Guidance on the definition of non-commercial use

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial or CC-BY-NC licence

One of the licences available for use on the NBN Atlas is the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial or CC-BY-NC licence. Data users can only use data supplied under a CC-BY-NC licence for non-commercial purposes.

Creative Commons define commercial use as “one primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation”. Whether a use is commercial will depend on the specifics of the situation and the intentions of the user.

The Creative Commons definition is “intentionally flexible, [so that] the definition is specific enough to make its intended operation and reach clear, but versatile enough to cover a wide variety of use cases”. More detail is given on the definition of non-commercial use here:

In order to assist the NBN data providers and users, this document sets out additional guidance on what may be consider to be non-commercial and commercial use of biodiversity data.

The NBN has a set of Data Exchange Principles, which were produced as “ground rules” for taking park in the Network and which all users of the NBN agree to uphold as part of the terms and conditions of data sharing through the NBN. Principle 7 recognises the need for biodiversity data to be made freely available for public benefit uses, while also identifying that organisations may need to secure funding through commercial data services to support data recording and management. This Principle, set out below, has three parts as it applies to those who supply records, those who use records and those who manage them

a) Managers and funders of biodiversity data should make basic fact freely available (except for handling charges if needed) for not-for-profit decision-making, education, research and other public-benefit purposes

b) Biodiversity data suppliers should try to arrange resourcing of information provision so that charges for not-for-profit uses are minimal and charges for commercial uses are realistic but do not prevent the use of biodiversity data.

c) Biodiversity data users should expect to contribute to sustaining the provision of biodiversity data through contributing either in kind or financially to the collection, collation and management of biodiversity data, or at the point of use.

We would encourage all potential users of biodiversity data to consider the costs of data collection, collation and management incurred by NBN Data Partners and to include these costs in bids for funding and tenders for commercial work.

Based on the NBN Data Exchange Principles, below are some examples of what are likely to be considered non-commercial and commercial use. This list is not exhaustive and we have to accept that there will be some uses that are harder to define, which will have to be assessed on a case by case basis. As a rule of thumb if you would not be willing to share any of the outputs of your use of the data under the same conditions as the CC-BY-NC licence ( then your use is likely to be commercial.

Non-commercial Use

  • Personal interest
  • Education
    • e.g. for use in schools, academies, college, degree and some vocational courses
    • e.g. Training courses provided by organisations whose primary business is not educational would be considered commercial
  • Research
    • e.g. conducted as part of post-graduate (MSc, PhD) study, or
    • e.g. research undertaken for public benefit where the results will be openly available to all
  • Reporting for statutory purposes
    • e.g. Article 17 of the Habitats Directive

Commercial Use

  • Any use which is primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation (this includes cost recovery) e.g.
    • Any part of the process directed at gaining planning consent, land or infrastructure development including background research and report writing
    • Use on a third-party data aggregation website or app, even if that website or app is not in itself commercial

Indirect use of the data in order to create some other product (e.g. including the data in a wider report on other matters) for commercial gain is still regarded as commercial use of the original data. However, not all use by a business is necessarily “commercial” and, on the other hand, use by a non-profit organisation is not necessarily non-commercial.

Like all Creative Commons licenses, the NC licenses are non-exclusive. Which means that the data owner/provider can offer the same data under different terms, including commercial use. A potential user could, therefore, contact the data provider to seek permission to use data publicly available on the NBN Atlas under a CC-BY-NC licence for commercial use.

If you are at all unsure whether your proposed use of the data could be deemed commercial, please contact the data provider directly. Their contact details will be available with the dataset.

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