Licenses of artworks or stock photos often state that they are free for non-commercial use.

Assume I create a poster for an event. I do not sell the poster, but the event is commercial (has an entry fee. or sells drinks. or something like that). Am I then allowed to use that stock photo?

For example, pexels states

All photos on Pexels can be used for free for commercial and noncommercial use.
Attribution is not required.
Giving credit to the photographer or Pexels is not necessary but always appreciated.
You can modify the photos. Be creative and edit the photos as you like.

I am interested in an internationally accepted answer, if there is one. Otherwise, I am interested in US, European Union, and Swiss law.

Related questions, but without any sources (and so seem like the answers could just as well be somebody's opinion):

1 Answer 1


Commercial means related to commerce and commerce means the activity of buying and selling. Advertising material for a commercial event is itself commercial. If the licence restriction is for non-commercial use only then you are outside the licence. However, the licence you quote allows both.

  • 1
    Ah, thanks for pointing out that I quoted a license which allows both. I didn't mean to do that
    – lucidbrot
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 9:09
  • 1
    An advertisement poster is always commercial when you want somebody to buy something (that's what advertisement is for, in fact). The poster itself is rarely sold, though, so that cannot be a measure.
    – PMF
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 15:27
  • What if someone who is a fan of a band produces and displays in their window a poster which would inform passers-by of an upcoming concert, and such action is done without any particular involvement by the band or its paid promoters? The purpose of putting the poster in the window may be to encourage people to buy tickets for the concert, but the term "commercial work" would normally involve some commercial interest on behalf of the person producing or posting it.
    – supercat
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 22:01

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