The themes forum might not be the right place for this discussion, so feel free to move it, but here goes:
It seems that most themes developed fall into one of two categories:
- someone was tasked by an employer to develop a theme (school, etc...) and they release it here or
- a moodle partner developed it as part of their package services and they release it here
I got my start in Moodle themeing by number 1: I developed Zebra and the ability to quickly change things like colors & logos because I needed to deploy moodle instances to 6 schools in the district and provide them with easy branding options but a unified look & feel.
But now that that's done I still have a few theme designs/ideas I'd like to try out that are outside of the scope of my work - and would fall squarely into personal time. And that's not something that I can just justify doing. However, if I could find a way to monetize that in a non-committal way I would pursue them. By that I mean, I don't want to become a Moodle Partner because I don't necessarily want to provide support or hosting or even development per se. I'd just like to create a theme and put it up for sale for like $5 or $10 bucks.
I've been reading into the nature of how that works in the WordPress ecosystem. WordPress is GPL2 and the Software Freedom Law Center did an analysis of WordPress that determined that themes didn't have to be licensed under GPL exclusively. You can read more about it here. Themeforest.net takes advantage of this by split-licensing themes (php/lib: GPL, css/html: custom). You can read more about it here. However, WordPress.org went the other way: by only listing fully GPL themes in their commercial market (here), essentially embracing the spirit of the license.
I believe that a similar case could be made for Moodle. And I believe that a similar decision would (and has been) made by moodle.com to embrace the spirit of the license (e.g. switching to GPL3 to close "loopholes"). This is my desire too. I however, also don't want to violate the spirit of the community. E.g. collaborative sharing.
So I guess my question is less what can I technically or legally "get away with" but more what can I do that still contributes to the community and allows me to pursue theme development from a personal, financially viable perspective?
My current thought is this: Create a theme that is available in the Moodle plugins directory, keep a different branch of the same basic code base but with more "features" - maybe some settings or something like that that I only distribute though some other pay-gate (paypal, a market, etc...). That way I'm still contributing to the community and providing a value-added in the paid version.
Of course, the main frustration in the WordPress sphere with GPL themes is that a paying customer is then free to distribute the theme as they see as long as it's not commercial (as far as I understand - and thus themeforest's split-license scheme). I'm not too worried about that, though I would be bummed were that to become the case. I generally think that if someone's going to not pay then there's no way around that.