Vimeo Embraces Creative Commons. Is This Real Protection?

Video sharing site Vimeo has announced that it has added Creative Commons licensing options for its members. The new feature enables video creators to specify–and thereby limit–the rights of others to copy, distribute, and make derivatives of videos posted to Vimeo.

Vimeo says it has added Creative Commons licensing options because those licenses are “a highly desired feature by the Vimeo community.” The feature will also distinguish Vimeo from competing video sharing sites, namely YouTube, which don’t give contributors the option to restrict how their uploaded works are used by others.

But is Creative Commons an actual benefit to creators, or is it giving creators (and sites like Vimeo) a false sense of security and control?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that was established to make it easy for people to share, remix and re-use copyrighted works with the blessing of creators, while still enabling creators to retain control of certain copyrights–primarily commercial usage rights.

To use Creative Commons licenses, users on Vimeo or any other site that supports CC attach a combination of four basic CC licensing components to their work. The broadest is Attribution, allowing any use of the work so long as it is attributed to the copyright holder. A so-called Share Alike option allows derivative works as long as they are distributed under a CC license identical to the license for the original work. Non-Commercial and No Derivative Works options bar commercial uses and derivative works, respectively.

Attribution never hurts, and may help commercial licensees track down creators and pay them. And there’s an argument to be made that people will respect you–and the copyrights you reserve–if you allow some free but limited usage rights to your work.

However, the efficacy of Creative Commons licenses have yet to be tested in court. CC licenses are contracts, which work only when both parties agree to them. It’s not clear, for instance, how much protection a CC license would give a creator in a case where a user went beyond the scope of the license and then said they didn’t understand its limits.

2 Responses to “Vimeo Embraces Creative Commons. Is This Real Protection?”

  1. Jake Says:

    Actually, CC licenses don’t create any restrictions on use. So if a video is CC-licensed, attribution only, a user could take that video, burn it to DVD and sell it as long as the creator was attributed. And fair use rights are not limited by Creative Commons, as the copyright owner has no legal ability to prevent fair use by anyone else, regardless of whatever a click-wrap agreement may say.
    Where it is important is relative to the use of photos within a video. If the license is Attribution- Share Alike, then the movie maker is obligated to release the movie under the same (or less restrictive) license as the original. So now I can find CC-SA photos on Flickr, and make a video from them, and post to Vimeo with attribution and with the appropriate license embedded.

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