The NonCommercial Licences

Does my use count as ‘NonCommercial’?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Creative Commons licences is about what kinds of use count as ‘Non-Commercial.’

The answer is that it depends on the specifics of the situation and the intentions of the user.

As the Legal Code puts it, the Creative Commons NonCommercial (NC) licenses prohibit uses that are “primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

This definition applies to the use of the work, and not the nature of the user. If you are a nonprofit or charitable organization, your use of an NC-licensed work could still run afoul of the NC restriction. Similarly, if you are a for-profit entity, your use of an NC-licensed work does not necessarily mean you have violated the terms of the licence

In Creative Commons’ experience, it is usually relatively easy to determine whether a use is permitted, and known conflicts are relatively few considering the popularity of the NC licenses. However, there will always be uses that are challenging to categorize as commercial or noncommercial.

Note that Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand cannot advise you on what is and is not commercial use. If you are unsure, you should either contact the rights holder for clarification, or search for works that permit commercial uses.

If I choose the noncommercial licence option, can I still make money from my licensed works?

Yes, absolutely. The ‘noncommercial use’ condition applies only to others who use your work, not to you (the copyright holder).

This means that you are free to make commercial licensing arrangements for your work, while still allowing noncommercial users to share your work according the conditions of your chosen NonCommercial licence.

If you use a NonCommercial licence, other people cannot use, trade or copy your work for ‘monetary compensation or financial gain’, unless they get your permission.

New Zealand-based photographer Meena Kadri uses NonCommercial licences to release her work on Flickr. Her photos were used by bloggers all over the world, and have been viewed tens of thousands of times. As a result, she has made commercial licensing deals with a range of for-profit organisations to use her work, including Apple.

Note, however, that you cannot revoke a Creative Commons licence. Once a copy of your work is out under a Creative Commons licence, you cannot stop its further distribution under the licence terms you have chosen.

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