I am interested in integrating the results of 3rd-party news API's into my for-pay application. The APIs would be a very small part of the app (e. g. the app is not just reselling the APIs). I have found that many APIs such as Yahoo have "non-commercial" conditions like the following:

YOU SHALL NOT: Sell, lease, share, transfer, or sublicense the Yahoo! APIs or access or access codes thereto or derive income from the use or provision of the Yahoo! APIs, whether for direct commercial or monetary gain or otherwise, unless the API Documents specifically permit otherwise or Yahoo! gives prior, express, written permission...

(from Yahoo Local Search API page)

Does this prevent the API from being used as part of any app which costs money to use? For example, if I charge you to get into my site, and then display some content from this API, is that OK? If I let you see the content from the API for free, but then charge you to do something else on the site, is that OK?

I'm obviously not expecting specific legal advice. Instead, I'd like to know about either: (1) a good reference on this topic that can answer my question (2) an "answer by example", i. e. an example of a real-world app that does something similar

  • 1
    seems pretty clear to me. "YOU SHALL NOT"! For your question about not charging for the section that shows that data, I guess it could be argued it still helps your site.
    – ozz
    Feb 19, 2013 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


Seems pretty straightforward that they don't want you using their news for commercial purposes. It's up to you and your lawyers to decide if you want to take the risk.

There is the bit about "prior, express, written permission" that you may wish to pursue. You could argue that a properly branded Yahoo! news feed would be beneficial to them.

  • But then why do all the work of exposing this API if it can only be used by hobbiest/non-profit sites? Seems like a pretty limited market given all the hype around public REST APIs. Feb 19, 2013 at 17:14
  • 3
    If you were to contact Yahoo I'm sure they would sell you a license / account that allows commercial use of their API. Leaving it open to the public lets any developer get his or her feet wet with the API and what it can do before shelling out the money for commercial usage.
    – Mike
    Feb 19, 2013 at 17:23
  • They probably wouldn't care about (or notice) you doing it unless you're directly making money off the news, putting a heavy load on their system or using it for something (e.g. porn) that makes them look bad. The worst they'd probably do is block you or tell you to remove it. Still, this is a legal question & you should consult a legal professional to know where you stand. Feb 19, 2013 at 17:27
  • Sean, this advice seems a bit risky to me. I know that the use of such APIs or services for commercial purposes requires a contract with the provider which usually involves some fee or revenue sharing. Feb 19, 2013 at 17:43

You're in a gray zone that would require an attorney to provide a definitive answer. There are a couple of nuances that you should think about prior to consulting with one though.

The primary question concerns how you are deriving income from your application.

I can think of three configurations in your example:

  1. For-pay site that only exposes the Y! news API feed(s)
  2. For-pay site that exposes the Y! news API feed(s) along with a gaggle of other feeds that you think your customers are interested in.
  3. For-pay site that exposes the gaggle of other feeds along with a freebie site that exposes the Y! news API feeds.

Example 1 is clearly in violation of the Yahoo license.

Example 2 is questionable about being in violation. The argument you have to make is that you're not charging for the Y! feeds and you're only charging for the other feeds. Without supporting evidence, I think you'll have a hard time with this line.

Example 3 is an evolution of example 2, and makes it easier to argue that you're not making money off of the Y! news feed(s). You're giving away that aspect in the hopes of drawing the customer in, and getting them to pay for the other feeds.

Keep in mind that showing ads on your freebie site could be considered as generating revenue from the Y! news feeds. The license doesn't specify where the funds come from, it simply says you can't make money off of it.

You can always contact Yahoo! and ask if your configuration is acceptable to them. There are a number of benefits to doing this. If you're in a gray zone, you'll have a definitive answer from the potential plaintiff. If they come back with "that's fine" then you've got a green light to proceed. Alternatively, they may present you with a licensing model that allows you to bypass some of the structural complexity in not charging for their feeds.

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