WordPress Nulled themes&plugins are they safe?

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There are a number of websites online that offer you Worpress Nulled themes&plugins free or for a small charge.

But at the end you are only hurting the developers and your project.

In this article will discuss a bit about those type of plugins and themes. More exactly what is the definition, if there are safe to use and what do you gain&lose at the same time.

What are WordPress Nulleed themes and/or plugins?

WordPress Nulled themes and plugins are bits of code that you install in your WordPress based webpage in order to add extra functionality.

Themes interact mostly with the user interface and plugins interact with the functionality. Ok, but where does the „Nulled” in the title stand for?

Well…A Nulled Worpress theme or plugin is a „cracked” plugin. That means in short that some lines of code where inserted in the plugin/theme so that it avoids the activation prompt in the backed of the website.

Wait a second…how it can be cracked if WordPress is licensed under GPL?

It is true, WordPress is Licensed under GPL (that means free do modify, distribute to the community) but here is a huge grey area.

GPL in WordPress is not so well defined and it doesn’t obligate the developer of the theme or plugin to make all its code available under a GPL license.

So you can have a plugin that has its PHP code under GPL but the design and output of the plugin is excluded from the license.

If you install the plugin from an illegitimate source like Wplocker for example, you may not have all the functionality of the plugin unlocked (like automatic updates)

Here „comes in handy” websites that provide for „free” premium modules and themes for your WordPress website that dont comunicate with the update server of the developer or they have installed fake activation codes.

Are Nulled WordPress themes & plugins safe?

Well a large majority of the plugins and themes are relatively safe to use. They come from the original developer but without the activation key.

And from a legal standpoint, you are kinda „safe” to use those on your projects.

I dont advised to use nulled themes or plugins on your clients projects. Because most of the time the client wont understand the whole picture of WordPress GPL and if they find out if your plugin/theme is not activated they will surly put you in a difficult situation. Also you put their project at risk.

But also there is a number of popular modules and themes that are malicious and cant affect your website and hurt your indexing in Google, Bing or other search engines.

Those that tinker with the code of the modules they dont have to be honest and transparent towards you, so they can do whatever they want to the code.

If you are willing to gamble in this way with your work, at least make sure to scan the files and inspect if there where made changes recently.

What is GPL?

The GPL license is a fairly popular free software license used in many industries around the globe. Also its know as: GNU General Public License.

In short the license grants you the end user the ability to freely share, analize, install and modify the software. If you share the software after doing the modifications/adaptations you must provide the software to the end user under the same license this is known as copyleft. Also what falls under the GPL is only the source code of the product not the output.

You can read more here.

WordPress and GPL

WordPress as a content management system is license under GPL. Originally it was born from the work of Michel Valdrighi, a French programmer that developed a platform called B2/cafelog.

The first version of WordPress was developed based on fuctions modified from the original B2/cafelog with the help of many developer (thanks to GPL) and led us to where we are today.

A community of millions of users across the globe sharing the love of creating new things.

You can read more here and here

Are WordPress GPL membership websites legit?

Again, this is a grey area. Some of them seem to provide you the original updated products directly from the developer.

But others just copy/paste the plugins and themes from shady forums and provide you with the download link for a small fee.

The ideea here is that you (as a owner of an GPL membership website) are charging a small fee for distributing copyrighted content. As i noted above, not all the code/graphics available in the theme or plugin is GPL, so its a huge liability.

But i think this is not such a big problem for those who live in a 3rd world (where the grand majority of this pages originate in) country where the laws are not that strict also there aren’t a lot of opportunities business wise.

For you as an user…again, you are gambling with the integrity of your website or clients website.

Most of the GPL membership websites don’t come with a warranty and don’t offer support. So if someone tinkered with the code of the plugin/theme and your site is compromised you are solely responsible.

Can i be sued for using a nulled theme?

The entire GPL case is kinda complicated. Those cases in the court of law are classifieds as „without guidance”.

To better understand the concept i will quote a friend of mine that is more knowledgeable in this fiend.

The legal system is based somewhat on the ideea of past experiences. Meaning that a lawyer will take your case and „fight” for your cause if he has pas experience in this matter. If he doesn’t the next logical step is to find other cases that dealt with a similar issue as your. But if there isn’t any significant number of cases he will most likely drop your case. No lawyer wants to go blind in a case, because the ideea is to win not to loose. This is a general definition of „without guidance”.

Andreea

Basically if you get sued you must find a lawyer with past experience that is willing to take your case. But i don’t think you will find that many willing to take the challenge.

But two questions remain:

  1. Can i be sued as an user of the nulled theme/plugin? Yes, in some cases the owner of the theme/plugin has the right to do so.
  2. Will i be sued as an user of the nulled theme/plugin ? The probability on this outcome is really low (noticed that i said low). The more likely thing to happen is for them to notify you are the theme/plugin is without a license key and suggest to activate it.

What if i have a premium plugin without a license that came bundled with a theme?

In this case there is no need to worry. A significant number of plugins and themes that are premium can be bundled with themes. In this situation the developer is more focused in awareness and making you as an user install their plugin on your webpage then the fact that you didn’t activate your copy. Also there is a very high probability for you to buy a license key separately if you find the plugin useful and really need the support and regular updates.

Besides this, the theme developer has the permission of the plugin developer to distribute the plugin without a cost (this fals under GPL) that’s why all WordPress premium themes that offer premium plugins bundled are mentioning that they are “at no extra cost”.

Conclusion

All the WordPress themes/plugins are under the GPL license. But is some cases not all the code in the software is under GPL (the output or the graphics might not be GPL) so its a bit complicated.

The only way for developers to legally monetize their work under GNU GPL license is to use an automatic update sistem and offer you support.

But if you dont want support or automatic updates there is no problem, you can still use the plugin/theme, thus making the theme/plugin in some sense free to use even under comercial situations.

The problem is more with the nulled themes/plugins that have altered code in them and can affect your website directly and cause harm.

Also the fact that those website charge a fee for distributing something they got in most cases for free.

In large this is more of an ethics problem, a problem that i cannot foresee it be solved in the near future.

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