Earlier today Obox was removed from the WordPress.com theme directory. We have been aware of the situation for over a week but we have chosen to keep quiet about it while we spoke to both Envato and WordPress about the matter.
It makes us proud to say that Obox is the only theme company that has been in all the premium theme directories of the modern blogging platforms of our time:
Having said that, it wouldn't be normal if we didn't experience some conflict along the way and unfortunately this week was that time.
Since the day Obox Themes launched we have been 100% GPL - that is code, images and css. Before going that way we were a bit nervous but mostly because we weren't fully educated on the situation, however it was the best decision we made because at the very least we adhered to the core principles of WordPress.
When we were approached by Themeforest, to list our themes on their marketplace, we didn't say yes right away. In fact it took 2 months of negotiating to get it right. One of the issues we had was that they were not 100% GPL to the point that WordPress requires.
However after doing some digging we realised that they broke no rules whatsoever, so we decided to proceed.
Themeforest has been a huge success for us and the money we have earned through that deal has enabled us to make better themes and increase the size of our team. Not only that but Fuad and Collis are legends of the highest degree and I have all the time in the world for them. They always take the time to phone us to see how we are doing and if they can help with anything.
To me they set the example of how authors should be treated and looked after.
We first got word of the WP.com marketplace before it was even live. We knew that we weren't meant to know about it when we mailed Matt and asked to be included. He asked what it was we were talking about... :)
That was around January 2011, and from that moment we tried every avenue we could to get Obox on WP.com. First there was denial that anything existed and then we simply got rejected, and then rejected again and again. We didn't relent though because we believed so strongly in our company that we felt we had real value to add to their theme collection.
Eventually Lance Willett (another legend) got in touch with us and said they were keen to have us onboard. We were over the moon. It had taken over a year of asking to get the answer we wanted and we were incredibly proud when they said yes.
In order to make sure we put our best foot forward we completely reprogrammed Gigawatt in order to suit WordPress.com - it wasn't a simple port but rather a ground up rebuild.
By now we were dealing with Ian Stewart (once again, a great guy) and we sort of both brought up the issue with selling themes on both Themeforest and WordPress.com. Our main concern was about exclusivity but when Ian mentioned the GPL issue we knew we had a problem.
We immediately contacted Envato and asked what we could do about it. Eventually we decided to leave it as is because essentially our themes are 100% GPL on Obox and our code also states that - the same code that goes onto Themeforest.
Between WP.com and Obox we agreed that we were upholding the spirit of WordPress and were therefore allowed onto the new .com marketplace.
Rock and a Hard Place
On Friday we received an email from WP.com basically stating that, because of the new licensing on Themeforest, we needed to choose where we wanted to sell our themes.
We had just posted our final code changes of Handmade for WordPress.com and were therefore saddened that we had found ourselves in this situation.
Leaving Themeforest is not something we wanted to do for a number of reasons. Chief among them though is that if we left Themeforest we would have to release some of our staff due to lost revenue. As much as we value the principles of GPL and opensource, we have to put my team first - they are like family to Marc and I.
Soon after, we contacted Themeforest to see if we could get some kind of unique GPL license for Obox only. Turns out things aren't that simple BUT Themeforest are going to huge efforts to see if they can in fact offer all their authors the option of going 100% GPL. I hope it comes sooner than later :)
Because we cannot simply up and leave Themeforest (nor do we want to) we have had to willingly accept the reality of being removed off of WordPress.com.
Considering all the hard work we put into a) getting accepted and b) redoing our themes for their marketplace, it is a very difficult pill to swallow and we can assure you that our whole team is sad about the situation.
That being said we are determined to get back onto WordPress.com. It's an honor to be on there and we will do what it takes to get back. I strongly believe that it's a matter of time before we can get back on and we are looking forward to the moment it happens.
Hopefully, in the ideal world, we will be able to sell our themes across multiple platforms with 100% GPL. In the meanwhile we will continue to put in the maximum effort we always do to make great themes for you, our customers.
For those of you who haved purchased Gigawatt on WordPress.com - don't fret, the WordPress theme team will be taking over the support and maintenance of the code until we are back onboard.
If you have any questions please feel free to drop a comment, or you can mail me directly.