Today YouTube announced on its official blog the introduction of Creative Commons support:

Have you ever been in the process of creating a video and just needed that one perfect clip to make it pop? Maybe you were creating your own music video and needed an aerial video of Los Angeles at night to spice it up. Unless you had a helicopter, a pretty powerful camera and some fierce editing skills, this would have been a big challenge. Now, look no further than the Creative Commons library accessible through YouTube Video Editor to make this happen. Creative Commons provides a simple way to license and use creative works.

Actually, YouTube had tested the implementation of Creative Commons licenses already more than two years ago (see Creative Commons blog) but has shied away from introducing it as a general feature until today. That this has now finally happened is celebrated by many Creative Commons sympathizers in the blogosphere under headings such as “Why YouTube Adopting Creative Commons Is a Big Deal” and, of course, Creative Commons officials.

I tend to agree that YouTube’s move might be the final breakthrough for Creative Commons into mainstream culture and maybe even the business sphere. Not just because creators are now finally allowed to choose at least one Creative Commons license (CC-BY) for their content hosted on YouTube, but because of the additional features YouTube is promoting such as the cloud-based YouTube Video Editor mentioned already in the blog quote above. This demonstrates that in the cloud, Creative Commons licenses may actually constitute the basis for additional features. Only with Creative Commons licenses YouTube is able to offer its users the possibility to online remix and mash-up thousands – soon probably millions – of videos from other creators online in the cloud. YouTube might thus contribute to making Creative Commons support a standard feature of many of the upcoming cloud services.

A lot of discussion, I expect, will follow with regard to the decision of YouTube to (at least initially) only allow the most liberal Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY). This choice by the most important video platform on the web will definitely have an impact on the licensing decisions of a huge number of content providers. For example, universities producing Open Educational Resources such as the MIT Open Courseware program that want to host their content on YouTube will be tempted to rethink their often very restrictive licensing policies (see also “Money Buys You Standards“).

Other consequences of this licensing decision are the following: for one, CC-BY allows YouTube (and anyone else) to also make a profit with such content. I am curious to see, what entrepreneurs are going to make out of this opportunity. For another, CC-BY is compatible with the license of Wikipedia and its sister projects, which are licensed CC-BY-SA. We can therefore expect to see much more video content being embedded in Wikipedia articles in the future.

All in all I guess this decision could be a turning point in the history of the still young Free Culture Movement.