Creative Commons Licenses for Non-Commercial Use: What Do the Different Licenses Mean?

Creative Commons Licenses for Non-Commercial Use: What Do the Different Licenses Mean?
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Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licenses

Many people are happy to share their work with others, whether on Flickr, Deviant Art, or in their blog. However, they want some control over how their creation is used, and that is where the CC non-commercial license comes into effect. Like Jim Morrison, you don’t want to see your artistic work advertising cars.

With a CC non-commercial license, people who want to use your work cannot use it to make money, in any fashion.

There are several different important non-commercial licenses, depending on how you want your work treated.

Creative Commons License- Attribution NonCommercial - cc-by-nc

The Creative Commons license Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License is the license allowing others most rights in the work, as long as the work is used for non-commercial purposes. The license, in the matrix, is the cc-by-nc license. When the creator of a work selects this license, they are allowing others to use the work for non-commercial use, to share the original work, and the only requirement to use the work for any non-commercial purpose is attribution. This means that you must clearly show who created the original work, and you must show the original creator’s name no matter what you do with the work, or any changes you make to the work.

The link to the Creative Commons license, which explains the license in detail, is this:

I wrote a poem, called My Favorite Toy, and assigned the CC license Attribution NonCommercial (cc-by-nc) to it. If you translate my English poem into Chinese, and post the poem on a site which displays poetry about toys, you can do this without paying any money to me, or getting permission from me. You must attribute the original poem. Go to the source and see how I display my name with my work, and use that to attribute the poem. The poem is displayed under my user name for the site, rscudder. Post the poem on your poetry site, and at the end of the poem put my user name. To show that your use is legal, display the CC license I chose next to my name.

This would look like this:

My Favorite Toy, by rscudder cc




If there was such a poem, and I had published it on a blog with the CC license Attribution NonCommercial, you could also put a link to the site.

There is an icon created by Creative Commons which you can put by my name, which means attribution, noncommercial use. That symbol can go next to the poem, along with the name of the license, and I should put cc next to that, so you could go and read the terms of the license.

This is the most accommodating of Creative Commons licenses for non-commercial use. The next licenses we list allow fewer rights to people who would like to use a work for non-commercial purposes.

Creative Commons License- Attribution Share - cc-by-nc-sa

The Creative Commons license for Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike, cc-by-nc-sa in the matrix, has a lot of similarities to the Creative Commons license Attribution Share Alike license, cc-by-nc-sa, except that no commercial use may be made of the work. You can modify the work, and you must attribute the work to its original creator. When you use the work you must put the same license on the use you make of the work, and again, someone else can use the work you made from the original, as long as they too keep the material under the same license, and attribute it both to the original creator and you, for the modifications you made.

Consider my hypothetical poem. You can use the text of the poem I wrote, My Favorite Toy, and post it on your website along with additional lines



you insert into the poem, inspired by my poem. You put the whole thing up on your site,, and you list the information about the changes in the poem in its new incarnation, along with my name, your name, and the link to the cc-by-nc-sa license text, cc.When a local charity reads the adapted poem on your website, they can publish it in their monthly newsletter, using the same license type- which means they must distribute the issue free of charge, and list both my name and your name, and the cc-by-nc-sa license.

The link for this license, Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported is




Final Creative Commons Non-Commercial License

The Look But Don’t Touch License

Creative Commons license- Attribution Share - cc-by-nc-nd

This is the most restrictive of the main licenses. Creative Commons says it is sometimes called the free advertising license- as people can display your work, but have no other rights in it. It is abbreviated cc-by-nc-nd. You, as a desktop publisher, can put the work into your document, but you cannot change anything about it, including make a translation or recording of it. Since it must be attributed, you put the creator’s name with it, and the terms of the license. You may not use it for a commercial use, but you can share and distribute the work to others.

The link to the Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives is

In the case of my poem, My Favorite Toy, you could put the poem into the front of a pamphlet you wrote about patterns for making teddy bears,


attribute it to me, and add a number of patterns that you either created yourself, or that had a Creative Commons license on patterns made by someone else, and then give the pamphlet away to people interested in making teddy bears. You could make no changes to the text of my poem, and you could not add anything to it in any way. You would have the text of the poem, my name, and you could put the link to the license that allowed you to use it.

This would look like this:

My Favorite Toy, by Rebecca Scudder cc




In the matrix, the Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license looks like this: cc-by-nc-nd.

All images used in this article are from the site, and are downloaded from their site with the understanding that their cc trademark icons only be used to refer to Creative Commons licenses, or link to those licenses. They request that people who want to use CC icons download them directly from them, so they stay in a high quality format.

There are two additional important Creative Commons license, which involve the creator giving up rights to the work they created.

This post is part of the series: Creative Commons Licenses

Whether you want to choose a Creative Commons License for your published work, or you want to understand the license on a work because you’re considering using it, you should know what various Creative Commons Licenses mean. Here at Bright Hub we explain all 6 main licenses and ‘No Rights Reserved’.

  1. Understanding Creative Commons Licenses
  2. Creative Commons Licenses for Commercial Use Explained in Plain English
  3. Examples of Non-Commercial Creative Commons License Usage
  4. Creative Commons Licenses for Releasing Copyright