In the legal arena, commercial use (for writers) refers to the use of images in advertising (including book covers). However, what does "commercial" mean when used by Creative Commons, Flickr, etc.? Does it mean the same thing, or does "no commercial use" mean you can't use that image in a book, period?

Or does each platform simply define "commercial" a different way?

  • There's an inherent grey area. Is educational use commercial? Is a school teacher in violation when they use this image in a class presentation? And when they share it with their colleagues? But often this can easily be resolved - if you ask, and the author agrees that your use is non-commercial, then that defines non-commercial use between you two. Definitions do not need to be universal.
    – MSalters
    Oct 27, 2023 at 10:14

1 Answer 1


"Commercial use" means used for generating income

It doesn't matter if the income production is direct (selling) or indirect (marketing or advertising), a business or a hobby, for profit or for a charitable purpose; if it generates income for someone somewhere down the line, it's commercial use.

So, you can use it in a book provided you don't sell that book or use that book to promote a business etc.

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