Vimeo announced today that its popular video hosting and sharing site will be making some important feature upgrades, all of which will go live sometime this afternoon. Vimeo Marketing Director Deborah Szajngarten, who gave us an early look at the changes, says the improvements will make the upload and viewing process that much simpler, especially for power users. Here are the highlights, and why we think they’ll make a difference.

1. New Default Preferences

Up until this point, all Vimeo users had to manage privacy, licensing, embedding and downloading parameters for every single video they uploaded to the site. That’s been one of Vimeo’s big draws. Where else can you have such control over how and where your work appears online? Now you can set those preferences once and apply them to all future posts. If you don’t want anyone touching your source files—ever—set it and forget it. You can also set this default for all your existing videos, retroactively, or just apply it to any work you post today or thereafter. Also new is the option to add one of several emerging Creative Commons licenses (see below) in your default settings. Though all users will get access to default preferences, Szajngarten says Vimeo Plus paid subscribers will have even more control. That means you can now easily make your video iPhone-, iPad- or Droid-ready, or restrict it from playing at sites you’re just not that into or worse, those that completely freak you out.

2. Unlimited HD Embedding for Vimeo Plus Members

Vimeo Plus members already get a lot for their $59.95/year or $9.95/month—a mere 16 cents/day—subscription. The fee buys, among other things, 5 GB/week of upload space (with a 1 GB-per-file limit), advanced statistics, a customizable video player, ad-free viewing and HD embedding. Now there’s no limit to and, more important, no extra charge for the HD videos you upload to Vimeo and embed at full resolution anywhere else online. If you purchased extra embedded HD plays within the past 60 days, Vimeo says it will automatically credit your account. Very nice.

3. Access to Creative Commons (CC) Licensing

This new Vimeo feature actually went live last week, but since it’s part of the new default preferences, it’s worth explaining here. Creative Commons Licensing, already in use on Flickr and in the Wiki-verse, is made up of six basic licensing options that let users share or remix content as long as they give the creator/s attribution and don’t reuse for profit (for the full list of v3.0 CC license options, go here).

What’s nice about Creative Commons is the clause that lets you, the creator and/or copyright holder, waive any of the predetermined license conditions if you decide in the future to grant permission for reuse on a case-by-case basis. Vimeo users active in the site’s Features Request Forum have wanted CC for a while, mostly so they could set clearer, automatic parameters on how their clips will be used elsewhere online. “Vimeo’s golden rule is that you may not upload videos that you did not create yourself, so this isn’t a pass to redistribute other users’ videos on,” Dalas Verdugo gently reminded users on Vimeo’s staff blog last week. “Rather, it’s an opportunity to build on a work that someone else has created with your own, unique contributions.” Still, the new feature will give everyone a lot more flexibility. You can now choose your licensing option immediately when you first post your work on Vimeo, or later on, if you notice your video is getting some serious traction and you want to avoid the resulting deluge of e-mails from viewers asking to post it on their sites. Fear not: off-site embedding permissions won’t change as a result of CC licenses. They are still related, but must be set as a separate parameter when uploading.