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Understanding Commercial Use

  • “Commercial use” describes anything ultimately used for financial gain.
  • All software you use to create for your business needs to be licensed for commercial use.
  • Paying for commercial use licenses can be pricey, but lawsuits are pricier.

Content Creation and Licensing

Content marketing, naturally, requires creating a lot of content. You need social media posts, blog posts, graphics etc. But unless you draw it all by hand, you’ll most likely use some sort of software to create this content.

The internet is full of possibilities for creating, and with most software you can sign up for free accounts, and with some restrictions, create to your heart’s content. Canva, Adobe Photoshop, and Getty Images are all popular software solutions for small business owners and their marketing teams. But when you are creating for your business, that all changes.

As soon as you begin creating graphics, ads, and logos to help market your business, you are suddenly governed by commercial use licensing laws. Most software require payment when you use their services for business purposes. Some may think it’s smart to stay with the free versions of software to save money. Read on to find out why that isn’t a good idea.

You’re just creating a graphic to post on social media, why would you need to worry about legal terms? Mainly because you can quickly get in hot water if you don’t. When you create and distribute content for your business you need to follow the law.

Commercial Use vs. Noncommercial Use

There are two broad licensing categories: “Licensed for commercial use” and “Licensed for non-commercial use.” There is also one called “Limited commercial license.” Let’s break down what exactly they all mean:

Licensed for Commercial Use

When software is licenced for commercial use it means that you can use it for financial gain. Now, there is no money exchanged when you post a graphic to social media, so why does it need to be licensed for commercial use? Because you’re posting that graphic as part of your strategy for bringing in customers that will eventually pay for your services or products.

To simplify it, if you create anything for your business, no matter whether you’ll make money off of that particular item or not, the software needs to be licensed for commercial use.

Licensed for Non Commercial Use Only

Non-commercial use is when you are creating something that will never, at any point in time involve an exchange of money.

If you use a software licensed for non-commercial use, you can create things like gifts for friends and family or a graphic for a school project.

When you use a software to create a presentation for school, lots of people will see it, so that might not strike you as “personal use,” but as long as no one is paying you to see the presentation, that’s exactly what this is.

Licensed For Limited Commercial Use

The third option for licensing allows commercial use, but with limitations. You can use the software for commercial use, but with the limitation of, say, 600 uses. If that is the case, you can use the software to design an email head for your business, but because of the limitations you’d only be able to send it out to 600 of your subscribers. If you want to send it out to all your 2000 subscribers, you would need to use a different software or pay for a commercial use license.

What Does This Mean For You?

Now you know that anything you create for your business is considered “commercial,” you’ll need to buy the commercial licensing agreement both for the software you use as well as any third-party tools or design software you use.

Materials That Are Exclusively Used Offline

Sometimes people assume that paying for a commercial licensing agreement is only necessary if what you’re creating is to be used online, but that’s incorrect. Offline use is also commercial use. You’re intending to draw in customers or clients both with the sign and flyer, and so you’ll need to create it with a commercial licensing agreement.

The Consequences Of Not Paying For The Right License

So what happens if you use a software like Fontcreator to edit the font of your business sign, and Canva to create your flyer and you don’t have a commercial licensing agreement with both companies? Canva and Fontcreator can both take legal action against you.

How Do You Know Which Software Allow For Commercial Use?

Many people skip reading through the “Terms of Use” before beginning to use a software, but when you create content for your business, you want to be more thorough. “Terms of Use” is where you’ll find out whether or not you can use the software for commercial purposes.

If it is intended for commercial use, your work is over. If it isn’t, you’re going to have to shell out whatever extra money is needed to get the business-version of the software or find a different solution altogether.

Wrapping Up

If you are unsure of whether or not you will be able to use a software the way you want to under a certain license, always check with your legal team, or send an email to the customer service. It’s not worth it to be in violation of the user agreement, even if it’s just by accident.


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