Correction: See Article
Content licensing company iCopyright has opened up a beta of their new, free service targeted at bloggers and other content creators on the Web. Entitled iCopyright for Creators, the service holds a great deal of promise for those seeking an easy way to encourage reuse of their content while protecting their rights.
The company, which typically handles licensing for large organizations such as the Associated Press and Reuters, is making a version of their service available for free to smaller content creators and it includes the ability to perform both paid and unpaid licensing as well as providing other tools to facilitate the licensing process. .
Though only one of the more recent entrants in the race to help bloggers better license their content, iCopyright is a well-known and well-respected company in the licensing field and it brings with it some serious weight and reputation as it seeks to give smaller content creators similar powers and tools those available for large corporations.
How the Service Works
The basic premise behind iCopyright for Creators is very similar to other licensing services such as RightsAgent in that it tries to simplify the licensing process while providing protections for both the content creator and the licensee.
The iCopyright system works by having copyright holders register for an account with the service. During that process, they select a series of licensing terms and services that they want to offer. Their list of current options includes the following:
- Reproduce for Non-Commercial Use (Free)
- Create Derivative Works for Non-Commercial Use (Free)
- Reproduce for Commercial Use (Paid)
- Creative Derivative Works for Commercial Use (Paid)
- Contact the Creator for Other Permissions (Contact Form)
- Discuss the Work (Contact Form)
- Subscribe to the Creator’s Blog or Newsletter (Via RSS)
The tag then appears on the site where visitors can click on it to access the licensing terms offered on the site.
If a user selects one of the free options, they are immediately taken to a page and provided with a special link to use to provide attribution. The URL leads to a profile page, similar to this one, that includes a short bio of the author, a link to a more extensive bio and the terms the work was licensed under.
If a user selects one of the paid licenses, they are then taken to a very similar page, complete with a similar link, but a link to pay for the use via PayPal. The PayPal link sends the money directly to content creator, completely bypassing iCopyright and any licensing fees from the company (Note: PayPal fees will still apply).
Finally, the user selects either the contact, discuss or subscribe options, they will either be taken to a contact form or redirected to a specified URL depending upon what the content creator selected in their control panel.
In all of the cases above, the option descriptions can be modified to fit with the site, though the actual licensing terms can not.
All in all, iCopyright for Creators is a very compelling solution for individual site licensing needs, especially those that need more than what Creative Commons can provide.
Lots to Love
In general, the iCopyright system is a simple, powerful and elegant solution to a very complicated problem. Every element of the process has been refined and simplified to make it easier on the parties involved.
For example, signing up for the service is a simple process requiring just a few steps. Outside of the typical username/password creation, you also provide personal information, such as your address and phone number, as well as bios and information about yourself for display on their site.
The process takes only a few moments, especially if you already have biographical information available, and is very well explained throughout. For users, the licensing terms are clear and the process of obtaining rights to a work is presented through a very clean, non-intimidating interface.
However, the features that I am most excited about include the following:
- Great flexibility: You can choose what licensing you want or do not want to offer. You can offer only paid options, only free options, no derivative works or just require that people use iCopyright’s forms to contact you about any and all licensing.
- Contact Forms: One of the “hidden” features is that iCopyright for Creators provides you with hosted contact forms so readers can discuss your work with you for any reason, not just licensing. Great for sites that can’t run their own contact forms.
- No Fees: iCopyright directs all PayPal payments to go directly to the content creator and does not take a “middle man” fee. They are considering other methods of monetization.
- Double Protection: The use of third-party licensing pages provides protection to both content creators and licensees. It prevents copyright holders from going back on a license they provided and licensees from overstepping the terms they agreed to and claiming they had permission.
- Practical Attribution: Finally, the service provides clear, simple terms for what constitutes attribution. This avoids many of the controversies seen with Creative Commons Licensing.
iCopyright for Creators has a great deal to offer bloggers and other Webmaster. However, that isn’t to say that the service, especially the beta, is perfect in every way. There are a few caveats worth pointing out.
Correction: The terms of the iCopyright Licenses ARE human editable. That alters or mitigates against many of the reservations below. Please keep that in mind as reading on. See comments for further information.
It is worth pointing out that the iCopyright for Creators service is currently in public beta and that many of these issues may be straightened out before the final release. These comments are intended to be a part of the feedback process and to help users decide if they want to participate in the beta itself.
With that in mind, I do have some reservations about the current incarnation of the system. If I had complete control over the process, I would strongly consider changing the following things:
- SEO Issues: The current attribution system does not link back to the original work. This can create SEO problems as the licensed copies appear to be duplicate content and can directly compete with the original posts. Furthermore, with the current layout, it takes two clicks to find a link to the original site from a licensed copy and the default attribution box is not a clickable link. This comes from iCopyright trying to serve both print and Web licensers, but an HTML-based attribution box would be a nice addition.
- Paid Licensing Oddities: Those who are very interested in paid licensing may be unnerved that the license URL is provided before the payment is sent. Payment is handled on something of an honor system and enforcement is completely a function of the content creator.
- Creative Commons Incompatibility: The terms of iCopyright’s licenses are wholly their own and are incompatible with Creative Commons. This site, for example, can not use iCopyright for Creators because there is no Share-Alike equivalent and no means to allow free commercial use.
- Missing License Options: As mentioned above, there are some licensing options you can not select, such as free commercial use or GPL-like conditions. You can alter the description of a license, but not the actual license terms or its name.
- Terminology: Many, especially bloggers, may be thrown off by the use of the name “tag” to describe the footer iCopyright users add to their content. The term tag already has other meanings and this may cause confusion in some cases.
With the possible exception of the SEO issues, these should be very minor concerns for anyone interested in licensing their work who desires terms that are compatible with what iCopyright has to offer.
For the most part, these are all small prices to pay for a free service that provides simple, clean and effective copyright licensing, especially from such a trusted name.
Overall, I am very impressed with the iCopyright for Creators system. It is clean, easy to understand, flexible and effective. Best of all, it is completely free.
However, perhaps the greatest attribute iCopyright brings to the table is its name. Though not well known among bloggers, they have been in business for over a decade and are partnered with many in the mainstream media. They have a great reputation with both large content creators and those that routinely license content.
Though the system is not perfect and there is room for improvement, it is a compelling option, especially for sites that want content licensing that sits somewhere between a liberal Creative Commons License and all rights reserved.
Considering that the site, the service and all aspects of it are free, there is little harm in signing up for an account and seeing if iCopyright is a good fit.
If it isn’t, you can always not add the tag.
I won’t be using it on this site due in large part to the license incompatibilities, but it is an option I will gladly consider for other sites I work on and advise for.