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Non-commercial use

Non-commercial means something is not primarily intended for, or directed towards, commercial advantage or monetary compensation by an individual or organisation.

Your use of someone else's work should not conflict with the legitimate interests of the creator of an artistic work. This means that the creator should not be prevented from licensing their copyright for a specific purpose, or receive remuneration for use of their work.

Non-commercial Creative Commons licences only restrict what a reuser may do under the licence and not what the licensor (the rights holder) can do. Licensors that make their works available under non-commercial licence are always free to monetise their works. Licensees are always free to contact licensors to ask permission to use the work for commercial purposes.

The concept of fair usage exists within UK copyright law; commonly referred to as fair dealing. It's a framework designed to allow the lawful use or reproduction of work without having to seek permission from the copyright owner(s) or creator(s) or infringing their interest.

It is the user's responsibility to satisfy themselves that an exception applies, such as fair dealing criticism and review, quotation, or reporting a current event.

The non-commercial fair dealing exception is allowed if:

1) The purpose of the use is non-commercial research and/or private study
2) The use of the materials is fair
3) The use is made by researchers or students for their own use only
4) Researchers give credit to the copyright holder

Generally, non-commercial use could be:

  • Use in free educational lectures and classes
  • Use on an individual or group's website discussing the artwork in question
  • Use on websites that are primarily information-led, research-oriented and obviously non-commercial in nature

Commercial use

Commercial use of an image would be reproducing it in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation.

Commercial activities would be; merchandise production, images used in films and on TV, in publications that are sold, and online or offline advertisements and commercial promotions. Using images on or in anything that is created with the intention of making a profit would be considered commercial use. 

You are always free to locate and contact a rights holder to ask permission to use an image for commercial purposes. Please note however that Art UK is unable to share rights holder contact details.

If you have any questions, please email Please note that we cannot offer legal advice.

Please see our copyright guidance page for more information.