In a recent thread on, a video contributor described how he had been denied iStockphoto’s video exclusivity contract because he currently has content (one video) on, a video hosting site, sort of like youtube.  People use Vimeo a lot for “how to’s” and “behind the scene demos” as well as experimental and final footage clips.

The rejection for exclusivity from iStockphoto read:

Exclusivity denied as member has files posted at which grants that company a royalty free license to your files. Please contact us when the files have been removed and we can then reset your application.

Interesting.  One would think this would be like flickr or facebook, where one uploads and agrees to grants rights for the display and usage on the site, but nothing past that.

From flickr (Yahoo):

the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available.

Well, it’s easy enough to check out Vimeo’s terms of service.

Hmmm…. Overview… Blah blah… Refunds….  Ahhh, submissions.  Let’s see.  Holy Heck!

By submitting your Submission to VIMEO, you hereby grant VIMEO and its affiliates, successors and assigns a worldwide, perpetual, non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable (through multiple tiers) and transferable license (with a right to create derivative works) to use, copy, transmit or otherwise distribute, perform, modify, incorporate into other works, publicly perform and display your Submission or any portion thereof, in or through any medium, whether now known or hereafter created. VIMEO shall be entitled to unrestricted use of any Submission for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise, without compensation to the submitter.

So, you are granting them a license to do whatever they want, including sell or otherwise license your content, worldwide, forever!  Ok, maybe not forever.  That bit about perpetuity was probably just a sloppy lawyer.  A lower bit says:

the licenses granted by you herein shall terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete such Submission from the Site

So, as long as you have content on the site, they are free to do whatever they want with your work wherever and however, without compensating you.  Heck, they can license it themselves, or distribute it to others to license for whatever use.

I wonder what they have to say about their intellectual property rights grab.  You would have thought this kind of thing has been publicized enough that this would have been written out better.

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11 Responses to Rights Grab?

  1. taavet says:

    Hey Sean, thanks for warning! I was just planning to create&upload my showreel to vimeo. Guess it will be no option anymore as i am exclusive in istock. I am just wandering-where i am allowed to upload my showreel without violating my exclusivity terms?

  2. My favorite line in the TOS is:

    emailing us at [EMAIL CONTACT]

    Um, can somebody fill in the form?

  3. Glen says:

    Note that Vimeo yesterday shut down the discussion of this issue on their forum:

    It’s odd to me that they claim they need to do this for “legal reasons and technical realities” but evidently those realities do not apply to other content-sharing services. Either Vimeo is correct, and other services that do not have such draconian clauses are somehow vulnerable legally, or they’re pulling a fast one and planning on using member contributions as a revenue stream in the future. Their “trust me” response gives me no comfort.

  4. Looks like I’ll be reconsidering a Vimeo Pro subscription.

    Thanks for bringing this to light!

  5. What I’m curious about is what if you license it under creative commons with something like the “Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike” then upload it to Vimeo. Can they just circumvent one copyright with another?

  6. We’re working on clarifying the TOS as we speak. Due to the complicated nature of rewording a legal document, it’s not going to happen overnight, but we want to make sure that the language reflects our intent. We have been online for four years and have never been accused by a user of misusing their content.

    dalas verdugo
    Community Director –

    • sjlocke says:

      That is good news for all Vimeo users, especially iStock contributors who wish to be exclusive. Please let us know when you’ve completed the review and changes. Thanks.

  7. […] Video Sharing Site? Since I broke the news about’s very flexible (for them!) Terms of Service a week or so ago, with regards to an iStock […]

  8. Emil Herrera says:

    I just read the TOS – nothing has changed. This is an increadible rights grab on VIMEO. I just read this warning on another site, then I found your explanation. Everybody should know about this!!!

  9. For shame!!!!! For shame!!!!! Vimeo needs to get its act together. Its sad their TOS are so procrustean and oppressive to users.

  10. shigga says:

    The extract – “By submitting your Submission to VIMEO”… – only applies to non-video submissions so I assume for Vimeo hosted contests etc.

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