Why I’m Giving up on Creative Commons on YouTube

CC HeartI’ve been a long-time supporter of Creative Commons content licensing, which facilitates the proliferation of art and culture through sharing. On Flickr, I license the majority of my photos CC BY-NC-SA. It’s a good implementation and I’m happy to support people using my stuff non-commercially as I have other artists’ works.

Not so on YouTube. I recently came across this opportunistic individual who took my drone video of Burning Man 2013 and reposted it in its entirety to YouTube under the inaccurate and misleading title “Drone’s Eye View of Burning Man 2014.” A few issues here.

1. It’s not a video from 2014. This guy just reposted my 2013 video using a very SEO friendly title, as apparently a lot of people are searching for Burning Man 2014 drone videos. Google is happy to send people his way.

2. He’s monetized my video, I have not. I explicitly chose not to monetize the video as I was abiding by Burning Man’s noncommercial ethos. At almost 100k views, this guy is surely profiting.

3. There’s not much I can do about it.

The reason I can’t do anything about is I originally licensed my video CC BY, YouTube’s only Creative Commons license option.  CC BY means that a user can do whatever they want with it, just as long as they give proper attribution to the creator (more on that later).  Commercial use is allowed, which YouTube makes very easy by letting the resulting video be monetized with ads. Combine that with an SEO friendly, yet inaccurate and misleading title, and PROFIT!

YT Licenses

I never expected that someone would repost the video in its entirety and monetize tons of views from it, or that YouTube would make this so easy.

The intention of CC licenses, as I’ve always believed, is to grease the wheels of culture. To create a repository of creative work that can be drawn upon to make new creative works. There are a handful of different Creative Commons license options that allow a creator to decide how they wish their works to be used. I generally go with CC BY-NC-SA which stands for “By Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike.” By using this license I’m stating that you are welcome to use my works non-commercially in your own work as long as you properly attribute it to me and share the resulting work in the same manner. If you want to use my works commercially, you are welcome to contact me and see if I’m open to a deal. Otherwise, there is no need to get my permission as long as you adhere to these terms.

The real issue is YouTube’s remix tool is horribly broken. Of the 68 videos that users have “remixed” from my video, 36 are wholesale reposts of my entire video (many of which are monetized with ads). 28 are by accounts that have since been deleted by YouTube for various TOS violations and a whopping THREE are actual original new works in which a sample of my video appears.

YouTube Videos Using This Content

How YouTube fulfills CC’s attribution requirement is also broken. CC BY license stipulates, “If supplied, you must provide the name of the creator and attribution parties, a copyright notice, a license notice, a disclaimer notice, and a link to the material.”  To find this info on YouTube, you must go a video’s landing page and first click the “SHOW MORE” text in the description below the video. Here the Creative Commons Attribution license with link is clearly displayed. Below this, there’s a “View attributions” link which needs to be clicked to discover the original author’s credit and source video link. There’s no way the average YouTube user is going to go through these steps to learn what they are viewing was partially or wholly created by someone else. 

Drone_s_eye_view_of_Burning_Man_2014_-_YouTube_1

2nd click

It’s really unfortunate that YouTube doesn’t offer different flavors of CC licenses like Flickr has been doing for years. Had BY NC been an option, monetization could be prevented. I guess it’s not in YouTube’s interest to offer video hosting for videos that can never be monetized.

As long as YouTube’s CC implementation is broken, I will not participate in it. I’ve rolled back the CC licenses on 35 of my videos to YouTube’s Standard license. Not ideal, but at least I have some recourse if someone now tries to profit from my videos.

It’s a real bummer as Creative Commons is a great resource for source material for making art and furthering remix culture. I really hope YouTube cares enough to get it right.

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  • MightyDog

    Sorry but, so what? Isn’t that the point of creative commons?

    • Did ya even read the post? CC is great, I support it. That’s not the issue.

      • I’ve read it and I still don’t see anything wrong with CC. Are knives bad, because some people are using it to do bad stuff? About attribution issues. Wikipedia don’t display attribution near the photos, yet CC guys are ok with that. It looks like they agree that such way of attribution is OK.

        Also you are missing the point of CC and cash. Allowing people to use work commercially doesn’t always means anybody will earn. Like putting movie on said Wikipedia or any other site that requires the right to use work commercially. It doesn’t mean that it will be used that way.

        I got used to butthurt “ohh, they earns money and I’m not”. You know you can do the same and also earn money with other’s videos? But you don’t and you are whining that you could get cash, but they do. No, you can’t, as you see. Also earnings lie not in content alone, but in idea of using that content. You don’t have idea, you won’t earn – it’s that simple.

        I’m releasing my works on PD/MIT/CC/LGPL since 10 years. I earned on my open stuff, I earned on other people’s stuff, but the most precious thing was proudness – somebody uses my work, it means it’s good!

        • If you had actually read it you would know I AGREE with you. I have no problem with CC, I have supported Creative Commons for years and still do. The issue I have is with YouTube’s BROKEN implementation of CC. It’s not about Creative Commons, it’s about YouTube.

          • OK, but really I don’t understand how come it’s broken. Can you explain it to me? As I said, the “hidden license” isn’t against CC. Allowing to copy your video without modification is a bit odd, but well, still not “broken implementation”. Then how? Sorry, I really don’t see it in article.

          • I know you’re just trolling at this point, but I’ll humor you.

            ‘The real issue is YouTube’s remix tool is horribly broken. Of the 68 videos that users have “remixed” from my video, 36 are wholesale reposts of my entire video (many of which are monetized with ads). 28 are by accounts that have since been deleted by YouTube for various TOS violations and a whopping THREE are actual original new works in which a sample of my video appears.

            How YouTube fulfills CC’s attribution requirement is also broken. CC BY license stipulates, “If supplied, you must provide the name of the creator and attribution parties, a copyright notice, a license notice, a disclaimer notice, and a link to the material.” To find this info on YouTube, you must go a video’s landing page and first click the “SHOW MORE” text in the description below the video. Here the Creative Commons Attribution license with link is clearly displayed. Below this, there’s a “View attributions” link which needs to be clicked to discover the original author’s credit and source video link. There’s no way the average YouTube user is going to go through these steps to learn what they are viewing was partially or wholly created by someone else.’

  • gadlen

    I’m very sorry to hear about these CC troubles. I found your site from the watermarking on a stolen 2013 Burning Man youtube video. In any case, I’m glad I found you online!

    • Stolen? How?

      • gadlen
        • If I’ll give you something to use and you take it, it’s called robbery, yes?

          • gadlen

            If I offer a work of art to the world saying “Share this beautiful, free thing and make sure to tell others that I made it.” And you deceptively change the title, imply it’s your own, and start making money from it, then yes, “robbery” is the right word.

            On the date I am writing this, every Youtube comment agrees on this point. Not “some”, not “most”, but every; that is unprecedented. The creator of the content agrees. You are the only disagreeable one.

            Good Day

  • Ian Khadzhyiskyi

    really sorry! I want to make some CC video to popular my channel

  • Laurent Jospin

    Hey, I intend to publish a video under CC-BY-NC-SA, thanks to you I avoided to post it on youtube ^^ !

    But do you know if there is another youtube-like site which allow to publish video under other sort of CC license or if I need to host it myself ?

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  • Mark Anthony

    So you are basically pissed off because you gave someone the right to use your product and they found a better way to make money from it then you could?? Dam capitalism!!

    • Nope. You completely missed the point.

  • Been experimenting after we read this post. What we analyzed is that its a more of give and take culture to expand. For example we are following videos of a young youtuber who was good. We came to know about her due to creative commons and more people will be introducing her.. We agree to what you have mentioned at one side.. But yes we cant ignore the benefits of being famous..

  • kiwithing

    I think some folks in the comments (and all over the internet for that matter) don’t understand that Creative Commons is not the same thing as putting something in the public domain. Even at its loosest licensing (CC-BY), users of that CC content must provide attribution. Else, it’s a breach of the license / contract.

    The following article sums things up pretty well.
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/compound-eye/creative-commons-is-not-public-domain/

    It’s unfortunate that some people do not have the patience to just read the blog post they’re commenting on. I don’t understand the need to hastily skim a paragraph and then pound that “Post as [username]” button like a madman.

    So, OP, I feel for ya. I’ve had my work taken and posted without attribution or respect to non-commercial use by a handful of fairly popular websites. I think there is a failure in education when it comes to the understanding of what a CC license is and how to properly attribute others. There’s also the fact that folks don’t care, and that’s sad.

    • Thanks for your response. You get it! CC is a wonderful system when respected and used properly. It’s sadly true, most people just don’t care.

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  • Anthony Vanover

    YouTube uses the 3.0 Unsorted license, so you can take down those videos because there is no transfer of ownership (c.f. distribute definition in section 1).

  • Joel Walsh

    You cannot “roll back” a CC license.

    I understand your frustration with the CC abusers and the ridiculously inconspicuous attribution (there should be a way of burning attribution notices directly onto the video).

    But if Youtube did allow NC licensing, how many people actually understand what NC means? Because no one thinks that their money-making is “commercial.” It’s only when those grubby other people do it. Edit: if you don’t believe me, just look at all the whining over content ID on youtube for music. This despite the fact that the law is crystal clear that there is hardly any Fair Use right for music with lyrics.

  • João Matos

    Can’t you just select YouTube’s Standard License in the drop-down and then grant further licensing options, including CC BY-NC-SA, via a notice in the video itself and/or the description?

    Unless YouTube claims exclusivity over your videos, you should be able to do that, right?

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