Video hosting platform Vimeo yesterday announced on its blog its support for Creative Commons licensing, providing its members a more precise control over where and how others can use their own videos. But restrictions persist with how members can feature other rights-owners videos and other original works on Vimeo, even if they have the same clearances that Creative Commons provides.

The Benefits of Creative Commons Licensing

Say you have an account with Vimeo. With a Creative Commons license, then you as the video rights holder, or “licensor,” get to keep your copyright and are afforded full copyright protection. At the same time, you allow people to copy and distribute your video – provided that they always give you credit, and only on the licensing conditions you specify. Creative Commons and Vimeo describe it as “a great way to share and collaborate with others,” giving its members “the power to reuse, modify, and distribute work – with others on generous terms” – and without requiring the rights users to have to contact the rights owners for getting permission.

Creative Commons Licenses for Web Video on Vimeo

Each time you upload a video, you’re given a choice to select one one the six main Creative Commons licenses: Attribution, Attribution Share Alike, Attribution No Derivatives, Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike, and Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives.

  • Attribution – You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.
  • Share Alike – You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work
  • Non-Commercial – You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for non-commercial purposes only
  • No Derivative Works – You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Issues with Vimeo’s Creative Commons Licensing Feature

  • No filtered search. You can’t do a search Vimeo by Creative Commons licensing yet. (The Creative Commons own website’s search function doesn’t yet include the Vimeo site, either.) Vimeo has replied on its blog that they expect to have this feature included “soon.”
  • Can’t apply a license to a batch of videos. Vimeo reports on their blog that they expect to add this functionality in the future as well.
  • Still can’t upload content that’s not yours. Vimeo’s own site policy is that all of the content in your video on video must be original content. (Even public domain work cannot be uploaded.) So while Vimeo will allow its members to allow others to redistribute their work, Vimeo themselves won’t allow its members to do the same on the Vimeo set. (Are you following this?) That’s nothing of a legal issue for Vimeo – just their own site policy and business model for wanting to feature all-original content. (To note, it appears that Vimeo does make exceptions for remixed work, or work that is inserted into a newly-produced video; rather than just lifting any video from somewhere else and posting it up without making a truly derivative work of your own.)
  • No guarantee of compliance – just because someone posts a CC license does it mean that they’ve been certified by the U.S. Copyright office as the actual rights owner, or that they’ve had all potential legal issues cleared. It just means that they’re claiming they do, and they’re passing on shared rights to others. (But at least if a situation happens where the actual rights owner contacts you, you will be able to use the CC licensing notice as your alibi.)

So just keep in mind that while you now have a better opportunity to share and distribute your videos on Vimeo with an affordance of legal protection, Vimeo still requires any account holder to own or hold all necessary rights to each video appearing in Vimeo, and to still follow the rules in their Community Guidelines.

Helpful Links

About Vimeo

Vimeo is a video sharing and hosting site similar to YouTube, operating with a much smaller audience, but provding more professional features with its Vimeo Plus program. ($59/year.) The web publication Mashable describes Vimeo as ”an underdog compared to YouTube in the online video game, but the site’s operators have nevertheless done a pretty good job of catching up with new trends and technologies, and have even led the pack in some cases,” including with high-quality resolution, a user-friendly interface, social media tools, HTML5 streaming, and user analytics.