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Lisensa Poised to Raise Profile of User-Generated Content
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Posted On November 27, 2006
A new online copyright service has entered the market with a focus on user-generated content—namely blogs. Lisensa launched this month with the goal of enabling bloggers to manage the copyright and monetization of their unique content.

"Initially, we're trying to put controls in the hands of content creators, the bloggers, to be able to do more with the work they're creating," said Rudy Rouhana, co-founder and general manager of Cambridge, Mass.-based Lisensa, a unit of Top 10 Media (which owns social networking businesses). The company's service allows bloggers to set up the terms of a license and create a mechanism to collect fees for their content, if they choose. "Our license terms right now are tailored toward the type of content that would be featured on a blog."

Lisensa appears to be positioning itself as a combination of the service providers already serving the information industry in a variety of capacities—from online copyright transaction solutions to aggregation services that help distribute content to a wide range of sources.

Well-established players in the online copyright market, such as iCopyright and Copyright Clearance Center, focus on different core audiences for their products, said Rouhana. iCopyright provides solutions for major online publishers (it recently formed an alliance with American Banker Online). Copyright Clearance Center also serves publishers as well as authors. Lisensa feels it is addressing a previously unserved content area with its focus on user-generated content.

Yet, both iCopyright and Copyright Clearance Center also offer services that help users find (and gain the rights to) their desired content. The value of such an offering hasn't been lost on Lisensa management. After forming relationships with content creators, Lisensa will work to engage buyers as well. "It's going to be important for us to create the interface for the buy-side of the equation, for the commercial media outlets to be able to find this content," said Rouhana. "We're going to start engaging with commercial media now to start understanding how they purchase today, how they would like to purchase in the future and what problems they are encountering as they move into user-generated content."

Rouhana said the goal is to help bloggers and commercial media properties connect with each other and provide wider access to their valuable content. BlogBurst (http://www.blogburst.com), an aggregation service that helps bloggers promote their content to publishers in its network (including USA TODAY and TheWashington Post) by accepting feeds from the bloggers, already does this. But Rouhana noted that Lisensa expects to cast a wider net. "We're trying to be more open-ended and be a more generic tool for users," he said. "If you want to license your work, anyone can come and purchase it, not just somebody that is on the buy-side on BlogBurst. Here, anybody who visits your blog can license it."

Rouhana said Lisensa has designed the service to make such a transaction a simple process. Once bloggers create accounts on the Lisensa site, they then submit their desired content along with the URLs of their blogs. The next step is selecting a base license and establishing the terms for their work.

In this part of the process, Lisensa supports the efforts of Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org), an organization with a goal of providing content creators with a simple and free way to copyright their material (and avoid the complexities of copyright law in the process).

Lisensa gives bloggers a choice: They can then select terms for their work by choosing a Creative Commons license, which allows noncommercial users to repurpose the content, or they can set up terms for commercial use. Creative Commons offers six types of licenses. They range from attribution noncommercial no derivatives (users can share content with others, but they must provide attribution to and link back to the creator) to attribution share alike (others can rework a creator's content for commercial purposes, but they must credit the creator and license the new work under the same terms). Full descriptions of the licenses can be found on the Creative Commons site (http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/meet-the-licenses).

In selecting the commercial terms for their work, bloggers must decide whether they want to charge for their content and, if so, the fee amount. Also, they can choose to require attribution and can require a link back to their original work; they can even allow only the use of a 500-character section of the work. Once the Lisensa terms are set up, bloggers then insert some HTML code on their blogs that will link back to the license page that Lisensa hosts on their behalf. "So anybody who visits your site, if they click on the ‘license this content' button, will go back to the Lisensa site that clearly displays whatever terms you selected," said Rouhana. "If you want [the content] to be something that can be purchased, there will be a ‘buy now' button they can click and complete the transaction." While registering blogs on Lisensa is free, the company charges a 10-percent transaction fee if a party licenses a blogger's work for a fee.

To begin the transaction, blog visitors can click on the "license this content" button, which will redirect them to the Lisensa site that displays the terms the blogger has selected, said Rouhana. If they want to purchase the content, clicking on the "buy now" button will help them complete the transaction (as they remain on the Lisensa site).

Rouhana stressed the importance of facilitating a quick transaction. "An article in The Washington Post or The New York Times has arguably a greater shelf life than the content on someone's blog," said Rouhana. "With user generated content, it's often only valuable for a short period of time. The problems we are looking to solve are those [faced by users who] aren't necessarily professional writers or professional media generators and are now producing content the commercial media is interested in. That has a different set of problems that will [help] our application differentiate itself from other copyright licensing tools."


Marji McClure is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. She also writes case studies and news features for Information Today, Inc.'s EContent.


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