We are creating a dataset that is supposed to be free for researchers/academia, but we would like to monetize it for business.

We intend to publish it under CC BY-NC 4.0 license, but as for my understanding, it prevents it to be used in derived works licensed under less restrictive CC licenses allowing commercial use.

How to circumvent this problem, allowing non-profit projects to freely use it, while keeping a window for monetization?

2 Answers 2


If you own it you can license it under whatever license you want, and under as many separate licenses as you want. ie you give it to the world as CC by NC and sell it or use it under a different proprietary license.

However you would not be allowed to pull in the CC by NC licensed derivatives to your commercial use. Your business can't benefit from other people's research using the CC by NC licensed dataset. This can get complicated if you want to continue to participate in the public project while developing your private one.

  • Yes, but such a person who receives it under the CC BY-NC can also redistribute it under that licence. People can still take in work that is licensed like that and still use it according to those terms. This answer is factually incorrect.
    – Zizouz212
    Jun 30, 2017 at 23:54

You'd have to make your own licence.

The main problem with the CC licences is that "commercial use" isn't defined specifically. A business that uses your dataset might not be using it for commercial use, but a researcher may end up using your thing commercially. Defining it is just incredibly complicated.

In an ideal world, you'd want to find something with some sort of "copyleft" provision. Such a provision would help discourage any kind of elaborate commercial use, since by distributing their product/service, they have to make sure that anyone can take it and use it. For those who don't want to do this, then you can offer some sort of specific commercial licence. iText uses this licensing model.

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