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On Vine and Third-Party Use of Your Content

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None of the commentary with respect to terms of service and legal agreements in this blog post can be taken as legal advice. If in doubt, ask someone who really knows their stuff.

I really like the medium of short, tweetable videos that Vine has made popular. It succeeds where other video-over-Twitter services, such as yfrog’s, failed. Once again, it is actually by imposing limitations that we find a unique way to express creativity.

So, I toyed with the idea of joining Vine, even despite it not supporting protected accounts like on Twitter. But being an unusual breed, I felt it necessary to read and at least attempt to understand the Terms of Service.

I didn’t like what I saw. (All emphasis is mine.)

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. In order to make the Services available to you and other users, Vine needs a license from you. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

This is a standard kind of sentence you will see if you read many different ToSes. It is, apparently, the boilerplate for “we need your permission to display the stuff you are posting”. It seems fair enough.

You agree that this license includes the right for Vine to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Vine for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Vine, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Vine, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.

Suddenly, this paragraph changes the tone — from “we’re needing a licence to actually display your stuff at all” to “we’ll reserve the right to exploit any commercial value in your creativity whenever we feel like it”.

It is not just about using your content to further promote Vine, it seems to leave the door open for them to sell your content to anybody at all, subject to some additional terms and conditions I didn’t find.

I am not naïve. I know these services will need to make money eventually, and that a ‘free’ service comes with an exchange of value, even if it is not you paying a monthly fee.

With that said, this is not an acceptable arrangement for me, and I would encourage others to examine the value of the content they expect to submit to Vine in the light of these words.

Contrast Vine’s ToS with similar verbiage in the YouTube ToS:

When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant: to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform that Content in connection with the provision of the Service and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Service and YouTube’s business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels;

In short, YouTube might use your stuff to further YouTube as a platform, on any medium, but they aren’t going to reserve the right to flog it off to some ‘partner’ who may not be as fair about compensating you. (Also, YouTube’s existing, long-term relationships with their content partners demonstrates, in my view, a much better mutual respect than the implication of Vine’s ToS.)

There seems to be a weird irony that it is exactly the fact that Google wants to jealously keep you and your content in their ecosystem that they aren’t going to pawn it off to someone else’s ecosystem who might not treat you right.

I’m not saying don’t use Vine. That is your decision, based on what you find an acceptable deal. But don’t be in the dark about the potential implications of these differences in that agreement that, on the surface, might appear subtle, but could be really important.

Today, if you put your stuff on YouTube, and it gets popular, you can join the Partner Program and get compensated for the value in your content. With Vine, however, maybe there would never be an opportunity to see any value from your work. I think they need to answer that question, even if the implementation is not here yet.

Protecting the value of the content you create, whilst always being respectful to your customers, is not just for big media organisations. We are all creators, and we all deserve to have mutually respectful relationships with those who publish our content on our behalf, and those who consume it.

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