I am looking at including a library from Github on my next project that has different tiers. It claims that the lowest free tier is licensed under GPL 2, however to use advanced functions you need to pay for a license. This is a pretty standard model on Github. The interesting thing though is that all the code for the advanced functions are included in the same package in Github, and there is a license file that explicitly states "(app) is licensed under the GNU General Public License v2.0... etc".

Additionally, in the source of the main file there is the license below:

This version of [app] is distributed under GPL 2.0 license and can be legally used in GPL projects.

To use [app] in non-GPL projects (and get Pro version of the product), please obtain Commercial/Enterprise or Ultimate license on our site https://[url] or contact us at [email]

(c) [company]

My reading on this is that if I download the code and all the advanced functions are included along with the GPL 2 license, then there's no legal reason to pay for the license? Is that correct?

Note that I'm not advising that they should not get paid, they worked hard and deserve their due, I'm curious about the legalities here.

  • 3
    What (if any) license notifications exist on the individual source files, and does this notification differ between those files implementing the free tier and the commercial tiers? Dec 21, 2020 at 9:31
  • Excellent point, I've added it to the question. The license there just reinforces to me that I can use "this version" of the code as-is under the GPL 2, even though it contains the commercial features.
    – Nate
    Dec 21, 2020 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


I think this depends what you mean by "the library". You can use anything which is in the codebase itself as that is licensed under the GPL. However, all the JavaScript in the sample code (e.g. list.js) is not available for you to use as it is explicitly marked as covered by their commercial license.

Similarly, I suspect you'll also find that the features of the "Pro" version (e.g. "Multiple Gantt/Scheduler instances on a page") are not in the GPL source on Github, so you can't use those because the code just isn't there.

  • That's not the project I was referencing, I kept it obscure to prevent anyone taking advantage of a potential oversight. In this case, I searched for and tested the pro features and they were, in fact, present and functional.
    – Nate
    Dec 21, 2020 at 18:27
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    Please just say which project it is, it's very hard for people to guess if you're not going to link the project. Dec 21, 2020 at 18:32
  • 2
    @Nate Your question, as currently posed, is best answered by, "It depends on whether a court would read the GPL license terms as being attached to the code that implements 'premium' features, according to all licensing terms expressed across all documents in the repository." We cannot begin to guess if that standard is met or not without seeing the code.
    – apsillers
    Dec 22, 2020 at 17:25

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