There’s no way to sugarcoat it – WordPress themes can be expensive. There are hundreds of free options available, and some are quite good, but the best themes will often set you back a decent amount of money. For that reason, some people decide to pirate WordPress themes, although it’s a choice that doesn’t usually end well.

Pirating popular WordPress themes can be relatively simple. There are entire websites dedicated to sharing stolen copies of premium WordPress themes. Even so, the smart move is to use legitimate copies of themes that are obtained from secure sources. For a small upfront cost, you’ll save yourself a lot of potential problems in the long run.

In this article, we’ll talk more about the world of WordPress theme piracy. Then we’ll break down why using pirated themes is a terrible idea, and hopefully convince you to stay away from disreputable sources. Let’s dig in!

How WordPress Theme Piracy Works

An example of a WordPress piracy website.
Websites that share pirated WordPress themes often look legitimate, but that doesn’t make them safe to use.

Just like any other software, WordPress themes can be pirated. In most cases, when you download a WordPress theme, you get a zipped folder containing all the files it needs to work. This makes it simple to upload new themes to your website. However, it also means that pirating themes is also easy.

There are a number of websites dedicated to sharing pirated copies of WordPress themes. In most cases, they don’t even require you to sign up. You just find the theme you want, and download a copy of it from whichever hosting provider the site uses. In some cases, these sites pay the people who upload the pirated files a small amount of money for each download.

It’s obvious why people choose to pirate WordPress themes – they get a premium tool for free. Still, pirating a theme is a bad idea for a number of reasons. There’s the obvious ethical downside, since you’re stealing the theme and using it without compensating the original developers in any way. That argument isn’t always sufficient, of course, or no one would pirate themes

As it turns out, however, there are several more practical disadvantages to this practice, particularly when it comes to security. In a nutshell, pirated WordPress themes (and plugins) aren’t safe to use in most cases. Let’s explore why that is.

4 Reasons You Should Stay Away From Pirated WordPress Themes

Pirating software isn’t like downloading a movie or a TV show illegally. We’re talking about software that your website will run, which means that it can negatively impact your entire site. That brings us to our first reason not to pirate WordPress themes.

1. They Can Be Infected With Malware

A lot of people who run WordPress piracy websites don’t do it just to earn money. Instead, they use their positions to spread malware, which is software intended to harm your website or steal information from it.

The term malware is very broad, and there are a lot of ways these types of programs can affect your website. Here are some examples of what malware can do:

  • It can leave backdoors on your site. A pirated theme can provide hackers with access to your website, and all the sensitive information within.
  • Your files and visitors can get infected. Malware can infect your website’s files and, in turn, spread the infection to your visitors’ devices.
  • It can negatively affect your website’s performance. An infected site may run slower and be more difficult to use, due to the additional processes running in the background.

Malware infections on websites are no joke. According to Google, the amount of hacked sites increased by 32% in 2016 alone. That means when it comes to WordPress themes, you should limit yourself to reputable sources. For example, the official WordPress theme repository thoroughly inspects each theme before making it public. The same goes for private repositories, such as ThemeForest (where you can find our own Uncode theme!).

2. You Can’t Automatically Update Pirated Themes

Unlike regular themes, in most cases you can’t update pirated software automatically. This is because most of the people who spread pirated themes remove all the metadata that identifies them, so they can replace it with whatever they want.

You can use the pirated theme for as long as you’d like, of course. However, as more time passes without an update, you’ll lose out on any improvements its developers have made . For example, you won’t have access to new features, enhancements, or (most importantly) security patches.

Instead, you’ll have to re-download the theme each time there’s an update, losing any customizations you’ve made. Also, each time you download a theme from an disreputable source, you roll the dice again on your chances of getting infected. In summary, updates are a critical part of running a secure WordPress website, and pirating themes removes your ability to perform them.

3. Pirated Themes Can Impact Your SEO Negatively

One little-known downside of using pirated themes is that they sometimes include links to the website where you got them, hidden within their data. In other words, when you install a pirated theme, you may also be adding external links to a disreputable source on your website.

In some cases, you’ll find these links within the theme’s metadata or its footer. However, there are almost always at least a few links tucked away somewhere within the code. The websites spreading the pirated themes do this in order to improve their rankings, thanks to the free backlinks. In the process, they’ll hurt your own site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO), since Google penalizes content with links to untrustworthy sources.

Of course, you can always remove any links that you didn’t add yourself from your new theme’s code. However, trawling through an entire theme’s code is not a good use of your time. Plus, the links can be difficult to find. At some point, the effort to ensure that a pirated theme works as it should often outweighs the price you would have paid for an original copy of it.

4. You Lose Out on Access to Dedicated Support

These days, many of the most successful WordPress themes are multi-purpose solutions. Their main attraction is that you can use a single theme to set up several types of websites, and you only need to learn how it works once.

Our own Uncode theme enables you to create almost any type of site you want, due to its broad range of features. The only potential downside to this sort of theme – if it’s built properly – is that there can be a slight learning curve involved. After all, the more features you have access to, the more time it takes to learn them. That means you may need a little help along the way.

In a lot of cases, if you want access to dedicated support from the creators of a premium theme, you’ll need to show them that you own a legitimate copy. For example, if you want to submit a support request for an issue with Uncode, you need to log in using your Envato credentials (which you can only get by purchasing the theme legitimately):

Logging in using your Envato credentials.

Since so many people use Uncode, this enables us to dedicate our resources only to actual customers. Most WordPress theme developers use a similar approach, for the same reasons. WordPress theme piracy is a big issue for popular themes. Therefore, most of them require you to register your product in one way or another if you want access to support.


It can be tempting to pirate a WordPress theme you don’t want to pay for, but the negatives almost always outweigh the money you’ll save. More importantly, you can easily find outstanding themes that won’t break the bank. While some premium options will set you back more than $70, themes such as Uncode can be bought at a very reasonable price.

If you think we’re exaggerating about the dangers of WordPress theme piracy, let’s recap what its major downsides are (besides the obvious ethical implications):

  1. Pirated WordPress themes can be infected with malware.
  2. You can’t automatically update pirated themes.
  3. These themes can impact your SEO negatively.
  4. You lose out on access to dedicated support.

Do you have any questions about where to find reputable WordPress themes? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!