Legal Implications

By posting your content on vine, are you automatically allowing others to remix it? The short answer is yes.

User Rights

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. In order to make the Services available to you and other users, Vine needs a license from you. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). (Terms of Service)

The original content you post, according to this, is yours, but Vine can use it because by posting it you allow them to license it. Because remixing– reusing someone else’s audio with your video– is a function of the Vine app, this is also covered under the terms of use. 

Original content on Vine is generally not copyrighted (except in certain cases, as mentioned earlier in the “Duck Army” example), but posting already copyrighted material on Vine has created some problems for the app. Though not on the same level as YouTube in terms of takedowns, Vine’s collaborative culture does raise questions about how copyright should be viewed and enforced on the app.

What constitutes violation of copyright on Vine? 

We reserve the right to remove Content alleged to be infringing without prior notice and at our sole discretion. In appropriate circumstances, Vine will also terminate a user’s account if the user is determined to be a repeat infringer. (Terms of Service)

Vine has a fairly straightforward procedure for copyright holders to report infringement as outlined in their Terms of Service; however, whether a Vine can actually infringe on copyright is a separate, and somewhat contentious, issue.

On March 22, 2013, NPG Records, Prince’s record label, filed a Digial Milennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint against Twitter, who owns Vine (Bea). NPG Records sent takedown letters to Twitter regarding eight Vines that were recorded at a concert. The letters alleged that the clips from the concert violated copyright. The users who had uploaded the Vines complied with the request to take them down (Knibbs).

Some argue that Vines cannot infringe on copyright because they are so short– only six seconds long. Therefore, they argue, Vines that use copyrighted material should be covered under Fair Use.

Applying Fair Use to Vine

Fair Use, writes Ali Sternburg of the Disruptive Competition Project, “is the most important and most prevalent exception and limitation to the exclusive rights recognized by copyright law to authors and owners of creative works.” It allows use of copyrighted content for the purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” (Sternburg). It has a precedent of being used in numerous cases involving online content.

Because Fair Use is so flexible, its interpretation is often inconsistent. This, some argue, is a strength of Fair Use. However, it makes bright lines difficult to identify. Sternburg outlines this conflict through three examples of court cases involving Fair Use. The first, Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films, et. al. (2005), ruled that in order to sample, one must have a license. Second, Newton v. Diamond (2003), involved a six-second sample of three notes, which the court eventually found that the sample was not long enough to have the originality needed to be actionable. Finally, SOFA Entertainment v. Dodger Productions (2013) involved the use without license of a video clip of Ed Sullivan introducing The Four Seasons. The court ruled that there was no basis to claim infringement of the clip because its use in a new context was transformative, saying, “This case is a good example of why the ‘fair use’ doctrine exists” (qtd. in Sternburg).

The transformative quality of a Vine leads some toward the conclusion that Fair Use should apply to Vine. Vines often recontextualize a copyrighted clip, so that instead of being a performance of a song, a Vine might make an argument through remix. This creative repurposing of content on Vine makes it easier to construct an affirmative fair use defense: “[C]ourts may be more inclined to rule that material like Vines fall into fair use law if they show an element of obvious creativity instead of just skirting the edges of infringement” (Knibbs). When a Vine creates something new, it can be covered under Fair Use.