YouTube Cuts Content Creators out of the Value Chain with Move to Creative Commons Licensing

YouTube is adopting a Creative Commons License and encouraging users to opt-in to the most liberal CC License so that their content can be used in mashups.

Why does YouTube want mashups? Is it out of the goodness of its heart? Is it because it really enjoys all those talking animal videos? Nope. It’s because once you are in the CC License, your content doesn’t get a revshare. YouTube is creating an economy that cuts the creator out of the value chain.

Right now, if you upload content to YouTube, you get a cut of the ad revenue that your content generates. If you are LockerGnome, that adds up to some pretty serious money — enough to keep the lights on and feed your cute pets, and possibly have something left over for Star Wars art. If you opt in to the new license, however, all of the views that are generated from derivative works make you nothing. So those videos from a leading tech analyst that should have been edited down to three minutes rather than 12 minutes of rambling, or video of walking down a hallway, can be fan edited to make for better content, but neither you, nor the fan, make any money.

If you are using YouTube as an advertisement, and just want to get your video views, this model might make sense. Release the latest version of your next hit single and hope that people use the audio in a video that goes viral so everyone buys your album. This is what’s most likely to happen: you release your music video and people cut it to pieces and make fun of it. If you haven’t noticed, YouTube isn’t so much of a warm community as a bunch of people who happen to be in the same place, and will become an angry mob with the slightest provocation.

Here’s what’s making matters worse for content creators: once you put your content in Creative Commons, it doesn’t have to stay in YouTube. Your upload that you intended to be used for mashups on YouTube is suddenly now fine to “pirate” to Metacafe,,, or anywhere else — as long as they give you attribution. This includes converting to shiny disc or selling MP3s.

Quite literally, if you did release your upcoming hit single to YouTube under this license, I could download it, put it on a CD, sell the CD at Walmart, and only give you credits on the label.

I can’t actually come up with a scenario where this model is good for the content creator.

  • Andrew Jamison

    You only get revshare if google accepts you as a “partner” otherwise you get nada. You have to have large views like Lokergnome to get in to the Partner program last I checked

  • Thomas Frank

    I suppose it all comes down to what you’re trying to get out of uploading a video. Personally, I love people who upload photos under a CC license on Flickr – I can use them on my blog. With videos, I’m not so sure.

  • Michael Markman (Mickeleh)

    Brandon… how does the revenue flow here? Are you getting a share?

  • Zagorath

    Woh, woh, woh. Slow down dude. You clearly don’t have a CLUE what Creative Commons is about. This is a great way to help content creators who WANT to allow people to use their content (and potentially gain more exposure because of it), but at the same time want credit for their work. Personally, I would like more control than what YouTube allows, as my license of choice is CC-BY-NC-SA. YouTube (so far) only offers CC-BY. However, I feel that this is a great step on the way to allowing users more control over their own content.

    • Anonymous

      Well put

  • Anonymous

    I’m a YouTube partner, and I use Creative Commons content in my videos and selectively attach CC licenses to videos on YouTube. So allow me to give my take on this, and where this blog doesn’t quite succeed.

    The first problem is, as Zagorath points out, that the author doesn’t seem to understand what Creative Commons is and how it is used by content creators. This is understandable, by trying to work in harmony with copyright legislation that makes it difficult to share content, CC uses six licenses, and it takes two or three minutes of concentration to get your head around – too long for most people, but recommendable if you are going to post a blog about the subject.

    The purpose of creative commons is twofold – it offers a pool of content for creators to draw on for new creative works, with clear guidelines that make it easy for reusers to adopt without violating the rights of fully protected content (most often, commercial content). The other purpose is that it allows people without access to conventional content distribution networks, such as radio, television, or commercially sponsored web based advertising and featuring, to get their own works seen and enjoyed, either for the reward of having your work seen without return, or in the hope that allowing others to distribute your work for you will raise your own profile. Basically, it is there as a way of authorizing viral distribution of content, for those who wish to go that route.

    Of course CC offers different licenses to prevent modification, or prevent monetized reuse so artists don’t lose out on revenue, but YouTube has chosen, I am guessing primarily for the sake of initial simplicity, to go with the most open license that allows complete freedom to remix and monetize such work. It’s up to users to choose whether they are comfortable opting in. While it is definitely a bad idea for people concerned about how their video is reused, or privacy, or who are making revenue off an existing video, choosing a CC-BY license might not seem like such a good idea. However, for the vast majority of people who don’t make money off YouTube, or partners who have old content no longer gaining views, and who don’t mind seeing what interesting things others can do with their work, they benefit at least from the increased profile they will get from the reuse, which of course has to be with attribution to the creator.

    The second problem, that I find even more baffling, is that the author appears to have an extremely narrow definition of “content” and “creators” that I’m afraid I don’t understand entirely. Even more baffling, the author doesn’t seem to understand YouTube, or the partnership program.

    To put it simply, a small but growing minority of commercial or high profile content creators on YouTube receive personal invitations to join the partnership program where they can receive a cut of the revenue earned from their videos. For the vast, VAST majority of partners, the payments they get would barely fill a tank of gas each month. Of the hundreds of millions of users of YouTube, the number of people earning enough money to scrape a survival off YouTube and nothing else is a countable number. It would be roughly the top half of the globally most subscribed 100 partners.

    These people are clearly content creators of course, but the definition used here seems limited to them, which is not really accurate.

    Although there are content creating media companies like NHK, BBC, Al Jazeera, Wikipedia, that use CC licenses, and commercial artist like 9 Inch Nails who distribute their work with CC licenses, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of people who create CC content on the web are amateur, who do not expect to make much money, and enjoy the “social” experience of sharing creativity with others on the web through direct collaboration, or making their work open for others to use and adapt. Even if I wanted to put Brittney Spears music on my videos, I probably couldn’t negotiate licensing rights even if I was willing to pay. But there are plenty of bands just happy to be heard that license their music in a way that allows me to share it for them on my videos – and more people find them as a result. Some don’t like doing that without reward, some don’t mind, and some use creative commons strategically as a way to boost their profile.

    Point is that creative commons allows commercial content creators, and sharing content creators, without remixers having to step on the toes or infringe protected commercial content.

    The suggestion to give up hope of finding social communities on YouTube, the suggestion that CC-BY licensed content that is reused is “pirated”, and suggestion that ordinary people lose money from this – this isn’t just factually incorrect. The tone appears directed to actually discourage ordinary non-commercial digital content creators from using the web – and is borderline trolling. There are plenty of arguments to put for and against using the licenses. People should learn them and understand them before writing something that reads like deliberately misleading propaganda.