Is Vimeo Arbitrarily Taking Down Videos It Deems As 'Commercial'?

from the that-makes-no-sense dept

With Vimeo recently getting sued by EMI for supposedly encouraging infringement of their music in videos, it’s interesting to note that Vimeo is apparently arbitrarily and ridiculously aggressive in cutting off anyone who uses the service for any sort of “commercial” purpose (found via Shocklee). The story is quite bizarre, but apparently Vimeo has buried in its terms of service that you can’t use the service for commercial reasons — though almost no one knows this. Yet, Vimeo itself seems to decide rather arbitrarily if your videos are commercial or not and then gives you a 24-hour notice to remove your videos. This is rather disappointing. Vimeo’s player is actually quite nice (much nicer than YouTube’s), and I’ve recommended many others to use its service. I had my own odd problem with Vimeo last year when for some unknown reason the company completely deleted my account and locked me out of using the service. Eventually they restored the account, but no explanation for the deletion was ever given (and it made me look bad, because I had been discussing stuff with someone, who then accused me of deleting my posts).

The other oddity is the claim that Vimeo says you cannot embed Vimeo videos on sites that show ads, as that’s “commercial use.” Once again, we get into the difficulty of figuring out what is commercial use? If I embed a Vimeo video in a blog post is that commercial use? This is a blog, but it’s part of our business. Similarly, some of the speeches I’ve given in the past couple of years were put online using Vimeo. Are these “commercial use”? Are they then commercial use if I happen to embed the video in the blog? What if I embed someone else’s video in this “commercial” blog? Like — as we did with the Vimeo getting sued story — embedded a video from Vimeo itself? It’s nearly impossible to figure out what is and what’s not commercial. About the only thing you can say is that you probably shouldn’t use Vimeo for anything, because its policies appear to be totally arbitrary and prone to suddenly losing the videos you thought you had legitimately posted.

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Companies: vimeo

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Comments on “Is Vimeo Arbitrarily Taking Down Videos It Deems As 'Commercial'?”

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40 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Quick yes or no, do you actually read (and understand) the ‘Terms of Service’ on a website? I’d like to hear from everybody…”

The question is flawed, because even most of those that say they understand, and perhaps understand the majority of these TOS’s or contracts are lying unless they’re lawyers…

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If it’s in the site’s Terms of Service, a legal document to which you must agree before using the service, how can no one know this?

You seem to be skipping over the key questions: how do you define commercial use? It seems to be defined quite arbitrarily.

Hell, even Vimeo itself appears to have violated this rule, because it used videos for recruiting purposes — which seems quite commercial.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

And if I embed a Vimeo video on a page with free web hosting service that places its own ads on my non-commercial site, what then?

Nobody’s saying you can’t argue that all sites with ads are commercial if you want – the point is simply that it *is* somewhat vague online, and if you’re going to pretend it’s clear cut then you’re either playing dumb, or the other thing. Dumb.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Not everything. I know plenty of people who run personal websites just for fun, with no intention of garnering income. I know sports groups that run sites with no commercial angle, etc.

Marcus, the host is running ads to profit from your pages, which makes it commercial.

Again, it isn’t hard. You and Tucker are right, most things on the internet have a commercial angle. Vimeo’s terms are pretty good for letting them term just about anyone at any time without any need to provide a reason past “your site is commercial”. Pretty smart on their behalf.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

So you are saying that anyone on a free hosting site that places its own ads is themselves running a commercial website?

So you want to choke off one of the most significant vehicles of free expression in the modern world? What if twitter starts running ads – will tweets be commercial? Are things I post on Facebook already commercial, since they essentially monetize my content? If you want to interpret the law that way fine, but then I say that is a very bad law and you should think twice about supporting it.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Marcus, it isn’t a “law”, it’s terms and conditions of use.

Each of the examples you list are commercial websites. Your personal intent may not be commercial, but each of those websites (hosting with ads, facebook, etc) are commercial businesses that would profit from the use of the videos.

Vimeo, by their terms and conditions (not the law) would be well within their rights to term your account, removed you videos, and do whatever else they feel is needed.

I am sure they are doing it selectively at this point based on either obvious cases or heavy bandwidth uses that attract their attention. There is nothing in their terms that would stop them applying it to everyone.

It’s not the law, it’s their terms.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I’m talking about the legal definition of what qualifies as “commercial” – not the clause in their terms of service that bans commercial activity. If Vimeo were to pursue legal action against someone for making commercial use of their service in violation of the TOS, then that person could launch a defense on the grounds that his actions to not qualify as commercial. It is very much about legal definitions.

The Anti-Mike™: Missing the point completely since 2009

Colin Scroggins (user link) says:

I agree with #1

I do actually read legally binding agreements that require my consent. In my case, that part of the Vimeo agreement has kept me from using them.

The statement of non-commercial use is not displayed on on Vimeo’s terms of service; it is scattered throughout the site on multiple pages, including very clearly at the bottom of the Join Vimeo page!

What surprises me is that Vimeo took this long to enforce it.

Colin Scroggins (user link) says:

Commercial = tied to money

Commercial is a dividing line in the licensing of all kinds of software. If you make money off it, or its use contributes to your money-making operation, it is commercial. A standard dictionary definition clues you in to all you need to know; a Vimeo-specific definition is unnecessary.

A perfect example would be Webbynode’s use of Vimeo at the following URL: http://webbynode.com/features

Webbynode gets paid for hosting, therefore their customer tutorials are commercial use.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Commercial = tied to money

Commercial is a dividing line in the licensing of all kinds of software. If you make money off it, or its use contributes to your money-making operation, it is commercial. A standard dictionary definition clues you in to all you need to know; a Vimeo-specific definition is unnecessary.

Ok. So based on that Vimeo is violating its own rules.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

this is a big Creative Commons fail too

Ah, “non-commercial” licenses. They are not free at all, yet they’re among Creative Commons’ most popular licenses. And CC makes no effort to educate artists about the significant drawbacks to using unfree licenses; and journalists and others blithely refer to both Free and unfree licenses as simply “Creative Commons licenses,” not distinguishing between, say, Share-Alike (copyleft) and -ND -NC (pretty much copyright).

This fine article lists only some of what’s wrong with “non-commercial” licenses:
* They make your work incompatible with a growing body of free content, even if you do want to allow derivative works or combinations.
* They may rule out other basic and beneficial uses which you want to allow.
* They support current, near-infinite copyright terms.
* They are unlikely to increase the potential profit from your work, and a share-alike license serves the goal to protect your work from exploitation equally well.

Add to that list: they weaken the Free Culture movement itself, as unsustainable “non-commercial” projects fail.
Learn from Free Software, O Free Culture Movement. “Non-commercial” is not one of the 4 Freedoms, it’s not freedom at all, it’s just more restriction and a bad idea.

Colin Scroggins (user link) says:

Mike, arguing that Vimeo is violating its own TOS by its commercial use of its own product is willfully daft. As the licensor, Vimeo gets to establish the terms and is not restricted by them. This is not duplicity, that is common business.

For those of you saying that commercial is an ambiguous term, I will put it this way — if you are pursuing commercial ends, you tend to know it. Vimeo is not attacking the weekend hobbyist who happens to have Google ads on their blog; however, they are obviously not wanting to provide gratis video service for commercial entities. If your primary interest in posting to Vimeo involves making money or supporting an activity or product that makes money, their commercial restriction applies to you.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For those of you saying that commercial is an ambiguous term, I will put it this way — if you are pursuing commercial ends, you tend to know it.

Ok. So the musician who posts a video of him or herself on Vimeo: commercial or not?

Me, posting Vimeo’s own video on Techdirt through the embed function: commercial or not?

Two separate for-profit conferences that I have spoken at in the past year posted all the videos from the event on Vimeo: commercial or not?

Or hell, let’s just take this situation. A few weeks back I embedded a Vimeo video here:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091118/0815096985.shtml

It’s a video for a song from Olafur Arnalds, a commercial musician (even if he doesn’t like to talk about money), which suggests it’s commercial use. But it was created by a fan. So, not commercial? But it’s being promoted by Olafur and his label as the video for the song? Commercial. Plus I embedded it, and this is a “commercial” site, so commercial. But, of course, I’m not selling anything related to it or trying to make money for Olafur or the guy who created the video (not commercial).

The list goes on and on, and it can be said for a very large percentage of the videos that you find on Vimeo.

Hell, I just logged into Vimeo and went down the list of “recommended picks” and almost all of them are artists, musicians or content creators promoting their own stuff — which is what they do for a living. Thus, commercial. All of ’em.

To claim that there’s some clear cut line is folly.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s a video for a song from Olafur Arnalds, a commercial musician (even if he doesn’t like to talk about money), which suggests it’s commercial use. But it was created by a fan. So, not commercial? But it’s being promoted by Olafur and his label as the video for the song? Commercial. Plus I embedded it, and this is a “commercial” site, so commercial. But, of course, I’m not selling anything related to it or trying to make money for Olafur or the guy who created the video (not commercial).

It doesn’t matter if you are selling his videos or not. You are using the video to attract people to your website, which is a commercial entity.

It is on the same scale as a television program. If the program is played to create viewers to watch ads, is the TV channel commercial or non-commercial? It’s commercial of course, the material played doesn’t have any bearing on if it is or not.

Your website is a commercial venture. Putting the videos up here is using them on a commercial site. How hard is that to understand?

When I see you have a problem with something as simple as this, it explains so much about many of your other lines of logic.

Bill (profile) says:

Vimeo

I was one of the ‘not-so-beautiful’ people who had my paid account terminated by Vimeo for allegedly violating their terms and conditions.

I respect their right to have a policy about the content they’ll allow.

My only issue with Vimeo is the arbitrary and inconsistent application of their terms and conditions. As noted above, they continue to allow many flagrant violators to remain active users and remove others who, it could be argued, are not using their video for any commercial purpose (which, is poorly defined in the terms and conditions, anyway!).

The sad thing is that Vimeo, while a rather nice service intrinsically, is shooting itself in the foot (financially) if their policy and practices continue in this vein.

I’ve learned my lesson . . . I’m seeking to work with people who are running a business first and seeking artistic expression, second. At least that way, I know that I will get what I came for and will gladly pay for.

Hasta la vista, Vimeo!

Bob Jonkman (profile) says:

Vimeo is a commercial service

A bit of paradox: Vimeo is a commercial service, so anything posted on Vimeo is used for commercial purposes (increasing Vimeo’s revenues), so Vimeo should be banning everything posted on Vimeo.

But seriously, folks…

Any time you give a third party control of your material they can do with it what they want. It may go against an up-front agreement you made with them, and you may have recourse to the courts. But in the meantime, they’ve got your video and you don’t.

If you want to be immune from these (frivolous) actions, then host your own content. Provide the video in an accessible format (.OGV or .MPG) and make proper use of the HTML “object” element, or the HTML5 “video” element.

Don’t use Flash (no guarantee Adobe will continue to support it), don’t use YouTube or Vimeo or any other service you don’t control.

–Bob.

vzaar Jamie (user link) says:

Interesting thread and not the first time that we have seen such comments and oconfusion arising.

As a video service for commerce (ie businesses that want to stream video for commercial reasons) this grey area with Vimeo is confusing a lot of users. At vzaar we respect Vimeo’s stance, in fact we love their player, but we and a lot of new customers we’re acquiring are finding this stance confusing and also surprising.

The surprise comes in the speed at which content is being pulled and I think here Vimeo could be doing a better job, but as previous comments have testified, you need to read the T&Cs when signing up to understand what IS and what IS NOT allowed. To lay the blame on Vimeo there seems a little harsh.

If anyone on here has suffered from this then we’d happily welcome you to vzaar and offer you an extended trial as a means of helping you manage your video content. We’ve been in talks with Vimeo to try and manage such handovers but these to date have not resulted in anything concrete.

All the best
Jamie

steve (user link) says:

it's very clear...

it’s very clear, right their on their upload page, no commercial videos. It’s not buried in a 20 page terms of service agreement which most people click and skip to read right or wrong.

What is odd is why Vimeo does this. but they do, hoping to gain a “non-commercial” audience. Maybe it will work. So, uploader be ware. don’t upload commercial videos to Video. Go to YouTube for that – it gets much better search bot looks anyway…

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