I used one of these templates, in fact, I like using templates and use them often, and they all required a backlink in the footer. However, things have changed.
Bare with me while I tell you a story.
One Sunday night kind of late, I got a panic call from one of these template designers asking me to remove the link from the footer of a fairly large site. I obliged of course! He explained that the link was causing a penalty in Google and that if I would break the link and leave the citation, that would be great. So I did- immediately. He explained that he was contacting as many site owners as quickly as possible asking them to convert the link to a citation. It was effecting his business as a web designer severely.
I kept in touch with the web designer for a period and he was able to report that he was largely successful and that the citations did in fact count nearly as much as a link. In time his site recovered in the SERPs and his business was back in full swing.
Keep in mind, this was a few years ago before the
nofollow link really took of in popularity but not before it existed. So no-one really thought of
nofollow as a solution at the time. How Google used the
nofollow, was not exactly clear at that time.
Why did I tell you this story? To make a point and educate.
JVerstry and Richard B are both exactly right. But here is one more thing.
nofollow at the least for ALL external links in any template. It is the right thing to do. You can also break the link and create a citation which is another correct thing to do. And NO, a link is not a citation- it is a link.
Recently, Google has tried to change web traditions to their liking. There has been several attempts. One of those attempts is to remove links in the footer given as credit. It is a shame! Really. Google can recognize these links easily and they admit it. But with Big G, they would rather retrain the web not to do this. It makes their life simpler. So what do you do?
Back in 2008 with the advent of Google Scholar, the search algorithms began to change more than people realized or Google admitted to. Google weaved the Scholar advantages into their algorithms and dropped Scholar because it was no longer needed. Without getting into a long protracted explanation, after-all I wrote enough already- why waste more of your time, citations count nearly as much as a link in a different way than a link. A link is a vote, but a citation is a vote too- just different. Google now more than anytime in history is counting citations. So what is a citation? A mention. Nothing more.
Today, with Google+ and the Author tag used as a seed for the citation algorithms, LinkedIn, Facebook, articles, scholarly publications, presentations and any other indication that allows Google to tie content to people and authority really does work. Creating a citation as a mention, can positively effect rank and authority.
If you do not create a
nofollow link, you can create a citation- a simple mention. If a link makes you uncomfortable, the citation is the next best option. It is the right thing to do. And it works. It is just another option.