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Judge Rules on Non-Commercial Purpose Requirement in Creative Commons License

An American court has ruled that the non-commercial purpose requirement in the BY-NC-SA 4.0 Creative Commons (“CC”) license does not preclude the licensee from hiring a for-profit contractor to reproduce the CC licensed work.

The case started with nonprofit Great Minds suing FedEx for infringing their copyright by unauthorized reproduction of their CC licensed material. FedEx had been hired by school representatives to reproduce Great Minds’ works for non-commercial educational purposes. Great Minds argued that by reproducing the materials for a profit, FedEx was engaging in commercial activity, and unable to rely on the CC license. Creative Commons requested leave to submit arguments in support of FedEx that the CC license allows the licensee broad discretion to exercise their rights under the license, for example by hiring another party to reproduce the work. Before considering Creative Commons’ motion, the court dismissed the case on a summary motion, finding that FedEx’s copying was permitted by the unambiguous terms of the CC license.

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