I've created an image that uses some source images that have been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 US license. This license is not a share-alike license, meaning that derivative works do not need to be released under the same license.

I was wondering, however, if I could also release my derivative work to the public domain and use it commercially, or whether that would count as "using the BY-NC work commercially". I don't actually plan on doing so just yet, but I've never gotten a straight answer to this question since most people who include the non-commercial clause also have the share-alike or no-derivative-works clause in there as well.

It seems to me personally like it wouldn't count, just because the clause doesn't put any explicit restrictions on derivative works like the addition of a share-alike or no-derivative-works clause would and it doesn't seem in the spirit of Creative Commons to include implicit restrictions like a cascading non-commercial requirement. However, I'd like to make sure before I accidentally do something that unintentionally infringes the license.

  • 1
    wiki.creativecommons.org/Defining_Noncommercial we are not lawyers by the way
    – joojaa
    Nov 22, 2014 at 19:32
  • I know you're not lawyers, and I'd never seen that link before.
    – Joe Z.
    Nov 22, 2014 at 19:33
  • ugh wrong link creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17127
    – joojaa
    Nov 22, 2014 at 19:34
  • However, I couldn't think of a better place to post this question; this was the only place I could find that was relevant.
    – Joe Z.
    Nov 22, 2014 at 19:35
  • anyway its a bit fuzzy stuff and you can only ever really pinpoint it in your case by asking a court. Nifty huh. Lawyers making rules on the go. Anyway i would say this is slightly offtopic, even tough relevant.
    – joojaa
    Nov 22, 2014 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


I am not a lawyer. You should get one, if you are concerned about possible legal issues.

Of course, they have. You just cannot grant more rights than you have obtained, so there is no option for you to release a derivative work as a whole¹ to the public domain, or under any free/libre license, or in general any license, that is more permissive than CC-BY-NC. However, you could release it under more restrictive license, such as CC-BY-NC-ND for example. If the license of original work were copyleft one (i. e. *-SA), you could not do the latter – that’s the difference.

¹ If it’s technically possible to represent your part of the work separately from original work, you may put it under CC0 or CC-BY, but the result, as long as it includes CC-BY-NC’ed part, still shall be covered by CC-BY-NC. It actually makes perfect sense if your part of work might be useful out of context of that non-free image.

  • I can see why Creative Commons considers NC harmful now - because of misunderstandings like this one. Thanks!
    – Joe Z.
    Nov 25, 2014 at 16:28

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