I'm new to the WP arena and considering doing some plugin development. In releasing a WordPress plugin, how do you keep from the plugins getting distributed to those who haven't genuinely purchased the plugin?

I guess I'm not entirely clear how plugins like Software Licensing for Easy Digital Downloads keep users from copying the plugin after it's installed and distributing it to other users.

Clarification would be nice.


2 Answers 2


In a nutshell - you can't. PHP code is by nature plain non-compiled text and if someone really wants to copy it they shall.

On top of that licensing considerations often strip whatever small things you can try. If you choose to or have to release under GPL you cannot forbid redistribution or put in technical means for that either.

One practical solution is too restrict access to updates. This doesn't solve redistribution, but this does make sure only paid users are getting latest versions immediately and efficiently. This model is successfully used for some high profile WordPress extensions, for example BackupBuddy

  • The example of restricting updates is exactly what EDD Software Licensing is for. It does allow you to restrict usage of the plugin as well if you want, but the default implementation is for updates.
    – Pippin
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 1:45

If you've purchased any premium plugins in the past, you'll usually find they require some form of API key to operate. This key would be uniquely generated and assigned to a customer on or after purchase.

The software would require authentication to your API server after it is activated in WordPress install, before the plugin's features would work.

The API server could ensure that no more than X of the same key are being used, as well.

  • 2
    But I'd bet this is not hard to disable-- dishonest, but not hard.
    – s_ha_dum
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 18:18
  • 3
    Absolutely, which is why @Rarst's answer is totally valid. Anything that can be built can be unbuilt. So one would have to ask if it's worth it, or if they just want to go Open Source and free themselves, earning karma (cough cough, résumé fodder) instead of money for their efforts.
    – GhostToast
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 18:21

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