How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Video

As you may know, I am usually releasing my footage under the CC-BY 3.0 license. This license basically just asks for attribution if you reuse the work. There are some dangers though. What if some of your footage is used as an opening shot for a porn movie? Or what if a Neo-Nazi group uses some of your footage for their video propaganda? You see, if that’s not enough that controversial entities are using your footage, your NAME will be on their credits roll! Try to explain to CIA, NSA and FBI that you had nothing to do with it.

I had a long thought about this today, and I researched around a bit more. The CC-BY includes the following clause: “You must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author’s honor or reputation“. At first, this clause sounds good. But then, you realize that the artist’s “moral rights” (as this thing is called), are not defendable in every country. For example, in USA this protection does not always work because the “moral artist rights” here have a very specific meaning in the copyright law that only applies to some bizarre cases about photography. In Canada, some European countries and Japan, this clause could protect you. But in any case, you wouldn’t know for sure until you sue. But do you really want to go that far for a bunch of cheap footage?

So, realistically speaking, I have three choices:
1. Drop the CC-BY and use a more restrictive Creative Commons license (that’d probably be CC-BY-NC-ND, as the CC-SA does not fully protect me either). Public Domain does not help me either, because by default the PD license can be dangerous for some other reasons, plus I won’t be able to find good music to accompany my videos — using a CC-BY song with a PD video asks for trouble.
2. Hire a lawyer and write a custom license, that has bits from the CC-BY and a modified “moral rights” clause that explicitly prohibits a (legally defined) immoral re-use of the work.
3. Stop worrying about it and let the federal agencies figure out that I was not part of any “scheme” out there that might have used my footage because of its liberal license and has subsequently credited me for it.

I choose #3. Let’s live a little, give something back to the world, and let the world decide what to do with that something. You can’t babysit everyone in this world. Although I wouldn’t be happy if my footage is misused in ways that put me in trouble or defame me.

Update: My JBQ, who can read legalese as comfortably as reading Harry Potter, believes that the quoted CC-BY wording above is legally strong enough to protect the licensor from immoral adaptations of his/her works, even in US. So, we are all good. 🙂


Ivan wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 8:34 AM PST:

In the middle ages (no joke!) ‘imitatio’ was ‘the’ way to pay tribute to the past. So many artists would copy the work of masters, without putting their own name under the newly created master piece.
Nowadays, it is the other way round. Genuine artists, the true naturals, like Charlie McCarthy and Remyyy on Vimeo, post their work on the internet without worrying about copyright, while less gifted copiers will ‘sample’ existing materials and make millions out of it.
Oh… I wouldn’t worry too much about the CIA. They failed to predict the fall of the Berlin wall and 9/11…

Ivan wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 8:36 AM PST:

Run this search: Google’s Miner: We will outsell the iPhone

Isn’t that JBQ’s job?

Richard wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 12:04 PM PST:

Are you aware that “evil” people might just take your work without paying attention to the license?

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 1:40 PM PST:

Ivan, you have it all upside down. You really don’t understand how this works.

In my opinion, Remyyy, Charlie and almost everyone else on Vimeo make a MISTAKE for not explicitly licensing their work. It is not about getting attribution, it is about ALLOWING others to RE-USE your work. In the USA, and MOST other countries (including France), if you don’t explicitly license your work with a specific license, then that work AUTOMATICALLY falls under the MOST RESTRICTIVE license of the country’s copyright law. In other words, re-using without permission Charlie’s and Remyyy’s work for a remix video, would be an OFFENSE.

That’s why I explicitly license my footage, because I want to give FREEDOM to others to do what they want with it. The CC-BY is the most liberal of ALL the CC licenses, that’s why I use it. It’s not because of the “Attribution” part, but because it’s the most open of all. The Public Domain license has major problems (is not legal in some countries and has no ‘moral rights’ protection), so I stay put with the CC-BY.

>Isn’t that JBQ’s job?

No. JBQ is an engineer. But he can read legalese.

>Are you aware that “evil” people might just take your work without paying attention to the license?

Of course I am. And I don’t care. Read my comment above. I use the CC-BY because it’s the most liberal “safe” CC license of all, not because of the “attribution” part.

I am sorry for using capitals, but it kind of bothers me when people don’t understand such basic things and instead, they INDIRECTLY accuse me of being a snob or wanting my name on other people’s works (Ivan, that’s what you were doing). But in reality, all I do is CLEAR UP the legal situation and CLEARLY say that, YES, my footage is FREE. If I don’t say this, then it is NOT free from the legal point of view, and this can turn off people from re-using it, as serious people who try to find stock footage, usually search by license!

mikesum32 wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 2:18 PM PST:

Public doamin isn’t a licence, it’s a lack of one.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 2:20 PM PST:

Yes. But it’s a state that offers no legal guarantees to the creator, so I avoid it. Plus, it is not recognized worldwide, while CC has been ported in most countries. More over, there is not enough good music under Public Domain (and most of what exists, is of bad recording quality), so I can’t possibly find good music for my videos without writing it myself. So, CC-BY it is. It’s the most liberal, and most “safe” of the ultra-liberal licenses.

elai wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 3:25 PM PST:

Are you really that paranoid? I think people can tell that just because your abstract art is used by other people, it doesn’t mean that’s your message. If neo-nazi’s use microsofts clip art in their newsletters, do you think microsoft would be even thought about in the case. Nooooo.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on March 17th, 2008 at 3:28 PM PST:

Elai, yes, I am that paranoid, especially in the US, the country of the lawyers. If I was still in Greece, probably I wouldn’t give a flying monkey about it. And being on a visa here, yes, I have to be careful to not be misunderstood or it can cost me my US visa.

Michael wrote on March 18th, 2008 at 3:08 PM PST:

Nazi porn in Stanford. This is an interesting idea.

Michael wrote on March 23rd, 2008 at 9:51 AM PST:

Eugenia, you misunderstood Richard’s comment above, where he writes “Are you aware that ‘evil’ people might just take your work without paying attention to the license?”

He was pointing out that you wrote about being worried that your name might appear in the credits of a morally repugnant production, yet in all likelihood the sort of people who would use your footage for such purposes wouldn’t have enough moral character to bother giving you credit. So the scenario of law enforcement authorities tracking you down to ascertain your involvement in a questionable project is a bit of a stretch. I’m glad you came to the conclusion in #3 above: Stop worrying about it.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on March 23rd, 2008 at 11:16 AM PST:

Actually, hollywood porn movies do give credit where it’s due. They are professionals. So I would expect that they would respect the license.

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