What are Different WordPress Theme Licensing Terms?

One of the most confusing stuff in the internet world today is the WordPress theme licensing. The lack of knowledge of these licensing terms can create copyright and ownership disputes. general customers and ever theme developers are unaware of their rights and limitation while doing online business. In this article, we will try to explain different WordPress theme licensing terms.

What are Different WordPress Theme Licensing Terms?

Free Software

Let me make you more confuse by saying free software also have a price tag. Even if you create a free WordPress theme under GPL, you can still sell it. The price paid for the free software is actually the price for updates and support. The term ‘free’ in free software, refers to freedom of use. Anyone who buys a free theme will have the freedom to modify and distribute the theme or any modifications of that theme.

Here is the list of some common Free Software licenses.

  • Apache Software License
  • MIT License
  • The GNU General Public License (GPL)

GNU General Public License (GPL)

Any software or theme under GPL can be freely used, reused and modified. You can also redistribute original copies or any modified versions of the copy. Even the most popular CMS is under GNU General Public License (GPL).

For example, if you are buying any theme under GNU General Public License v3.0, then you will get right to use it on any number of times for either you or your clients without any limitations. You can modify the templates and even resell the modified version of it under GPL. If you are creating a theme which will be used by yourself or your client and you have no plans to distribute it, then you do not need to adopt the GPL license. Else if you want to distribute your theme as a free theme then it must be 100% GPL including CSS and images.

100% GPL license

If you keep your entire product under 100% GPL then others who download it are free to sell and distribute the item as long as they follow the rule of GPL. To know more about how GPL and split license apply to WordPress themes here is a guide in WordPress.

Split license

Whenever there are multiple codes and assets in a composite item, certain items can be proprietary and others can be GPL. Suppose, you created a product and want to restrict only a part of the product keeping rest part under GPL then split license can be applied. In a theme, CSS part, design, photos and graphics generally have restrictions. The PHP, WordPress code and general HTML fall under GPL.

Royalty Free

When an item is royalty free you may need to buy the rights to use the item. Whatever you built from the royalty-free item is the end product. Once you buy the rights to use the item, you don’t need to pay any extra for every person who uses your end product.

Premium WordPress License


Whenever we purchase any WordPress theme from the theme marketplace, you will encounter the following terms. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Regular license

The Regular License gives you a non-exclusive, worldwide license to make use of the digital Item you have purchased. The Regular License is a single application license which means you can use the item to create one single End Product for yourself or for one client. You can sell the end product to that client for any fee. The license is then transferred to the client. You can also create as many copies of the end product as long as it is distributed for free. You are not allowed to charge money for the copies of end product you sell.

Extended license

Also gives you the worldwide license to use the item you purchase. You can create only one single end product. However this time you can sell the copies of your end product. The extended license gives you the freedom to create profits by selling the end product copies. However, the extended license does not give you right to resell the original item which you

One time usage license

It allows you to use any individual product on a single website only. You may have to purchase the same template again when you plan to use the same theme on the different website. When you buy any theme for the usual price you automatically get the one time license. You can customize the theme or template to an extent but you cannot resell them.

Also Read:   How to Easily Bulk Delete All WordPress Comments? Here's Step by Step Guide

Unique purchase license

When a product has the unique price license, it guarantees that you will be the only user of the product. Unique purchase license price will be relatively high since you will be the first and last person to buy this product. After this purchase, the template or theme will be completely removed from the sale and never available again for other customers.

Buyout Purchase license:

Buyout license guarantees that you are the last person to buy this product. Although the product may have been sold many times earlier, after buyout you and the people who bought it earlier can use it. Again after the buyout, the product will be removed from the site for further sale.

Developer’s license

When you purchase the developers license of any item, you have the permission to use that item to develop your end product. It’s a non-exclusive permission. All the rights of the new product you developed using the developer license will be yours.

The Perpetual License, Lifetime License (one-time payment)

In the perpetual model of licensing, you make an upfront, one-time purchase of the licenses and
then you own them forever (in perpetuity). For Lifetime license you pay a flat high price at the beginning. You don’t have to pay any extra money in future. You own the item and its future updates and support for the lifetime. In some cases, perpetual licenses also charge additional “Annual Support and Maintenance” fee.

The Annual license

The other names for annual license are the subscription license or software as a service (SaaS)
license. The upfront cost of the annual license is low but you may have to pay every year to renew the license. The annual per-user license is commonly all-inclusive for the license, technical support, and maintenance.

The Term License:

A Term License allows you to subscribe to your software applications for a monthly or quarterly fee. You can also use a Term License as a supplement to your perpetual licenses, gaining the flexibility to use applications beyond your owned license during workload.

The Consumption License

This is pay as you go license. But consumption license is rarely available. In this license, you pay for what you use after you use it. The timeframe of measuring and paying for it can be monthly, quarterly, annually or any time period.


Since licensing not all that simple to be explained in few words. So make a habit of reading the licenses details before you purchase any item online. If you are planning to sell any digital product online then it is your choice which license you want to keep on your original work. We hope the article was helpful in answering the question about different WordPress theme licensing terms. you can also read our other article on  Best Premium and Free Magazine News WordPress Themes of 2017“.

The following two tabs change content below.

Kantiman Bajracharya

Kantiman Bajracharya is a freelance web developer. He is a computer geek who has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. He has earned lots of satisfied customers while working for numerous successful projects. He is also a WordPress theme creator and web article writer. On free time he likes reading philosophy books, traveling and playing chess.

Share This Post