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"Commercial" vs. "Non-Commercial" Forum

Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#1
Started this thread per the discussion on the Resource Guidelines thread

This might be a good time to officially delineate the difference between a "commercial" and "non-commercial" site. In my opinion, there should actually be 3 different designations - non-commercial, monetized, and commercial. The mere presence of some advertising (i.e. monetization) of an otherwise non-commercial site should not put a forum into the same category as a true commercial site (one which is clearly designed and operated to make a significant profit for its owners above and beyond offsetting the operating costs of the site).
This has been a question I have been meaning to ask about as well. For instance, I run a hobby related forum about a specific method and sell a product that performs that method, I don't sell the product on the forum directly but I do showcase it there and sell via another site. So what hole does that fit into?

Another one, I am working on a forum for a local non-profit hobby club which accepts payments from sponsors who then advertise on the site. So what about that??
Commercial is defined by Creative Commons as using the add-on "in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation".
Any questions you have can be discussed here or feel free to drop me a PM:
https://xenforo.com/community/threads/license-for-all-waindigo-add-ons-cc-by-nc-nd.34155/

My instinct would be that your first site is commercial assuming that someone involved is profiting from the selling of the product, and your second is non-commercial if the money only goes towards the running of the site.

We are always happy to discuss individual cases and make suggestions for an amount that can be donated based on the particular circumstances. All money goes to the charity.
So what does that fancy talk mean in regards to a "monetized" site which collects some revenue to offset operating costs but does not generate income for its owners?
 

Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#2
Per @The Sandman's comment I don't think that non-commercial and monetized should be separated, rather it just be clearly defined as to what constitutes a commercial site.

And therein lies the issue. This is rather subjective.

I run a hobby related forum about a specific method and sell a product that performs that method, I don't sell the product on the forum directly but I do showcase it there and sell via another site.
I am also a full-time engineer and this^^ is only my home business and glorification of my hobby. I don't make a ton of $$ off of it and if you want proof I'll show you my K-1's for the last couple years. But I suppose that technically it would be considered commercial.
 

The Sandman

Well-known member
#3
Per @The Sandman's comment I don't think that non-commercial and monetized should be separated, rather it just be clearly defined as to what constitutes a commercial site.
IMO there's definitely a difference between a monetized hobby site and a true commercial site. That doesn't mean that they have to be treated differently when it comes to charging for an add-on they purchase, but it should be clear to everyone involved what they mean when they use the term "commercial", which can and does mean different things to different people in different situations.
 

Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#4
Well that was what I was saying, a monetized hobby site would not fall under the classification of commercial, so there is no need for a line of delineation between a non-commercial and a monetized site. They're just both non-commercial, IMO, as long as you properly define what is commercial and what is non-commercial.

Edited my big error in that statement
 

The Sandman

Well-known member
#5
Commercial is defined by Creative Commons as using the add-on "in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation".
I have no specific issue with Jon and use many of his add-ons. But it's not clear to me where a monetized hobby site fits in to the definition of commercial he uses.
 

Brentnauer

Well-known member
#7
IMHO

Commercial: you're doing for living, paying you're bills or buying personal life stuff
Non-Commercial: you're not monetizing OR you're monetizing only to pay hosting and investing on forum functionality (you're not living with the earning of the forum)
I agree with this completely.
 

Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#8
@The Sandman it seems that @Waindigo defaults the definition to the Creative Commons definition, so it's not really his definition I guess.

But this still all comes down to enforcement. If you're going to use a definition like the CC one to determine if a site is commercial or non-commercial and that determines if an addon is paid vs free, what do you do, just not offer support to someone who is not adhering to that definition? What other recourse do you have, is a developer really going to sue someone for using a free addon that they should technically pay $20 for?

Seems like it really comes down to an honor system.
 

HWS

Well-known member
#9
It is an honor system.

Because even large sites like Wikipedia with several employees paid from the money earned (or donated) would fall under "non-commercial".

So, if I run a forum privately and pay my household bills from the money earned, it would be "commercial".

But, if I run a forum with a company who pays my bills as an employee but earns itself nothing (the company) it would be "non-commercial". Kind like Jon does himself with his "Foundation". ;-)

This is a little strange. ;-)
 

Jon W

Well-known member
#10
It is an honour system and that's why we give the money to charity. But the charity would be well within its rights to challenge any site that broke the license agreement and could ask for substantially more than $20 if it pursued it through the courts. We'd much rather people just got in touch and let us know what they think is fair and what they can afford.
 

Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#11
So do we need all developers to specify what their personal definition of "commercial" vs "non-commercial" is? I think most would not be picky and would get their panties in a bunch 99% of the time when it's a borderline situation between the two.

I actually plan to create a line of delineation between my one hand (manufacturer of product) and the other hand as admin of the forum that discusses the general implementation of such a product. I did this because I want it open to all, not just to people who are my customers - originally, it was going to be a support forum for my customers but that seemed to turn away non-customers, and I didn't want that.

Technically I could become a sponsor of my own forum and argue that the forum is non-commercial, especially if I allow other manufacturers to become sponsors. Like I said - gray area. But this is the stuff I think of and then regurgitate all over my keyboard :eek: when I'm bored or don't feel like actually doing something productive.

Honestly though I haven't taken a really close look to see what kind of difference this actually makes in terms of what addons I use and what it would cost me if I considered my forum to be commercial.
 

sbj

Well-known member
#12
I just want to say my view about the commercial vs non-commercial topic.

For me is everything commercial, if you use your site to create money. But with one exception.
Just when you have a donation system and in addition to that if you just use the earned donations for the site itself or if you donate it to some charity. Then it is fine.

Anything else is euphemism.

Nobody forces you to open a forum/site. If you decide to do it, than with your own money. But letting your forum create money is clearly a purpose. You set it up to create money. Even if you just want to invest the money in charity or the server, you give people no room to decide. Maybe I don't want to donate to your forum? Maybe I think it doesn't earn it? But with clicking on an ad or link, I donated by accident to your site. You forced me to do it. Saying "dont click on ads" is not a solution. You also earn from Google money just because I visit your forum and/or there are a lot of things I can't know and which makes you earn money. All without my admission as a visitor.
So any kind of way which gives no room for self decision was clearly made for commercial use.
Non-commercial never forces anything, it is free.
 
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Kintaro

Well-known member
#13
So any kind of way which gives no room for self decision was clearly made for commercial use.
Non-commercial never forces anything, it is free.
So having no donations but ask members to buy from your "sponsor" (click for sale) is not-commercial? ;)
 

Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#14
@sbj I disagree with your stance because it just isn't as cut and dry like that all the time.

We have a local club that is a registered 501C3 non-profit organization. The forum has a section that is open to the public as well as an area that is restricted to paying members for $20/year dues. We have site sponsors that pay to advertise to on the forum. The club organizes 2 large events a year (usually a break-even event, not a fundraiser) and supports regional events for members (workshops, get togethers, etc) . All proceeds from the club activities go back into supporting the member base in terms of benefits (equipment to borrow, etc), to maintaining the website/forum, and for donations to charitable causes. By your terms, we would be commercial. But the reality of it is that not one cent goes into someone's pocket for direct profit.
 

sbj

Well-known member
#15
So having no donations but ask members to buy from your "sponsor" (click for sale) is not-commercial? ;)
Read again, dont snip just some parts, I said:
For me is everything commercial, if you use your site to create money. But with one exception.
So your example isn't that exception. Your example is clearly advertising. Ads. It explains everything. It creates money. It is commercial use.



@sbj I disagree with your stance because it just isn't as cut and dry like that all the time.
My exception is clear:
Just when you have a donation system and in addition to that if you just use the earned donations for the site itself or if you donate it to some charity. Then it is fine.
So, if your site fits this criteria, it is non-commercial. Let's see what you told me. The 20$/year part you can consider it as donation cause you dont force anyone. This part can be ok, although you restrict some areas of your forum, so you could see that as forcing. I could create a dating site which is free but I could make a system that you must pay if you want to get in contact with people. So it looks like it is free but with restricting the site you commercialize it. So this depends on the restricting.

But there is a clear sign of that your forum is commercial although there is no direct profit for you.

With letting ads being on your site YOU create profit for the site sponsors. So indirectly you create profit.
If there is no intention to make profit, why dont the site sponsors just donate without adding their ads? They use your site and you allow it. Yeah, ethically you do fine because you invest all the money in charity but yet you help others to make profit. It is how it is. You can prettify it but this is a fact. Sorry.

Ads are always commercial except that you advertise a cancer fund or some other charity stuff. This is enough to decide if it is commercial or not. And your site allows ads to make profit for others from what I understand.
 
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Floyd R Turbo

Well-known member
#16
Profit for others IMO is irrelevant. What matters is profit for the site owner, and what is done with that money. If the site owner is a legal non-profit entity, then the site should not be considered commercial. Ads can be commercially related without making the site a commercial entity. At least, that's the way I see it
 

The Sandman

Well-known member
#17
LOL - as I wrote in the post that spawned this thread, this is why I believe there should be 3 classifications instead of 2. If there is only "commercial" and "non-commercial" than any site that accepts revenues in any form can be viewed as commercial. I prefer the difference between a true commercial site and a monetized hobby site to be recognized.

And the "honor system" is not the doing of the forum owners, it's the coders who determine and enforce the rules, so any ambiguity should be construed in favor of the endusers. :)
 

sbj

Well-known member
#18
As I said you can prettify (and justify) it and have your own view about it @Floyd, but the facts won't change. You are involved in creating money directly.

You say profit for others is irrelevant? Really? How about these "others" are the friends of the site owner or the brother of him?

Why does it make a difference when the site owner doesn't earn something? But maybe his crew does (via sponsoring)? What is the difference that a big company makes profit from the sponsoring or the site owner? In both cases your site helps them to make profit. As a user why should I care who exactly makes profit? Someone sure does, so it is clear.

If there is only "commercial" and "non-commercial" than any site that accepts revenues in any form can be viewed as commercial.
No, not any form. There is 1 exception which I know of for example.
 

sbj

Well-known member
#20
Yeah, that's why I said "can be", not "will be" or "shall be".
Still this is not correct. It implifies that in some conditions some people can think this.
But there is at least 1 example where this is not possible. So not any site that accepts revenues in any form can be viewed as commercial.
There are sites out there which are non-commercial and accepts revenues and there is no way it can be viewed as commercial, neither just "can be".