I looked at one web site that was providing some pretty cool videos about marine life. I wanted to see if I would be allowed to embed their videos in my blog, so I read their license. The license said that the videos were only for "temporary, noncommercial, educational use." What a minefield! If I were to make a blog post, does the "temporary" requirement mean that I have to delete it at some point in the future? If I only store on my hard drive for individual use, exactly when would I have to delete it? As far as "educational", would a blog, celebrating the sea, written by a layperson constitute a sufficiently "educational" purpose? As far as "commercial", would a blog with ads constitute commercial use? Is a blog with no ads (but reference to a for-profit enterprise like Blogger/Google) sufficiently non-commercial? Yikes!
Similarly, a lot of video sites provide embed links to a video. It is my understanding that use of the embed code would be covered under fair use, and furthermore I'm making comment on the videos, and using a link provided by the site that goes back to the author's web page. (IANAL). But suppose there were a professional, scuba-diving videographer, whose sole income was based on his or her videos. How many of these links could I use before I start to take away glory from his or her page at the video site? Would use of embed codes on a site with ads constitute commercial use and ultimately detract from his or her income? Do you think I'm crazy to worry?
Flickr has always billed itself as a "photo sharing" website. Every photo had its own web page, which included a prominent button inviting the visitor to "Blog This!" The current FAQ still says, "Flickr and blogs go together like Captain and Tennille". There was a controversy that erupted about ten years ago where professional photographers objected to their work being spread across the web without their permission. Flickr eventually caved and a staffer clarified that the Blog This button was to be seen as a convenience for those users who had made prior arrangements with the photographer over the conditions of use of their work, not as a blanket permission. I remember someone came up with the solution of "You can always contact the photographer." Oi, vey! I'm imagining that videos posted by companies like National Geographic or the Discover Channel are similarly frought with danger.
That being said, I utterly detest actual piracy. Alex Wild, an entomologist who relies on his award-winning photography for income, has repeatedly complained about pesticide companies that take his photos, cut out watermarks, and even misrepresent the species of the ant. Major uncool.
Is there another way? Suppose you gave up and only made use of video links that you had alicense to use. Fortunately, there is such a thing. There are Creative Commons licenses, such as attribution which explicitly give one the right to:
- Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
- Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
- for any purpose, even commercially. The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.
- Kickstarter is "a new way to fund creative projects." People with all kinds of artistic and humanitarian ideas are able to make public appeals for funding. Some of these videos are quite cool. I cannot imagine that these entrepreneurs would be upset if every blog in the world embedded the videos for their appeals.
- Advocacy groups While organizations like the Sea Shepherd Society or the World Wildlife Fund have a right to the intellectual property on the creative works they produce, their mission is ultimately one of advocacy. Videos are meant to be seen. If more people see their work, more advocacy is accomplished. It seems unlikely that they'd complain about "excessive fair use" of their work.
- Government agencies. If the Parks Service prepares a video on how well they are protecting a reef, I doubt they'd be upset if too many people made use of that video. If NOAA prepares an educational video on the data they collect, I imagine they'd be happy if it were widely distributed.