When Good Deeds go bad

I don’t know where it went wrong with what I did when I posted my first attempt at editing a theme, but what happened was something that, to this day, still confounds me quite a bit. Just to recap the story up to here, I had found a theme that I liked for my blog, but after finding some major flaws with it (i.e. “F–K THIS” written out in the header, the CSS file being lumped together in one big chunk), I changed themes to this one. However, I then wanted to revisit the theme and see if I could improve upon it. The final result wound up being my first foray into theme tweaking.

However, I made a critical error in that post – I took the initiative to find the actual site of the person who created the theme, and linked to his post that announced the original release of it. I made sure to give the credit where it was due, because a lot of the hard work was done already, and I thought that the original creator would not have issues with having a theme redone (with all original links left intact in the theme’s files – even though they go to sites which aren’t the same as when the theme was made originally).

Clearly, I was wrong.

I published the post at 11.44PM, and got a comment shortly afterward, but about 6 hours after publishing, I got this notification of a new comment –


That was followed, almost immediately after, by an email about a new contact form that I received, with a similar message –


Now, after receiving these messages, I dutifully did what I was asked by him to do – removed the download link. I would have thought that it was enough to just do that, but apparently he didn’t like my only doing that – he wanted the whole thing scrapped, so about 12 hours after the first comment was dropped, I received this comment –


The hilarious thing about all of this is that he claims to hold copyright over that particular theme, but a quick inspection of the theme’s files yields nothing in the way of a license, or even a copyright notice in the CSS file (which is the standard place for doing things like that). Even themes released with a license are released under the GPL license, which allows you to modify the work, so long as you keep record of the originator of the work, which I had done. After receiving the mails and contact forms, it was time to do a bit of a mea culpa, by sending an email with a profuse apology for any infringements:


Any even-handed person probably would have taken note of the fact that I hadn’t done this before, and been slightly lenient about it, even possibly allowing the download to be available again. Again, I was wrong. This was the reply that I received to my email:


It was at this point that I started to do some searching into his supposed claims over copyright and everything to do with him, and this brought up an interesting revelation. Let me share the line I used when I found this bit of information out –

[1/13/2008 8:13:51 PM] Sephy says: hmm…i was assuming that he had dangly bits, apparently i’m wrong…M1l0 IllVIl has the right to contact and demand Participant to remove any non-suitable display or use of her work at any time (without reasons or explanations necessary).

That line was culled from her page with all the disclaimers she holds, which also has this hilarious bit of text, which would mean anyone who has downloaded one of her themes and changed even one thing would be in violation of these disclaimers –

Participant also agrees not to alter, disassemble, decompile, reverse engineer, or otherwise modify the Downloaded Material.

By that same logic, anybody who uses one of themes at all without asking her permission would fall afoul of this line –


After that, Snoskred said that I should go ahead and re-release the theme without any of the supposedly copyrighted things – images, sentences, etc. In other words, release the theme as my own original work. There were a few other revelations that were discovered in searching her site. I did a little bit of digging into her site and found a post about a forum that this person had created. Now, for someone who had such a fit over one person modifying one of her themes, I was shocked to find this tidbit in the post –

post your modified m1l0 themes with screenshots

That sounds like a completely different story to what she was complaining about to me. In fact, if you look at the thread in which the themes are posted, one person asked if he could post his themes for others to use. The most hilarious thing is that the reply from her to his post was saying that his way of showing off the edited themes was the way it was intended! Anyone smell the irony? 😉

Along with what I’d done already, I’d sought the input of someone who has done quite a bit of theme modification, and basically, they told me that if they were asked to take something down, they would. It was with that bit of information that I decided that maybe, the best way to handle this was to let her go on her way and let this go away as it was something that I didn’t need to deal with. That doesn’t mean that I had started to draft a reply back to her in response to her second email. This is what it looked like after I had stopped working on it –


But, the story doesn’t end there.

A couple of days later, she sent me another email that was very different to the other emails, which made the whole situation even more strange, as this was a mail that was actually halfway polite. This is what she sent –


For sure, it’s an interesting query; however, if you think about it taking and modifying a theme (with, as I noted in my reply to her, none of the acknowledgements changed), and try to correlate it to someone scraping your blog’s content, it doesn’t make any sense.

As it is, my plans for the near term when it comes to WordPress themes is that I’m going to take some time and read the information that is available on the WordPress codex in relation to writing your own themes. I have some ideas for my own. I might just start out with the sandbox theme to start with, just to get my bearings as to what is involved in a theme.

5 thoughts on “When Good Deeds go bad

  1. I’m finally having to admit that I just don’t “get” some people. Good luck with the designing Sephy. I’m sure you’ll come up with something terrific. 🙂

  2. You didn’t do anything wrong and it is nothing like someone using one of your posts without credit. You provided credit, you linked to the creator – it sounds like it’s nothing more than a power trip on her part, which is really ridiculous since she shouldn’t be wasting her time targeting the people who actually give her credit – she should be more concerned about the people stealing her work and passing it off as their own. *doh*

    Don’t give up on the layout front – go ahead and make your own. I reckon you’d do a great job.

  3. I’m not really sure what her problem is. If she didn’t want people to use her theme why was it available for download? I would have thought the common license for free themes is that it’s fine as long as credit/links remain intact. Maybe she was just annoyed because you did what she couldn’t – make it better! Good luck with designing your own theme.

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