Lisensa: Licensing Content Creatively

Update: Lisensa is now closed and has been replaced by RightsAgent.

Creative Commons Licenses have become indispensable to Webmasters looking to allow some reuse of their work. They have eliminated many of the hassles and fears that come with a more open copyright policy and simplified sharing on the Web.

However, CC Licenses paint uses in fairly broad strokes. While necessary to maintain simplicity, it makes them virtually useless for commercializing your work. Though you can allow or deny commercial use of your content, you or an agent acting on your behalf has to negotiate the terms of any commercial use if it is not openly granted.

Enter Lisensa by Top Ten Sources , a new content licensing service that allows content creators to monetize Creative Commons licensed material while offering the same level of control and simplicity that the traditional CC licenses have always offered.

This familiarity and simplicity may make Lisensa a powerful new tool to control and monetize content, that is, if it can overcome a few hurdles along the way.

How it Works

Lisensa is a simple service to use.

You start out by registering your account and supplying the usual information (username, email, etc.).Once you are registered and confirmed your email address, you can sign into your account and then you can register a “source” or a site.

To do that, you simply provide the RSS feed for your site, a name for the source, a generic category and some tags that describe it. Currently, you can only register sites with RSS feeds though accepting non-RSS content is a planned feature.

Once you’ve done that, you select the terms for your site. First you select your Creative Commons License, ranging all the way from “All Rights Reserved” to “Attribution”. Then, if your license does not allow commercial use, you can select special commercial terms.

Those terms include the ability to refuse all commercial uses, to require attribution/link or the receive payment for the use. If you opt to require payment, you can select the price for the work, including both the annual subscription fee and a per-post fee.

Once that is done, you simply add a button to your site and any visitor can click on it to pull up your terms of reuse. From there, if you opted to require payment for commercial use, they can click the “Buy Now” Button and purchase the right to reuse the content.

The basic Lisensa service is free but it will take 10% off of any sale, which will also be less PayPal fees.

All in all Lisensa, for a service that is free to the vast majority of bloggers, provides some very powerful features that, without a doubt, will be very appealing to many bloggers.

The Good

Lisensa is definitely an interesting addition to the Creative Commons License. Though it adds little to the non-commercial side of the license, Lisensa’s landing pages refer non-commercial users to the original license, it adds a great deal to the commercial side letting content creators specify prices, specific uses and even collect payments.

Lisensa also allows bloggers to change licenses on the fly, without altering their HTML code. If you have second thoughts about your license choice, you can go back and modify it without altering the button on your site in any way. This is certainly comforting to anyone who does not have reliable access to their site’s template or may not be comfortable editing it.

Lisensa also keeps track of the history of license changes, better protecting both the content creator and the user in the event there is a dispute. If you change your license to prevent commercial use and someone, say a splogger, comes by the next day and takes something for that purpose, you have proof of when the changeover took place. This is a service it provides all members, including those that don’t sell their works through the service.

Finally, Lisensa, takes care of the legal side of licensing works for commercial purposes, handling all of the contracts and paperwork. This eliminates the need to find a lawyer or a stock contract to make your works available to potential buyers.

But while Lisensa does many wonderful things, it is not perfect, especially in its current incarnation. It’s a young service with a lot of room to grow.

The Problems

As it exists right now. Lisensa is a fairly limited service.

First off, it can not parse any content other than RSS feeds. Second, though users can set prices for individual posts, buyers can not yet purchase them (though they can purchase the yearly subscriptions). Third, there is only a one-tier pricing structure meaning that a small blog and the Washington Post pay the same price for your material, despite the obvious differences in size and stature.

These are all things that Top Ten Sources plans on addressing in future upgrades to the service. However, currently, each of these things remain a major hindrance to the service.

The biggest issue many will have is whether or not Lisensa provides any service worthy of its ten percent cut. After all, anyone can create a similar page with a PayPal button and keep the money. Though many will find Lisensa’s legal services and license history tracking service to be worth the fee, others may not.

The greatest question, however, will be exactly how readily this product will be taken up by buyers. Unlike BlogBurst, which signed deals with major commercial publications, Lisensa relies on bloggers being able to promote their own material. Whether or not commercial users regularly locate Lisensa content and purchase it through the system will have to be seen over time.

Despite this, Lisensa is an interesting addition to a growing and diverse field of content licensing firms. This fact alone has drawn many interesting, if inaccurate, comparisons.

Comparisons

If comments to the TechCrunch Article on Lisensa are any indication, the service is already being compared heavily to BlogBurst, another licensing service.

However, the comparisons are a bit unfair as the two services are very different and can actually work hand in hand. With BlogBurst, bloggers put their content into the system and publishers that have a pre-existing agreement with BlogBurst choose the material they want from the pool of available works. The bloggers that get used the most get paid according to a leaderboard system they recently set up.

Lisensa, on the other hand, lets bloggers set their price and is open to any interested party wanting to make commercial use of a work. However, it requires that the publisher find the content independently and buy via the Lisensa button (there is no storefront available at this time), this can make it harder for Lisensa bloggers to get their work in front of the eyes of major publishers.

However, the since neither of the two systems require an exclusive contract nor have competing methods of distribution, both can be used at the same if desired. In fact, Top Ten Sources encourages all bloggers to license their material “using as many services as possible”.

The more accurate comparison would be with Scoopt Words, recently covered on this site. However, Scoopt Words does not let bloggers set the price tag for their content. Rather, they have professionals negotiate the best terms possible for the blogger. Though this eliminates the need for a tier system and can maximize the amount earned per sale, it increases the friction of the process and is much of the reason why Scoopt takes a 25% royalty from each sale instead of Lisensa’s 10%.

Most likely, those two services would be incompatible, simply because they both involve direct negotiations with publishers but through two different pricing schemes. Though there may not be a legal reason one can’t use both, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to do so for practical reasons.

Still, even then the two services are so radically different that comparisons seem unfair. Scoopt operates more like a traditional literary agent where Lisensa acts more as a cash register, ringing up sales and passing along the money.

All in all, there’s no service like Lisensa available right now and definitely no service that integrates so closely with Creative Commons Licenses. If nothing else, it definitely is a system well targeted at bloggers.

Conclusions

Personally, I’m very excited and hopefully about Lisensa. I think that the idea, overall, is very solid and that it could easily appeal to a lot of bloggers and other fans of Creative Commons Licenses.

However, right now Lisensa seems to be very limited in nature. It’s missing key features that would make me comfortable licensing my work underneath it. Still, I am going to follow the service closely and, as it grows and improves, may very well jump on board to give it a try.

What gets me the most excited about Lisensa is that it’s a company that is genuinely excited about sharing content in a productive way. They understand that CC Licenses are meant to be frictionless, making the exchange of rights as simple as possible, and have taken that in to their service.

It will be interesting to see how this service evolves and how it is taken up by both bloggers and publishers alike. If it grows in the direction it is planning, it could be a very exciting time ahead for for content creators and users alike.

 

Tags: Attribution, Content Theft, Copyright, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Law, Creative Commons, Plagiarism, RSS, Scraping, Splogging, Splogs, Lisensa, BlogBurst, Scoopt, Scoopt Words

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