Say you want to use data to train a machine learning model to solve some task. What if the data is published under a Creative Commons license with the Non-Commercial module? Clearly, you cannot put the data to direct commercial use, like linking it with other data and selling it.

However, can you use the model in a commercial setting, if it was derived from those CC-NC data?

I found only one remotely relevant interpretation in the CC FAQs:

Commercial purposes: If you are conducting text and data mining for commercial purposes, you should not mine NC-licensed databases or other material.

However a statistical model derived in a machine learning process from a data set is not exactly data mining, IMHO. Also, the should is very vague.


1 Answer 1


As a researcher I would tend towards this being fair use. Within the academic world, articles that are distributed under strong copyright laws prevent others from doing things such as reusing figures and tables. It does not however prevent another researcher from adapting their methods to a specific and even similar use-case.

I'm obviously not a lawyer but so long as you aren't using their copyrighted material (ie: the explicitly defined database/data sets), I don't think there's any problem in replicating their models/methods.

  • I was not asking about replicating any model or method. I was asking if it is fair use to use a model in a commercial context that is derived from (say, trained on) NC data.
    – Lutz Büch
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 10:40

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