Soil plugin free or $18

Following the roots sample project instructions, I installed the soil plugin. In researching the soil plugin, it looks like it costs $18. Is it free or does it cost $18?

Soil is free for development use. Commercial use and support requires a license you can purchase from

Ben, is the license a one-time purchase or is there an annual renewal fee? The site isn’t specific.


@mcdonna it’s a one-time purchase

From what I can tell, Soil is MIT-licensed:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction

On what basis are you charging for it?

Fine to charge for support, this is a commonly-used business model in the WordPress world, but you can’t charge people to download, install and run it…can you?

We do not place any restrictions on the usage of Soil whatsoever. It’s MIT licensed, so you have the right to do as you please.

That said, we ask that you purchase a license to support ongoing Roots development. It’s a small price to pay to keep our effort on these projects at a sustainable level.


I understand that, and I like Roots and you guys. You’re doing great work. :smile:

You should be up-front about the fact that this is a goodwill thing though, and not state that “commercial use requires a license”, which is just not true.

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Why can’t it be? Although there is no requirement by law, the same license you quoted also gives permission to sell the software. This is the entire license:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

Bolded text is added by me.

You can sell the plugin code. For sure. So can I (I’m not going to). You can charge for support too.

But the words used were: '[quote=“benword, post:2, topic:4736”]
Commercial use and support requires a license

My understanding is that this is not, and can not be true for usage of something that is MIT licensed.

I’m all up for paying you guys - you’ve earned it - but this is misleading.

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…but you’re going to call them out anyway, because… why? You’re saving people, or something like that?

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I’m raising this as an issue because I’d like to see the Roots team pursue productisation and monetisation in a way which fits with the licenses of the software they are selling. I think there’s a real opportunity for making money from Roots, but they need to do it in a way which doesn’t confuse and mislead users.

I think that monetizing Roots or creating some products around it are a great idea for the team who make it, but let me describe my journey yesterday and how I came to be reading this thread:

  1. I started a new project with Sage, which I’ve not done for a couple of months. One of my colleagues uses Soil and I’ve not used that in the past, so I went to check it out. I know that previously it’s been free, but now it wants $18 for me to use it, while simultaneously boasting of 55,000+ installs via packagist.
  2. “That’s odd”, I thought, “I need to buy it now? But it’s free on packagist, and free on GitHub. I wonder what the deal is.”
  3. I look for some sign that Soil will ONLY work if I have a license key of some sort. Nothing.
  4. I download Soil from GitHub into my project and it works fine. No sign of any options for licensing.
  5. I check the license - it’s MIT licensed. No need to pay to use it.
  6. I check the version number 3.5.0 on both GitHub and
  7. I check the blog. No announcement that you have to pay for it now.
  8. I check the terms and conditions and privacy policy - nothing in there about software licensing.
  9. I visit Discourse and search for some information on it, and find the statement quoted above, which I know to not be true and which is subsequently rescinded by @austin as optional, not required.

This took me a while and I ended up being very confused about Soil’s status. If I pay you, it’s not clear who I’m paying, why I’m paying and where the money goes. It’s not clear to people who have previously used Soil for free what has changed.

I’m all for monetisation and productisation as that will support the Roots project on an ongoing basis and that’s good for everyone. But you must be clear about what you are charging people for and why.

I’m quite happy to discuss how this monetisation strategy looks to an occasional Roots developer and how you might modify the wording to make it clearer. I want to help if I can. I want you to make money from Roots if you can. But the situation as it currently stands is very confusing.

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Umm… You don’t usually work with open-source projects that ask for fee for commercial licensing? It’s very common and very obvious thing, especially with GNU GPL licensed software. And it’s completely non-confusing to me: commercial use requires licence. Non-commercial/development use is free.

Since it’s MIT licensed you: must include copyright and not modify it, must include license, cannot hold any roots-dev liable for any damages that may or may not come from using Soil, and You can use plugin commercially/privately, modify, sub-license and redistribute.

So - the $18 fee is for commercial use and commercial support. Since copyright holder on Soil is “Roots” team, they are VERY free to sub-license soil and charge for commercial use and support. MIT license technically gives You possibility of not paying that fee, but that comes with price of knowingly not supporting Roots, and that’s sad… um… I’m rambling am I?

No, actually. I don’t usually work with open-source projects that ask for a fee for commercial “use”. I work with open-source projects that require a fee for ongoing support and updates.

It’s partly semantic, but my understanding of open-source software is that the source is readily available for people to use wherever they like. Therefore you can not “require” a license to use it.

Let me quote you back:

“it’s completely non-confusing to me: commercial use requires licence…Since it’s MIT licensed you…can use plugin commercially”. Which is it?

Yes, they can create their own commercial product from it and charge for use of that. That’s totally allowed. And maybe that’s what they have done. In which case the confusion is that there’s paid-for Soil on and free Soil on github and no explanation of why both exists, what the differences are, and why one is free and the other is not.

As for “knowingly not supporting Roots”…I thought I’d explained pretty well that I want to help. I think if the product is explained better then more people will pay.

If an existing Roots developer, like me, comes to use Soil one day and sees it costs $18 he’s gonna go: “hang on, that’s free on GitHub/packagist - I’ll just download it there” and not think twice about it.

If, however, it’s made clear that Soil is free but they’re charging to raise money to cover development and support costs, some developers will probably stop and give before heading to GitHub because they know how much time goes into something like this.

I just think this productisation needs some clarity.

Who’s rambling now?! :wink:

I’m gonna quit this thread. I’ve done my best to explain why I think this is confusing and should be clarified. I, personally, think that the statement “Commercial use requires a license” is misleading. Everyone else seems to disagree. So I’ll back off.

I desperately don’t want to sound like a troll (sorry if I did) - I wanted this to be constructive and helpful and to make the Roots team think about how they’re going about productisation so that they can do it better and make more money, rather than having people wondering why they have to pay for something they previously got - and can still get - for free.

If anyone wants help with creating some additional copy or something for the Soil plugin page, let me know.

Thanks for listening and for your responses.

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Sorry Ross, I can see where you’re coming from and don’t think you were trying to be a troll.

You’re wrong on this point. It’s a common misconception and is because the license only applies to the people who have already received the software (being it through paying or otherwise).

Almost every commercial plugin for WordPress is open source (GPL). That doesn’t mean I can oblige a plugin author to send me a copy for free or force them to make it available to the public on GitHub.

What it means is when they supply the plugin to me (on whatever terms they impose, and they are free to impose almost anything), they have to supply the source code and can’t stop me modifying or redistributing their code if that’s what I want to do.

It’s about freedom with what I do with it; not obtaining it for free.

The model for Soil is very similar to Sensei by WooThemes (owned by Automattic - the creators of WordPress and eagerly litigious supporters of the GPL) and they are not alone.

If you purchase through our site you have to abide by whatever terms we set, including demand for payment for the distribution of the code. It’s not a matter of good will, it’s a term of our business. Would you expect a greengrocer selling blackberries to tell you that you can get the same blackberries for free from a bush, in the forest, down the lane?

I explicitly state the support included in the download of my plugin: Is this the kind of notice you would like to see on Soil?

On a side-note, we kept Soil on GitHub to help make it easier for developers to monitor issues and improve it. We put Soil on packagist to make it easier to use with our Bedrock stack. We also leave out serial keys etc as they add unnecessary bloat to the plugin. All these things lose sales but make the product better; hopefully that will demonstrate that we’re not trying to be unfair on anyone.


OK - I guess I’m back.

Thanks Nick! :slight_smile:

Ah. Yes. I totally am. I shouldn’t have written those words!! My bad.

I do totally understand the license and how you’re trying to use it.

Precisely. You can keep it to yourself, and charge people to download it. But once they have it they can do what they like with it.

Ben’s earlier quote was saying “usage requires a license”. This is not true for Soil in its current form. Once I have it, I can use it pretty much however I like. “freedom with what I do with it”.

I also totally get how this is similar to Sensei (or any other product that I have to pay to download).

I’m confused by this though. I paid you $18 ( :smile: ) and downloaded Soil from It appears to be exactly the same as the plugin on GitHub. It has a MIT License telling me I can do whatever I like with it. I don’t recall being asked to abide by any terms and conditions. I think this is where clarity is really needed.

Your roots-wrapper-override plugin says “Installation support will be provided for one domain, so please purchase a copy for each production site the plugin will be used on.” This is fine as a description of the service you provide. It does not seem to prevent me using the plugin, once I have it, on more than one domain - just that you won’t provide installation support for it.

To extend your blackberry analogy:

No, I wouldn’t. But if I already knew about the bush in the forest down the lane, I wouldn’t expect the greengrocer to say I had to pay him to eat them either. Which is what my argument has been from the very beginning.


  1. If you’re losing sales through GitHub, why not add something to the README asking developers to support you by paying for it? I suspect many people are going straight to GitHub and not seeing that you’re asking for money for this. Certainly none of my colleagues who use Soil knew about this.
  2. Create some proper terms and conditions. Perhaps, when you package up Soil for distribution from, you could add a supplementary license that details what people have paid for and…more importantly…what they are NOT allowed to do with the plugin.
  3. Yes, add some details of what is included on the Soil plugin page too.
  4. Be clear - on GitHub - about the fact that GitHub exists for people to contribute to. I’d also remove the “XX,XXX downloads on packagist” from the plugin page because there you are, basically, telling people about the blackberries down the lane! It confusing for me as a developer to see:

This costs $18!
Get if for free!

I’m rambling again.

Thanks again for your response. I hope some of this is helpful for you!

Back to work now…

Unless you were taking the blackberries from the greengrocers blackberry stand.

Do you see the distinction?

You wouldn’t expect to take the grocers berries from his shop just because you know there’s a bush just down the lane, right?

Yes I do see the distinction. Thanks for the clarification. I should have said:

But if I already knew about the bush in the forest down the lane, I wouldn’t expect the greengrocer to say I had to pay him to eat the berries from the bush in the forest down the lane.

That’s not quite what Ben said though is it. He stated that commercial use and support requires a license. As I’m nitpicking, I’ll nitpick Ben too; he should have said commercial use and support requires a purchase. Or in code terms:

if ($commercial_use === true && $support === 'required') {
  $requires_purchase = true;

If Soil were taken down from GitHub and Packagist, and the only way to download it was via a dodgy warez site or GPL sharing club, would you still believe Ben’s wording was misleading? Or do you feel we need to explain that both of those means of acquisition are technically legal, albeit morally dubious to most?

It’s true we can’t control what people do with any GPL/MIT software after they have received it, but we can definitely refuse support to them if they don’t pay - and support was part of what Ben said required a purchase.

Hah. Well, by your code-logic, commercial use without support still doesn’t require a license then!

The thing is, you don’t provide a license or enforce licensing when someone pays (well, you provide the MIT). So unless you change that, my opinion is that you can only charge for the download and the support.

If Soil weren’t on GitHub or packagist then yes, the wording is still misleading. I’m still perfectly allowed to pay for one site, download the plugin and then go “Aha, this has an MIT license, I’ll do whatever the heck I like with it thanks” (I’m not going into the morality of this, I his is just my understanding of the legality. This does not constitute legal advice!)

I think you should say:

“Support for soil on live/production sites is provided on a per-site basis. Please purchase a support package to download the plugin. Soil is also available on GitHub and Packagist so that people can use it with our build tools and contribute back to the project. Please buy a support package to help us continue development of Roots”

Or something.