As marketers, our job is often to design, produce, and create a wide variety of content that can be used across social channels, blog posts, and emails.
This often involves using a variety of design tools – including Adobe Photoshop, Canva, and even Getty Images.
And yet we often don’t pause to consider: Can I actually use this software for business purposes?
Most likely, your team has already ensured that you have a commercial license to use the products you have designed for business purposes.
Although it is a legal term, it is important that you are familiar with the concept of “commercial use” as a marketer so that you can ensure that you are complying with the law when creating and distributing content.
Here, let’s examine the differences between commercial and non-commercial use.
What is commercial use?
Commercial use describes any activity in which you use a product or service for financial gain. This also applies if you use software to create marketing materials as those materials are used for business purposes to increase sales. Commercial activities include designing goods or creating images for online or offline advertising.
Simply put, any activity you do in your business is considered a “commercial use” because the ultimate goal of that activity is to increase sales.
Therefore, you must acquire the appropriate commercial license agreement with any third-party design software or tools that you will use to complete your project.
Commercial use also extends to offline activities. For example, let’s say you use Adobe to design a billboard sign and FontCreator to edit the font that you use for that billboard. In this case, you are using the billboard for business purposes with a desire to make a financial return from your ad – which means that it is for commercial use.
Before creating your billboard, make sure that you have a commercial license agreement with Adobe and FontCreator. Otherwise, these companies could take legal action against you.
For example, in the Adobe Terms of Service, they stated the following in relation to their NFR licenses (non-functional requirements): “You may only install and use the NFR version for the period and for the purposes specified in the delivery of the NFR version You may not use any materials you produce with the NFR version for commercial purposes. “
So if you bought the NFR version from Adobe, you can only use the software for non-commercial purposes. But what does non-commercial use actually mean? Let’s examine that next.
What is non-commercial use?
A non-commercial activity is one that does not involve a financial transaction. This often limits your options to personal use only. For example, you can use certain tools or software on a school project, to design a gift for a loved one, or even to decorate your home.
Noncommercial use includes any activity that you engage in that you do not intend to market or sell for profit. Common examples of non-commercial use often relate to education. For example, let’s say you’re using the same Adobe and FontCreator design software listed above. With that exception, a presentation will be made for your college history class this time around.
Since you are not making money off of your presentation, it falls under noncommercial use and is fair game.
Additionally, people often use certain software, or even brand logos, when designing gifts for loved ones. If your little brother is obsessed with Disney, you can turn him into a Disney-themed homemade blanket and use the Disney logo. Since you are not selling this blanket for a profit, it is allowed.
However, you are not allowed to sell the same blanket on Etsy as you do not have a commercial license to use the Disney logo and would expect money in exchange for your design.
The final definition that we should cover is “limited commercial use” which falls in a gray area between commercial and non-commercial uses.
Simply put, limited commercial use means that you can use the software, design, logo, or tool on the products you want to sell – but only for a limited amount. For example, let’s say you have a Getty Image agreement that says you can re-use an image up to 5,000 times for limited commercial use.
This means that if you plan to distribute the design to an audience of 5,000+ people, you won’t want to use this image. However, if you want to design materials that will only be sent to 100 of your top customers, it is acceptable to use this image for those materials.
Of course, when in doubt, you should consult with your legal team to ensure that you are complying with legal requirements when creating marketing materials that you plan to use in your company.