There are times that the owner/creator of the product gives a license, but tells something that is against the license.

Let's say someone posts a picture and says:

Feel free to use this for commercial use. License: CC-BY-SA-NC

CC-BY-SA-NC clearly says that it doesn't allow commercial use, however the owner is saying that he allows it.

In this kind of situation, what is valid? The owner's words or the license?


The principle is that you may not copy without permission of the copyright holder. When the copyright holder says "Feel free to use this for commercial use", that is very clear permission and only requires that you know English. Saying "License: CC-BY-SA-NC" is not clear, because it requires you to know what the code "CC-BY-SA-NC" means. It's not impossible to figure it out, but in fact it is just a magic expression that most people do not understand, and in this case, the creator probably relied on someone's say-so and did not understand what "NC" means. Clarity always trumps obscurity in the law.


This assumes, of course, that the person posting the item is in fact the copyright holder, so is entitled to say "License: CC-BY-SA-NC". There is a separate and huge problem that there is virtually no way of knowing whether a person who posts material has that right. You can be pretty sure that anything owned by Disney is not posted with permission on a non-Disney site, but for most material, you just don't know. Someone falsely implying they have the right to give permission is a higher level of evil.

  • At what point can one assume that the person who posts the image, and who says "Feel free to use this for commercial use" is in fact the copyright holder? I could post, for example, the entirety of the seven Star Wars movies online, with a message "Feel free to use this for commercial purposes", but I don't think anyone would be able to use that as a defense, seeing as I am not affiliated in anyway with Disney, the current copyright holder.
    – sharur
    Apr 26 '16 at 19:20

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