CForms II and GPL license

bild-720If you are using wordpress as i do, then you most probably know of one of the best WordPress plugins for forms of any kind, CForms II. CForms has been around for quite some time, it’s now on version 10.1, and we must admit that a lot of great work has been done making this the best form mailer plugin on the WP plugins repository.

But then, today, all of us wordpress users found out (on our Plugins Management page) that

In light of special circumstances, cforms will not continue to be available on Future updates may only be available on

Anyone wonders what went wrong?? Well i did! And here is what i found out!

Well now, it seems that CForms is not actually compatible with the GPL licence WordPress is using. All plugins in WordPress repository  have to be GPL licenced and, thus, somebody, called “KingRat” decided to take it upon himself to grass up the fact that cForms is not GPL compatible to WordPress. This person, in order to get some traffic to his otherwise plain/dull blog, decided to against the licencing of CForms II, since as he says “I didn’t like the placement for the link” and “Mr. Seidel has deliberately made it difficult to remove the link.”. Here is the complete post, without references to his site, as i would hate it sending more traffic.

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I helped a friend of mine set up a web site for her small business. She asked me if I could install some sort of contact form for it, so she wouldn’t have to rely in people getting her email address right. Sure, she could use a mailto: link, but even then some people manage to mangle her email address in the process. She wanted something where people could simply type what they wanted, hit send, and she could be sure it got to her.

Since her site was built using WordPress, the first place I headed was the WordPress plugin repository. The handy-dandy integration between WordPress 2.7 and the repository makes such things simple. By far the most popular contact form plugin is cforms II. So I installed and configured. Voila! A little complex but it wasn’t too hard to work with.

Testing it out, I noticed a link at the bottom of the contact form. It pointed to Oliver Seidel’s web site. He’s the developer for cforms II. I didn’t like the placement for the link (my friend has a credits page where I would put it). So I immediately Googled how to do this. Lo’ and behold Mr. Seidel has deliberately made it difficult to remove the link. That’s fine. His software… sort of.

See, here’s the thing: All plugins on are supposed to use GPL-compatible licenses. That means that users get the source code, and they can do nearly whatever they want with it. Turns out that Mr. Seidel never actually included a license in the download (so far as I can tell). And on at least one page on his site, Mr. Seidel claims the license for cforms II is not open source or GPL compatible. Specifically, he says that users may not modify or redistribute the plugin or it’s source. That’s not GPL.

Now, although i understand why he wanted to use the plugin and what he was aiming to do with it, it seems to me that he just went too far so as to be noticed. Of course, he has the right to express himself freely, but i would think that maybe if someone had sent the author of cForms, Oliver Seidel, an email concerning the non GPL compatibility of cForms and mentioned that WP are starting to remove non GPL plugins he may have changed/added the licence of/to his plugin, so as not to have it removed by WP/Automattic.

From the author’s CForms II plug-in site:

I’ve roughly spend 3000 hours on cforms and quite frankly never thought it would get to where it is today, I’m not a programmer by trade. I never had any issues with individual users adjusting my code to meet their requirements, in fact I encourage several by providing hints & tips in the cforms forum. What I do have an issue with are users taking the cforms code, modifying it, repackaging it and selling it as their effort to make profit. I do not approve of that and if that makes cforms non compliant to GPL and what not then that’s what it is.

Unfortunately, CForms II was removed and the little “rat” who started all this, has started something which has gotten him a quiet a few hate comments and some major hits and attention. But the fact remains tha CForms II is now out of the repository and is no longer supported (well, it works, but you won’t be able to automatically update through the repository).

As a programmer myself, I can understand why the author of cFormsII would not want to release his code under the GPL license. It is his right to do so and I feel that no one has the right to coerce him into releasing it in GPL if he doesn’t want to. cForms II can’t be considered unfit for use just because of the license that the author has decided to release it on. The plug-in is great and the creator deservers somes credit. Just because the author doesn’t like it when you modify it and make money off his work doesn’t make it a bad one. This is only reasonable and still he is fine with you adjusting and customizing the code.

Seriously though I hope he’s happy. He has just spoilt one of the best plugins available for WordPress. Let’s hope this can be resolved soon. Already the author of CForms II, Oliver Seidel, is ” looking a different options right now that both suffices my requirement (yes it’s just one) and will help all users to run cforms based on a referencable license basis”.

Should GPL compatibility put before the popularity & usefulness of a plugin? Isn’t free quite similar to open source? Is an “appreciation” link too much to ask?

One comment

  1. Funny, he spent 3000 hrs in between delicious meals developing it hand in hand it with the hundrends of thousand hours of people using it and providing a free a test bed and feedback for improving the plugin…It works both ways.

    A nice plugin from an arrogant developer, that decided to put the link after people started using it, I call that unethical.

    Somebody is already working on another one, guess who is going to win in the end. Being humble is much better, and he is not

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