Each of these sites have their own sets of terms and conditions governing use of the content to the site and what you may or may not upload. Popular examples of these sites include YouTube and Flickr for video and photo uploads, respectively. The reason why you, as a content creator, should be careful when you post to these sites is that once uploaded, your content may be licensed for use in ways you did not intend it to be used. An example of this was recently covered in the iCommons blog:
Buzznet.com – serious theft, beware,? writes kmye-chan, a French graphic artist who found her works copied without permission by Buzznets users. Kmye-chan is angered, not just by people copying her works without permission, but also by the Buzznet system, which by default licences all works under a CC Attribution licence.
The gist of her argument is as follows: copying of works without attribution or permission is common on the internet. No big deal, I immediately think. Most of them didnt give credit, so I was going to ask them to credit me, she said. Proper attribution is all she usually cares about, because she feels that the rules of copyright serve as a hindrance to further copying of her works.
But through default open licensing with CC licences, the unauthorised copy becomes available under quite liberal conditions, to which the original author has not agreed. While regular copyright hinders further downstream copying through its all rights reserved rule, CC licensing on this type of site presents the unauthorised copy as available, often even for commercial reuse.
I think this is an important criticism: that the use of CC licensing, upon infringement of the downstream copies of a work, makes the unauthorized copying even more damaging to the author of the original piece.
It is ironic that a site that uses Creative Commons licensing would be subject to criticism for violating users’ own licensing conditions but this is just one example of a more pervasive risk. If you intend your content to be licensed in a particular way then you really need to do your homework and review the terms and conditions applicable to the site you are uploading to. More and more sites do support a variety of licensing conditions (Flickr and Zoopy.com [the Zoopy.com reference has subsequently been added as yet another excellent example of a file sharing site that embraces Creative Commons licensing – disclosure: Zoopy.com has been a client of this firm] are two good examples – they allows you to license your photos using a variety of Creative Commons licenses) and if you would prefer your content to be licensed under a specific license then check to see whether your preferred site supports that license.
The alternative is blindly uploading your content and, by doing that, granting a different license to the service concerned that you didn’t originally intend to grant. Basically, you give rights away that you originally wanted to retain. It is worth taking a few minutes and review the terms and conditions of the site concerned (or have your lawyer review them for you) before you make use of the service.