In short, when a user applies one of the six standard licenses, which range from "attribution" to "attribution with noncommercial and no derivatives," it gives those who intend to use the video elsewhere a specific set of rules for what they can do with it--all without having to first contact the creator for explicit permission.
Creative Commons licensing has been available for some time on a growing number of video- and photo-sharing sites, though besides Yahoo's Flickr (and in places like Wikipedia) it's been out of the mainstream spotlight. But as Vimeo Marketing Director Deborah Szajngarten explained to CNET in a call last week, Vimeo users had been pining for it.
The option, which goes live Tuesday afternoon, can be set at the time a user is uploading their video or afterward and will show up on the video page where users can see whether they can download the source file. Szajngarten said licensing will not affect the service's off-site embedding permissions, which will remain a separate but related element.
At launch there won't be a way to search Vimeo's library by CC type, though Szajngarten said that it's on the road map. Photo-sharing site Flickr has such a feature in its search engine, and it makes for an easier way to weed through the service's large library for something that can be used elsewhere.
Besides CC licensing, Vimeo is at work on another feature that frequent users are likely to enjoy. Next week, the company plans to launch "global settings," which will let both free and Plus users toggle various video options that they'd normally have to set at the time of upload, or after the fact, to occur every time they upload a video file. Users can do things like write in tags, credits information, what groups to post to, and whether to make the video playable on mobile sites. "A lot of creative professionals are using Vimeo for versioning or dailies," Szajngarten said. "This will make their life a lot easier."