you can’t do anything about it. The GPL Club may no longer have access to their original download and account, meaning that there’s nothing you can do. That issue may never be fixed, and you’ll be left with a broken plugin or theme which your site might rely on.
Plugins such as Gravity Forms, WPMU DEV’s and others are moving more in the direction of SaaS-based software and licensing systems. With WPMU DEV Plugins such as HummingBird and others requiring an active Membership and License Key. This means the plugins won’t even work on your site if downloaded from an unauthorized third party.
Most WordPress Plugin and Theme companies also have their automatic updates system which you won’t get the benefit from. Updates to plugins and themes from GPL Club sites can frequently be days/weeks or sometimes even months late leaving you potentially with broken, buggy software.
That updates section above looks scary right? Well, how about this. If there’s an XSS vulnerability or another serious security issue that the original author patches for their customers and makes that update available What if you have to wait days, weeks or months for that same update? It puts you at a greater risk of getting hacked, which could cause your business to lose not only revenue but also respect from your customers and industry.
By downloading from anyone apart from the original author you’re at risk of installing a modified malicious plugin or theme on your website. While most sites will claim not to have modified the files, how will you know? Maybe more advanced users will scan the files and can spot any alterations. But most can’t if the file is modified with malicious code your website could be hacked, customers details were stolen, all devastating to any business.
Ethics – Is it right or wrong?
Let’s clear this one up. Despite what others say distributing a GPL licensed plugin or theme is not ethically wrong. The GPL license gives the freedom to redistribute the software with or without modifications, to read more on the GPL take a look at the official FAQ here.
But what about re-distributing it for profit? Again while not technically against the GPL and in theory it isn’t ethically wrong. You are taking money away from the original developer/author/company that created the software. That person/persons may have spent months or even years on that software that is being re-distributed. How would you feel if someone did the same with your work?
Whatever you do, support the original author of the software you want to use on your website. If you can’t afford to purchase premium versions, there are usually great free alternatives on WordPress.org or lite versions of premium plugins and themes with features removed you may not even need. Always check WordPress.org and don’t go with GPL Club type sites or nulled plugins/themes.