Beyond the Price Tag: The Real Cost of Using a GPL Club for WordPress and Divi Plugins

Today, I’m here to talk about a massive thorn in the side of WordPress and Divi plugin developers, the ethical minefield that is GPL.

The General Public License (GPL) plays a pivotal role in the distribution of software, particularly in the world we find ourselves in, namely that of WordPress and Divi plugin development. As these platforms thrive on open-source principles, the GPL not only allows but encourages the manipulation and redistribution of software (remember that m-word for later). However, the rise of GPL clubs, which capitalize on loopholes within these freedoms to sell plugins at significantly reduced costs, presents a legal yet controversial facet within how we put food on the table.

That said, you might think you are scoring a deal, but it comes with its own risks and downsides which will far exceed paying the extra few bucks to get a legitimate plugin license. To understand this better, we should first look in more detail at all the moving parts starting with what GPL is and what it means.

What is the GPL?

At its core, the GPL is designed to guarantee that open-source software and it derivatives remains free and accessible. It allows users to modify and redistribute software as long as the same rights are preserved in downstream versions. What is a downstream version you ask? Well, things like Divi plugins that operate on the WordPress layer which is an open-source content management system (CMS).

This enables developers like us to build upon the WordPress and Divi ecosystems by extending them with features that are not available natively. These WordPress and Divi plugins then get listed on the WordPress repository and Marketplaces which deepens our reach. This also means that there is a thriving community of other developers like our friends at Pee-Aye Creative that share knowledge and help each other out.

Tie all of this together and it has given the WordPress and Divi developer community a way to run businesses that employ many great folks that are able to put food on the table doing what they love best, which is build amazing products that pay this help forward.

Overall, the GPL is a great concept as long as folks out there do not abuse it. Enter, GPL Clubs.

What are GPL Clubs?

A GPL Club is an unethical entity that abuses and exploits the GNU General Public License (GPL) to resell software, such as WordPress and Divi plugins or themes, often at a significantly reduced price compared to that of the original developers. While technically legal under the terms of the GPL, which allows for the free redistribution of licensed software, the practice of these clubs are outright dodgy and skirts the ethical boundaries of fair business practices. By simply reselling existing work without contributing to its development or offering any post-sale support, these clubs can undercut developers who invest significant resources in creating, maintaining, and supporting their software. The model poses a considerable ethical dilemma, as it capitalizes on the open-source ethos intended for collaboration and improvement, not commercial exploitation at the expense of original developers.

Let’s take the Divi Theme for example. Currently, the Divi Theme is listed at a very reasonable $249 on the Elegant Themes website:

Divi Theme for sale on the Elegant Themes website.

Now let us look at a GPL Club that sells an outdated version of the Divi Theme for under $5:

Divi Theme for sale on a GPL Club site.

It does not take a genius to calculate the damage this does to the developers and the people that count on them. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at what running a business like Divi Engine costs.

The Cost of Doing Business

Businesses like ours are not akin to those startup millionaires you see from silicon valley or read about in hackernews. We are generally small teams, sometimes even family like here at Divi Engine or Divi Supreme, that are spread around the world just trying to create a great place to work as well as deliver exceptional products and support. But, there are expenses associated with delivering just that, and those don’t always leave much room for fat stacks of profit moneys.

That said, without lifting the skirt too much (gotta buy me a drink for that first), this is ballpark what it costs to run a Divi development business based in the United Kingdom.

Expense TypeCost (USD)
Developers (3)$180,000
Support Team (2)$80,000
Marketing Team$40,000
Business Manager$60,000
Software & Hardware$20,000
Advertising & Affiliates$30,000
Hosting & Domains$10,000
Payment Processing$10,000
Legal & Accounting$20,000
Estimated Taxes$60,000
Business Registration & Licensing Fees$2,000
*Now, we understand that this could look different for other WordPress and Divi plugin developers out there, so take this as a guideline as we used some averages in this calculation.

This is without taking into account the losses we take with unethical practices like GPL Clubs and group buying. Nor does it account for periods where efforts need to be scaled (cost more) for non-negotiables like recoding all of our plugins for Divi 5.

Does not leave much room for profit, does it?

And we are a smaller team. If you look at the folks at WPZone that employ a much larger group of folks, these expenses could easily be double. But that is enough of that, what folks should really be worried about are the risks of buying WordPress or Divi plugins from a GPL Club.

Risks of Purchasing from GPL Clubs

When considering the purchase of software from GPL Clubs, it’s crucial to understand the significant risks involved. GPL Clubs exploit the redistributive permissions of the GNU General Public License (GPL) to resell open-source software, such as WordPress plugins and themes, at reduced prices. While this practice is technically legal, it comes with substantial drawbacks that can negatively affect users and the broader software ecosystem. Not to mention the ability of developers to maintain their products.

Here are some of the key risks associated with using software from GPL Clubs:

Security Vulnerabilities and Risks to Client Sites:

  • Software from GPL Clubs lacks access to plugin updates which often includes critical security patches. This exposes users to significant risks, as outdated software can be a target for hackers, just google WPScan to see how easy it is to find these exploits.
  • Websites using such plugins are more susceptible to attacks, which can lead to data breaches, malware infections, and other security incidents that compromise both the site and its visitors.
  • GPL Clubs also often null the WordPress and Divi plugins to remove measures taken by the developers to prevent it being used without a legitimate license. Sounds great, right? No, because it is pretty much standard practice to add malicious code enabling botnets, or backdoors into WordPress sites.

No New Features:

  • Developers love building and enhancing new features in their WordPress and Divi plugins, but since illegitimate copies without licenses purchased from GPL Clubs do no include updates, you do not get to enjoy these features.

No Official Support and Potential Compatibility Issues:

  • Absence of support means users have nowhere to turn when they face technical issues, potentially leading to prolonged downtime and loss of business. We often get GPL Club customers looking for support and have no other option than to turn them away if they are not willing to purchase a legitimate license.
  • Compatibility problems may arise with other software components, causing system instability or failure, which is particularly detrimental for business-critical operations.

Ethical and Professional Concerns:

  • The character and operational methods of those who run GPL clubs are often questionable. They profit from the hard work of original developers without contributing to the development or improvement of the software.
  • Supporting such entities can reflect poorly on one’s own business ethics and professionalism, potentially damaging one’s reputation in the industry.
  • While reselling GPL-licensed software is not illegal, it raises ethical concerns about undermining the developers who dedicate time and resources to create and maintain these products.
  • Financial support diverted from the original developers to GPL clubs can stifle innovation and development within the software community.

Reputation Risk and Impact on Business:

  • Using potentially compromised or unsupported software can lead to operational failures or security incidents, adversely affecting a business’s reputation.
  • Clients and partners may question the reliability and integrity of a business that relies on software obtained from ethically dubious sources.
  • If clients find out you used WordPress or Divi plugins from aGPL Club instead of legitimate plugins that keep their sites safe and updated, this could lead to the version of word-of-mouth you don’t want.

These risks underline the importance of weighing the broader implications and potential downsides of purchasing from GPL Clubs. Not only is there a direct impact on security and functionality, but the indirect effects on business reputation and ethical standing in the community can be just as damaging. Supporting original developers not only fosters innovation and improves software quality but also ensures that users receive the most value through continuous updates and reliable support, safeguarding their operations and ethical standing in the industry.

The Value of Purchasing Directly from Developers

Purchasing software through legitimate sources, rather than GPL Clubs, brings a multitude of benefits that extend far beyond the initial transaction. When you buy directly from the developers or authorized marketplaces, you’re investing in a package of ongoing value that ensures not only the functionality and security of the software but also supports the ecosystem that continues to innovate and improve it.

Reliable Support and Customer Service

One of the most significant advantages of purchasing from legitimate sources is the access to dedicated support and customer service. This means any issues you encounter can be swiftly addressed by knowledgeable staff who understand the plugin thoroughly. Whether it’s troubleshooting, customization help, or guidance through updates, official support ensures that you get the most out of your purchase.

Regular Updates

Legitimate sources provide regular updates which include not just new features, but also important security patches. These updates are crucial as they protect your websites from new vulnerabilities and ensure that it remains compatible with the ever-evolving WordPress and Divi environments. This continuous improvement cycle is absent in plugins acquired from GPL Clubs, where updates will not be available or secure.

Guaranteed Code Integrity

When purchasing directly from the developer, you are guaranteed that the code is original and unmodified. This assurance is vital for the security and stability of the plugin and your websites, as modified code can often introduce vulnerabilities or unwanted behaviors that could compromise your sites operation.

Sustaining Development and Innovation

Your purchase is an investment into the future development of the plugins. It enables developers to continue improving existing plugins and add new features, as well as to conceptualize and develop new plugins. This reinvestment into the plugin ecosystem enhances the value and utility of the plugins over time.

Supporting the Livelihood of Developers

Behind every plugin is a team of hardworking professionals. By purchasing through legitimate channels, you are directly supporting the livelihoods of these individuals and their families. This financial support helps maintain motivated and dedicated teams that can focus on delivering high-quality plugins.

Try this Instead of Using a GPL Club

This strategy is so simple, but it is one all successful agencies use.

And if clients are not happy with this, they are probably not worth having as a client because they will fight you on every nickel and dime. Just apply the Pareto Principle (80-20 rule) here and work with clients that understand they will get what they pay for. These clients will always pay more to get the best possible result as they know the value in doing so, just as you should. Anybody can build a decent WordPress or Divi site, but how many can do it well? How many do it SEO-optimized or perfectly responsive? And how many offer excellent after-sales support? Not many, if any.

Ok, my lecture is over now.


So, is purchasing from a GPL Club worth it? Of course not! While GPL Clubs may offer tempting prices, the true cost of opting for such unethical sources can be high, considering the risks and lack of benefits. Investing in plugins through legitimate sources ensures you receive a secure, stable, and supported product while also contributing to the ongoing development and sustainability of the software ecosystem. This not only benefits your business but also supports the broader community of developers and website users.

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