I’ve asked the Wikipedia mailing list a while ago, and recently received another confirmation from Creative Commons’ Lawrence Lessig: yes, the CC organization believes this being OK is the best reading of the license. Not that they’re saying you’re allowed to directly sell the CC content or anything, but you’re allowed to display ads if you use CC-NC content. But it’s also a matter of how you display ads, Lawrence disclaims, saying that there could be certain advertising schemes that take it too far.
(It should be noted though that the Creative Commons organization does not determine whether a judge would agree with their interpretation, in case someone would get sued over using NC content on an ad-supported site. In the end, perhaps such a case would go back to what the license says and not what interpretations of the license say. The human readable form of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 license explains that noncommercial means “You may not use this work for commercial purposes” adding that “Your fair dealing and other rights are in no way affected by the above.” The legalese informs that “You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You ... in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.” File-sharing of the content is allowed too “provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in connection with the exchange of copyrighted works.”)
On a related note, a previous post discussed where Creative Commons is missing in Google.
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