Matt Mullenweg on sponsored weblog themes. Themes are web design templates which you can download (often for free) from a theme site. He says:
Finally many of these themes try to legally disallow you from removing the advertising link by claiming it’s part of the Creative Commons attribution to leave it. This is almost funny, because these themes are on shaky legal ground themselves. WordPress is Free, meaning you’re free to do pretty much anything you like with it. It’s under a license that encourages user freedom called the GPL, which says if you distribute something that links internal functions and data structures of a GPL program (like themes do with WordPress) that also needs to be Free. At best, theme authors claiming you can’t remove the link are ignoring or ignorant of the license issues, at worst they’re actively exploiting the work of thousands of volunteers that have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into WordPress.
I didn’t think this issue was that big of a deal until I realized that my own weblog used a sponsored theme (linking to some British employment company). The TeleRead site I manage linked to a blog hosting company. I don’t mind linking to the web designer’s site, but to the web designer’s client. No thanks.
Maybe my problem is simply naivete, but I never realized web designers could make money this way. Matt’s response is exactly right here: tolerate it, but not allow it to be hosted on wordpress.org. Apparently, he feels that this link-buying results in lower google traffic results, especially if the company is spammy in google’s eyes.
On the other hand, I applaud any attempt for web designers to make money as long as they up front about it. I don’t think the current designer of my theme was actively hiding something (apparently some include hidden text links and all sorts of unsavory methods), but I honestly had no idea what was going on. That is bad. If there were a repository of sponsored themes, I would consider one as long as I understand upfront what I was doing.