Monday, January 23, 2012

It’s 2012. Does anyone still care about copyright?

Unless you were living in a cave last week, you know the answer to this question. Regardless of your view of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or Protect IP Act (PIPA), it is clear that most people instinctively believe that content creators have a right to monetize their work.  There is a general consensus that piracy is wrong.   The real debate is about how to make acts of piracy rare outliers without inhibiting the viral flow of content across the internet.

Everyone wants his or her ideas and creations heard, promoted in some way large or small, and to receive proper reward for unique expression. It shouldn’t matter whether the creator is a big movie studio with billions invested in blockbuster movies or an individual blogger typing away in a bedroom. The power of the network makes it possible for even the smallest voice to have a wide audience. A wide audience and a unique creation can bring profit as well as pirates. It’s that way in the physical world as well as the digital world.

Since the overwhelming majority of people agree that content creators should be rewarded for their work, allowing people to easily “do the right thing” is the greatest anti-piracy formula of all. iCopyright is dedicated to enabling content owners (whether large or small) and content users to transact easily, instantly, and economically. With iCopyright, digital publishers can promote the viral distribution of their articles while still getting compensated wherever the articles travel.

The primary barrier to addressing piracy for articles on the web is not inadequate regulation or technology -- it is the inconsistent approach most publishers take to the distribution and monetization of their content. Many publishers unwittingly encourage infringement and suggest that their content is free for the taking. You can’t profit from your creations if you don’t set consistent expectations and make compliance easy.

Whatever becomes of SOPA and PIPA, we’re delighted to witness an enhanced awareness of copyright and piracy. If you are a publisher of articles, the technology already exists to promote, protect, and profit from your content – just visit  Publishers of all sizes should take advantage of this moment in time to assess how their websites promote their rights and make it easy for users to reward them for their creations.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Long Tail of Syndication

Safely Distribute Your Content to a Universe of Web Sites.
Get Paid for Every View. Track the Lifecycle of Your Creative Works. 

For as long as publishers have been creating fresh content, others have wanted to reuse and republish that content (with attribution of course).  Why should every publisher cover the same story when the facts are the same and the interest is universal?  Why not allow your brilliant editorial to shine on many pages? Why not extract new revenue from a resource you’ve invested time and money in?
Big publishers have been syndicating their content for generations—well before the World Wide Web. But the business of syndicating content has been remarkably arcane and fraught with anxiety and endless negotiation. And it has continued to be largely confined to big publishers and big websites. 

In a world where there are tens of millions of websites, even the most distant voice in the wilderness can have something meaningful to report to the wider world. Likewise, the Web makes it possible for big publishers to push their content deeper into those millions of smaller sites—and feel comfortable about doing so.

iCopyright believes that publishers large and small have much to gain from taking the sludge out of the syndication business, and we are bringing content syndication out of the dark ages and into the light.  We have made a few tweaks to the same high-powered syndication and licensing services that we offer big publishers who enjoy IT staff support and have unleashed these services as a packaged tool for the three leading open-source content management systems.  Our WordPress plug-in, Drupal module, and Joomla extensions are available now and installable with just a few clicks and no IT expertise.

We call these modules the “all-in-one money-making tool” and you’ll find more details on our web site at  With this combination of plug-and-play article tools plus syndication, we are creating a new kind of marketplace where big and small publishers can come together, creating what we call “Long Tail Syndication.”

What makes this different from other online content syndication services that have come (and in many cases fallen) before?   Here are just a few:

·      The originating (upstream) publisher sets a CPM price for each view. iCopyright keeps track of every view and manages the accounting between upstream and downstream publishers.

·      All syndicated content is distributed with iCopyright’s patent-pending article tools that are linked to the licensing services of the originating publisher. 

·       Smaller publishers don’t need to learn the arcane art of licensing and syndication to get started.

·       Bigger publishers can quickly and easily establish syndication agreements with many smaller publishers.

·      You never lose track of where your content goes. Not only can iCopyright track authorized syndicated uses, our Discovery service can locate those that are unauthorized, protecting the value of your syndication business. 

We hope you’ll join our network! 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does Your Web Site Suggest that Your Content is Free for the Taking?

The Print Email Share buttons adjacent to your copyrighted content may indeed suggest to your readers that they are free to reuse your content in any way they choose. Worse, a reader who reposts or redistributes your content (perhaps even profiting from it) may defend his or her actions by asserting that your article tools facilitated and even encouraged the reuse.


If you care about protecting your content from misappropriation and unauthorized distribution, you must read Wendy Davis’s “Blogger Sued by Copyright Troll Argues He Had ‘Implied License’” on MediaPost. Like any alleged copyright infringement case, there are unique twists to this particular situation, but aside from the legal issues there is a very simple business issue: Your content is valuable to others and they will use it to their advantage if you let them.

So why not let them? Let your readers reuse your content in ways that you approve, and set clearly defined limits on those reuses so they can honor your copyrights and reward you for your creative efforts. This is the idea and the practice behind iCopyright.

In the case of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Righthaven, as discussed in the MediaPost article, the publisher offers familiar Print This, Email This, and Save This article tools at the top of its articles as well as a dizzying array of Save and Share buttons at the bottom. One can easily understand why the blogger in question (and dozens of others who have been pursued for their reuses by Righthaven) assumed the publisher encourages reuses.

For example, the Print This and the Email This tools do not mention any limitations on these uses. It would seem that anyone can print and email any number of copies for any type of use, personal or otherwise. There are no publisher terms of use displayed, except those provided by the entity that manages the tools. The plethora of share options leads one to assume that anyone is welcome to share the content in any way possible—including scraping the text and posting it to a blog. Nothing at the website suggests that this is not acceptable to the publisher.

The alarming thing to most publishers and users is that a newspaper website that has taken such a laissez faire approach to the content it owns on a platform it controls would hire a third-party to chase after alleged content thieves with such vigor without first gently prodding them to observe copyright law.

All of this unpleasantness can be easily overcome when a publisher deploys the iCopyright service. Had the Las Vegas Review Journal deployed iCopyright, here’s what might have happened instead:

• A reader identifies an article worthy of reposting to his blog. He sees the iCopyright article tools at the top of the article, including a Post button.

• He clicks on the Post button and discovers that he can post the full article on his blog for free, for one month, supported by advertising that is served up by the publisher and iCopyright. Or, if he wants to post it for a longer term, or without advertising, he can pay a modest fee for a license to do so.

• He also notices that there is reminder to “Honor copyright” that is hyperlinked to a brief overview of the principles of copyright law and fair use. Reviewing these, he decides that his intended use is not really a fair use, since he wants to post the complete article.

• There’s also a Publisher’s Terms of Use statement that he has to agree to before proceeding.

• He ponders his options and then sees that there is an interactive copyright notice at the bottom of the article. Clicking on that, he sees that there are several other reuse options. He decides to get the free post. Maybe at a future time he’ll select a different option.

• With a few clicks, he completes the license for a free post and places this on his blog. The free post is nicely formatted, with a handsome logo of the publication and the publisher, preserving the branding. There’s also a copyright notice at the bottom and hyperlink to a license record that includes the name of the licensee and the type of license.

• When his readers see the article reposted from the original site, they can navigate back to the original publisher’s site and also obtain additional reuse permissions of their own. Slick. And viral.

• The blogger is happy; the publisher has preserved his copyright and branding and can be comfortable knowing that there is a valid license for this reuse. The publisher has also earned a modest fee from advertising—probably equivalent to the value of having the blog’s readers visit the publisher’s site directly.

Suppose the scenario above did not go quite as outlined? What if our blogger had clicked on the Post option and decided to ignore the terms of use and instead just scraped the content and reposted it without using the iCopyright tools?

We have an answer for that—our content infringement detection service, Discovery. Publishers who deploy iCopyright’s article tools have access to a state-of-the-art program that scours the web searching for unauthorized copies of their content and automatically sending out remedy notices. It is highly unlikely that a publisher who has deployed iCopyright’s tools would hear the “implied license” defense!

For more details about how iCopyright’s article tools promote and protect online content, see our white paper on Maximizing Revenue and Minimizing Piracy.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

iCopyright Processed Four Million Instant Licenses in 2009

It's that time of year to assess how we did over the last 12 months and set goals for the New Year. The iCopyright system processed four million instant licenses in 2009, a 400% increase over 2008. As I write this on December 31, 2009, the system is processing about 25,000 licenses each day. At this rate, we should hit 10 million instant iCopyright licenses in 2010. "10 in 10," a catchy goal statement.

Most companies would be thrilled with this kind of growth. I am not. I look forward to the day when iCopyright is processing one million instant licenses each and every day. I won't be happy until we get there. I am frustrated with how long it is taking.

The problem is not the technology -- it is designed to scale just fine. The problem is not user disregard for copyright -- we have already proved that most users will respect creator and publisher rights if a simple (and affordable) mechanism is made available to them. Quite honestly, the problem is the creators and the publishers themselves. They whine about infringement of their content, but many do nothing about it. They don't implement the solutions that are available to them. Every piece of content that is published and distributed without an instant license mechanism attached to it, is another example of how people become indifferent about the rights of all content creators.

I hope 2010 is a better year for content owners. I hope more of them stand up for their rights and for copyright as a constitutional principle afforded to all creators.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's Happening at iCopyright?

It has been such a busy Fall, we have not had much time to blog or post news releases. A number of colleagues have emailed us to ask what's going on. No news is usually good news, but so many things are happening these days, people want to know if we are keeping up. We like to think we are running ahead! Here's a brief summary of what we have been doing:

New Publisher Accounts
A major focus for the company is always on bringing new publishers live. New live accounts include Dow Jones Reprints, The Canadian Broadcast Corporation and Glacier Media. Many more publishers, large and small, are in the pipeline and expected to go live with iCopyright early next year. 

New (C)reator Accounts
Independent content creators continue to register and apply their free (c)reator tag to their works en masse. A sampling of creators that use the service are featured here.

Discovery Searches for Large News Providers
The launch of our content monitoring and infringement detection service, Discovery, has gotten a lot of publishers curious about where their content is being used on the web. How many people see it? How many people copy and republish it? We've been running custom searches for large publishers. They are impressed (often amazed) at the results, especially with the opportunity to better engage those readers and monetize those copies!

Support for Associated Press h-News Microformat
The Associated Press recently announced a new microformatting standard called h-News. The new format enables anyone producing news content to provide certain identifying information that search engines can find more easily, and communicate usage rights. iCopyright's Article Tools and Instant Licensing Services have been configured to fully support the new standard. Publishers that adopt the h-News microformat will be able to easily deploy iCopyright’s services without making any additional changes to their internal content management systems.

New Corporate Licensing Services
We continue to devote substantial resources to improve the iCopyright platform and pioneer all-new services for information publishers and the organizations that want to use their content. A suite of new services for corporations and universities is launching in Q1 2010. The beta of our "one click corporate permissions and billing service" is launching this week. More info on our expanded services for commercial users can be found here.

New Website & CMS Plug-ins
We are excited about our new website because it does a better job of showcasing what we do. The new site was created using Joomla. We are also creating sites in Drupal and Wordpress. Why do that, you ask? To test new plugins (some people call them "widgets," modules," or "extensions") that enable websites created with these CMSs to implement the iCopyright Article Tools and Instant Licensing System with a simple download and install. Over the last 12 years, the iCopyright technology has been geared towards large publishers with sophisticated and proprietary content management systems. The new plugins will allow a much larger number of web publishers to use iCopyright. Rah!

New Peer and Support Networks for Publishers and Creators
We recently launched peer networks for publisher clients and creator using the Ning social networking platform. The iCopyright Publisher Network is a private network for publishers that have implemented iCopyright. The network allows publisher rights and permissions staffs to network with each other; keep up on best practices, and interact with the staff of iCopyright. The iCopyright Creators Network is an open network for all independent creators interested in protecting, syndicating and monetizing their content.

Business Development: Global Copyright Network
We just returned from China, where we met with publishers, technology companies and government agencies about localizing iCopyright for the Chinese market. We are also working with prospective partners in Europe and Australia. We have long had the vision of an integrated global network for copyright protection and licensing. Any content, any language, any currency -- all enabled with a point-of-contact licensing capability. Wherever content goes, its copyright rules and licensing cash register go with it. Each year we move a step closer to that vision.

Whew, that's what we've been up to. How about you? We hope you have a fabulous holiday and a prosperous New Year!

P.S. Did we mention that iCopyright was named to the EContent Top List of 100 Companies that Matter Most in the Digital Content Industry -- for a third year in a row?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Harvard Study: Strategies to Fight Ad-Sponsored Models

Will the news industry's obession with charging for content work?  Maybe, maybe not, according to a new study by Ramon Casadesus-Masanell of Harvard Business School and Feng Zhu of USC's Marshall School of Business. The study examines the business models of over twenty companies divided into four categories: pure fee-based models like iTunes; pure ad-sponsored models like Facebook; mixed models like; and tiered content models such as

The study finds that once a free, ad-based competitor enters a market, rivals offering mixed strategies loose their relevance. The best strategy is to commit to one monetization method: ad-sponsored or fee-sponsored business model. "When there is an ad-sponsored entrant, the incumbent is more likely to prefer to compete through a pure, rather than a mixed, business model because of cannibalization and endogenous vertical differentiation concerns," according to the study.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Attempts to Game the iCopyright System Thwarted by Good Checks & Balances

We were contacted this week by a number of publishers and reporters about publicized attempts to "game" the iCopyright system. They wanted to know what measures are in place for minimizing fraud and inappropriate uses of the system. This post explains the checks and balances that ensure the integrity of the system.

iCopyright is an automated system for obtaining both free permissions and paid licenses to copyrighted content on the Web. It also provides article tools for content that may or may not be copyrighted, such as Print, Email, Post, and Save. Each publisher decides which tools to deploy and how they are configured, to best serve their audience.

The system is deployed on millions of articles published by the wire services, newspapers, and b2b websites. iCopyright Creators is also used by thousands of freelance writers, bloggers and photographers. Before the web, obtaining copyright permissions was an arduous, manual process, taking days or weeks. iCopyright was designed to make the process of acquiring rights to use copyrighted material fast and simple. The system was also designed to make it easy for users to share content, while preserving the publisher’s brand, format, links, and in some cases, their advertising. The iCopyright system processes more than 25,000 voluntary licenses each day.

We emphasize the word "voluntary" because the iCopyright system does not force anyone to acquire a license. It’s an honor system. People and companies decide for themselves whether it is appropriate to get a license, depending upon how they intend to use the content and how much of the content they intend to use. Respecting the ecology of the Web, iCopyright does not restrict the free flow of information or constrain the fair use of copyrighted content. Instead, iCopyright operates on the principle that individuals and companies who may want to make productive use of another party’s intellectual property will be respectful of the effort that went into creating the content. Every content owner also enjoys certain rights under the law, so corporate users in particular want to be legally compliant with copyright.

Most people and companies use the iCopyright system because they want to do the right thing. This is the core principle of the system's design: Let creators and publishers publicly declare their ownership in their works, and allow others to quickly and easily acquire rights to use them when those uses go beyond legitimate fair uses. The system provides education and help at every step of the process. It explains the honor system for copyright licensing and provides information on fair use and fair dealing, so that users can decide for themselves whether their intended use of the content requires permission or not.

Not surprisingly, some people may try to game the system. It's not fool proof, but it does provide reasonable checks and balances. First, users must agree to the publisher's terms of use and iCopyright's terms of use before the license is issued. The license is invalid if a user does not abide by the terms. The act of “gaming” the system is in and of itself a violation of the terms. Second, most licenses granted by the system are reviewed by a human being. When a user is caught gaming the system, the license is revoked and refunded. Third, and most importantly, the iCopyright system issues a public record identifier with each and every license. The license identifier allows the people who see the content to validate that the provider has a valid license from the owner. It's a community-policing feature. The publisher does not necessarily have to police the licenses granted to their content. Those who see the content can police it. People keep other people honest.

To illustrate this patent-pending feature, the following is an excerpt that has been properly licensed from a white paper:

"In the digital age, content travels to all corners of the world via the web and digital devices in a nanosecond. It is instantly indexed and syndicated by millions of publishers, bloggers, and aggregators. It is subsequently downloaded and passed along to others by billions of users. This is both a blessing and a curse for creators because they can easily lose their ownership rights and their ability to monetize their works." - Excerpted from iCopyright News

The word "Excerpted" links to the public record, where you can see that it is a valid license. Had Mike ODonnell tried to game the system, the public record would show that the license has been revoked and that he no longer has a valid license to be using the excerpt. This license validation feature works whether one is using all or part of a publisher's material. A user of copyrighted content via iCopyright either has a valid license or they have no license, and it is easy for everyone to see. So the next time someone posts content belonging to another party and claims they have a license via iCopyright, you can check the public record to see if it is a valid license. If they fail to post the validation link with their reuse, then it is automatically invalid because that is a breach of the terms of use.

The iCopyright system, like any system, can be gamed. But it provides publishers and users with reasonable checks and balances to ensure a high degree of voluntary compliance, and to catch those who are not using the system properly.

Most people appreciate the value iCopyright provides for instant licensing of full articles for commercial use. Some people dislike the idea of having to get a license for excerpts, or for educational or non-profit uses. We believe each publisher has the right to decide what types of licenses are appropriate, and what to charge for them. We don't set prices or terms, the publishers do. Many publishers offer educational and non-profit discounts via the iCopyright system. Most also offer a limited number of free uses. Also, see our previous post on excerpt licenses.