Every so often I’ll stumble upon a collection of free WordPress themes and I’ll go through the list because sometimes you can find some really cool ones or find ideas of how to improve the theme you’re currently using. A while ago, I was going through just such a list and found a theme I liked, so I grabbed it and uploaded it to my server to hold onto it. The other day, I was working on a new site so I decided to see how that free theme I selected would look. It looked pretty good by itself but there were still a number of edits I would like to make.
After making the desired changes I went to preview them but found an error instead. It reads:
This theme is released free for use under creative commons licence [sic]. All links in the footer should remain intact. These links are all family friendly and will not hurt your site in any way. This great theme is brought to you for free by these supporters.
It’s not that I’m just now reporting on news more than a month old but this is just the first time I’ve encountered it. This free WP theme from New WP Themes, they say is licensed by the Creative Commons license. This contradicts what Matt Mullenweg, the lead developer of WordPress and many others say that themes are derivative works of WordPress and since WordPress is licensed by the Gnu Public License so too are any PHP files of themes.
I was curious to see where in the theme it added this protection to protect against certain edits and if it was a free theme why it was so worried about it. In my looking I found a couple small chunks along with the image below.
The theme was using obfuscated code, a tactic commonly employed by embedded malware in a site’s code.
The chunk of code starts off with eval(base64_decode(‘. If we change it to print(base64_decode(‘ we can get it to show us what it’s trying to hide. To make it simpler I just created another PHP file to reveal this code for us.
And in a browser and its source code, we see what we get. The WordPress theme is checking to make sure the links in the footer are intact and unedited. Since access to the code is available, I could just pluck out these chunks of code and replace them with the relevant WP functions but as I looked at the theme inside and out, I decided I didn’t like it after all.
I can understand wanting credit for creating a free theme in the footer (or even better in the source) but random links are another story when the ad-ready theme already starts out with live ads. For aesthetic reasons/personal preference and what we’ve seen above, I don’t recommend using any themes from New WP Themes. For the project I was working on of creating a Twitter archive site, I instead used the UltimateBlogger theme at twitter.404techsupport.com.