I was dismayed to discover a new WordPress plugin this morning that had borrowed (read: copied and pasted) sections of code from our Portfolio Slideshow plugin without any attribution whatsoever. While I realize that technically, under the GPL, this is a completely acceptable practice, it feels like poor form to me.
Everyone who develops web software looks at, learns from, and borrows other people’s code. It’s right there in every browser (View->Source), and it’s generally a very healthy and positive thing. None of my plugins would exist without the work of so many others?in the form of WordPress itself, and in the hundreds of scripts, libraries and other pieces of software that make WordPress possible. All of my plugins rely on other libraries to do what they do, and I am grateful for them.
My contribution to this ecosystem is minuscule, but it is mine. I am proud to put my code out there and let others use it, re-purpose it, learn from it, criticize it, and help me improve it. In doing so, I have always done my best to provide the proper recognition for the software I’ve borrowed from. When I bundle a script, plugin, or snippet of code with my own software, I leave the licenses and author attributions in place.
Even though attribution is not required by the GPL, it’s good manners, and good practice. It helps others trace back where ideas come from, figure out who has influenced whom, and learn why things are made the way they are. This is something I’ve been conscious of in the past, and will be even more so in the future. I encourage others in the WordPress community, and the web development community at large, to keep in mind that that if you re-use someone’s work, especially significant portions without modification, that a tip-o-the-hat is the right thing to do.