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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    B's Opinion Only (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 11:52am

    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?


    People who are stupid enough to blindly agree to contracts without reading them are often surprised.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 11:55am

      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...

      Me: NO.

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 1:16pm

        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...

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:00pm

      Re:

      The surprise isn't that Vimeo is doing whatever the hell it wants with the service. I mean, that's basically a given no matter what service you're using.

      The "surprise" is that Vimeo seems to be actively sabotaging itself to provide a worse service than the current market leader YouTube.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:13pm

      Re:

      These agreements need a clear bullet point list of the contract terms that acts as an index of the contract.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 1:59pm

      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.

       

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        The Anti-Mike, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 2:45pm

        Re: Re:

        Does it have advertising on the page? Commercial service.

        Does it charge access? Commercial service.

        It is used as part of a business? Commercial service.

        Mike, some days you are the Guru, and some days you just seem to play dumb.

         

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          ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 6:14pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Does it have advertising on the page? Commercial service."

          Really? Every website that uses googleads is a 'commercial service?'

           

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            The Anti-Mike, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 6:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Shocking, but yes.

            Google ads generates income (or at least attempts to generate income. Income makes things commercial.

            The income may be very small, but there is still a business angle.

             

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              Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 7:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

               

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              ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 8:13pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "The income may be very small, but there is still a business angle."

              EVERYTHING can be construed as having a business angle, if you think about it. That's the frakin' point.

               

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                The Anti-Mike, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 8:43pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                 

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                  Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 24th, 2009 @ 9:12am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                   

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                    The Anti-Mike, Dec 25th, 2009 @ 10:48pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                     

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                      Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 28th, 2009 @ 9:19am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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

                       

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    Colin Scroggins, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    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.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Why prohibit "commercial" use?? I don't get it. A totally restrictive advertising deal maybe?

     

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    Kevin (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    While I disagree with the practice

    As any type of company which allows this type of activity I would be afraid of being sued out of existence too.

     

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    identicon
    :), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Copyright is such a drag

    Maybe they are scared.

    But maybe they could be linning up a some new "features" to make somebody pay something who knows.

     

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    PRMan, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Vimeo performance

    I didn't think it was possible for a video service to be even more sluggish than YouTube, but the fact remains that YouTube plays on my netbook and Vimeo does not.

    They really shouldn't be trying to find even MORE ways to cut down their usefulness.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 2:15pm

    In other news, the sky is blue, and and The Investigation Team reveals that Mike is actually a blonde trying to make sense of this crazy, strange world he lives in.

    Details at 11.

     

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    Colin Scroggins, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 3:23pm

    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.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 3:56pm

      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.

       

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    Nina Paley, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 3:52pm

    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.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 7:33pm

    Hmm...

    Isn't Vimeo the hosting site of choice for students in visual effects, filmmaking, motion design, etc? I know it is among some college students I know here, anyway. So when does that become commercial? Most of them will be using the clips they host there in their online portfolios to apply for jobs...

    Silly Vimeo.

     

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    Colin Scroggins, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 9:38pm

    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.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 10:48pm

      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.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 11:03pm

        Re: Re:

        By this logic almost any video on Vimeo that gets embedded or even linked to is now commercial speech if the embed is on a commercial site.

        Also I just found a Vimeo channel that teaches you how to use Adobe products. http://vimeo.com/channels/abc If that ain't commercial I don't know what is.

         

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        The Anti-Mike, Dec 27th, 2009 @ 11:06pm

        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.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 28th, 2009 @ 4:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          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.

          Ok. Thus, by your impeccable logic, Olafur's videos are commercial, and thus, he should not be allowed to put them on Vimeo.

          You've just killed Vimeo. Good job.

           

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 9:39pm

    Any video that you make that you post on Vimeo is promoting your skill at making videos, which you will use to make big bucks. So, all-inclusive, it's impossible to upload a video to Vimeo for non-commercial purposes.

     

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    Bill, Dec 24th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    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!

     

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    RobShaver, Dec 26th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Blip.tv does the same thing

    I know personally that Blip.tv dropped all the videos for a company with no warning because, they said, they were commercial. I respect their right to do what they wish with their service but some warning would have been polite.

     

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    Bob Jonkman (profile), Dec 26th, 2009 @ 11:56pm

    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.

     

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    vzaar Jamie, Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 4:35am

    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

     

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    steve, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 11:55am

    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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