Services to help you license and monetize your content have been coming out of the woodwork these past two years. Several companies, ranging from major players to small upstarts, have entered the market of helping bloggers and Webmasters manage their digital assets.
But which one, if any, is right for you? It’s a tough question with no easy answer. Every site and every situation is different and the services often work in radically different ways.
To make that decision a little bit easier, I’m offering this guide to the seven biggest players in the field right now. I will add to it as new companies enter the market and old ones go.
So, without any further ado, here are the seven major players helping individuals license their content.
Update: Lisensa has been closed and is replaced by RightsAgent.Lisensa, operated by TopTenMedia is a relative newcomer to the content licensing field.
To use Lisensa, one first registers for an account and then selects a license for their content. Once the license has been selected, the user then adds a badge to their site that directs visitors to a copy of the license. If payment is required for some uses, Lisensa also directs the visitor to a payment page where they can buy the right to use the content, either for an individual work or a year’s subscription, for a fee set by the member.
Pricing: For this service, Lisensa charges a 10% fee on all transactions. For accounts that do not require transactions, meaning commercial use is allowed without payment, there is no charge.
Conclusions: Lisensa is interesting because it works with existing Creative Commons Licenses by helping to monetize and clarify commercial use. Though it’s current flat pricing system may not work well for many since it charges the same for a small journal and the New York Times, it’s a fast, easy and cheap way to monetize and license content.
Update: Scoopt Words has ceased operations. Though Scoopt has been licensing photographs for over a year, Scoopt Words, its service aimed at bloggers has been in business for less than half that time.
Scoopt Words operates more like a literary agent than any other provider. Members of Scoopt place a small button on their site and anyone who is interested in licensing the content will be directed to Scoopt’s agents. Those agents will, in turn, negotiate with the buyer to get the best price possible based upon the nature of the work, the desired use of it and the publication involved.
Pricing: Scoopt Word’s service does not come very cheap, it charges a 25% fee to compensate for the labor-intensive process.
Conclusions: Like many other services, Scoopt Words works with Creative Commons Licenses. On the downside, Scoopt Word’s licensing process is more challenging than most and may frustrate some buyers. However, Scoopt Words is likely a good solution for bloggers that anticipate their work being picked up by either a wide variety of publications or ones that might be willing to pay a great deal more money.
When BlogBurst first appeared on the scene, it generated a great deal of controversy for some of its policies. However, as the service has evolved, it has answered most of those initial concerns and even instituted a payment system for its members.
BlogBurst is different from other licensing services in that it doesn’t pay members directly for content used or rely on buyers to first visit the site or blog. Instead, the service contracts directly with both bloggers and major publishers, such as Reuters and USA Today, and gives publishers direct access to the content. Publishers can use as much or as little as they want from this pool of content and the top 100 bloggers are paid in accordance to their reward program.
Pricing: BlogBurst is completely free to join but not all sites are accepted. First, only blogs with full RSS feeds are eligible (though one can create a separate and hidden FeedBurner feed for that purpose) and there is some editorial control.
Conclusions: Overall, BlogBurst is a free and easy service to participate in. It is compatible with both Creative Commons Licenses and many other licensing services. Though the rewards structure of BlogBurst may not be right for some, most have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. In fact, even if one doesn’t get paid for their membership, there is still a chance for broad exposure as all BlogBurst articles are attributed according to strict standards.
Users register for the service and then either type or paste their premium content into the Yepic editor. Once they save it, they can either select to distribute the work for free or sell it for a fee. The fee can be anything over $1. The content is listed in Yepic’s internal marketplace or can be sold using links and buttons on the user’s site or blog.
Yepic provides very little in the way of flexible licensing. Since the service is targeted at end users, a work is either free or for sale. There is no distinction between types of reuse as reuse is not directly addressed.
Pricing: On works that are for sale, Yepic operates on a tiered billing system that can collect as much as 90% of all sales on less expensive and less popular works or as little as 25% on more popular works.
Conclusions: Yepic is an easy-to-use and free to try service that is currently in private beta. Though many will be turned off by its price scheme and cumbersome editor, others will find it an easy way to monetize premium content in situations where self publishing houses such as Lulu are too much.
Numly users can assign ESNs to individual works. Those ESNs can, in turn, be assigned a variety of copyright terms including Creative Commons Licenses and individual copies of a work can be licensed to individual people or companies. ESNs also store either a fingerprint or a copy of the work (depending on the format), information on the author and a reference URL.
Pricing: Numly is free for its most basic account, which allows 3 ESNs per month. Professional accounts, which allow for 100 ESNs, start at $4 per month or $60 per year.
Conclusions: Numly is easily the most simple non-repudiation service available, especially if you use either the WordPress or Firefox plugin. However, Numly does not provide any assistance in monetizing content and, instead, focuses on protecting and certifying it. Furthermore, its free account is crippled to the point that a professional account is almost a requirement.
Still, for those interested and willing to spend a few dollars, Numly provides great tools for protecting and verifying content and combines well with the related services Vouchor, Docly, Raply and Tagly.
Previous Coverage (Formerly known as ESBN)
First, as the name suggests, Registered Commons works closely with the Creative Commons organization and can apply Creative Commons Licenses to all submitted works (though it can apply other licenses, including All Rights Reserved and the GPL). Also, like Numly, it fingerprints and records author information on a work, including moral rights information for attribution.
Registered Commons also provides a PDF certificate, a grid number, similar to an ESN, and a hash code for verification.
Pricing: Registered Commons is completely free though it does offer some paid services, including printed certificates. It also offers a WordPress plugin that can submit posts in a semi-automated way.
Conclusions: Registered Commons is a relative new service and a very exciting one. It’s relationship with Creative Commons gives it a built in audience and its price can not be beat. However, many will likely be put off by the complexity of filing a registration (it can take several minutes to register a single work).
However, the service is growing and improving. It will be very interesting to see where this product goes.
Copyright.com, or the Copyright Clearance Center, is the grand daddy of all content licensing services and the only one of this list not previously covered before. It is mainly used as a rights clearinghouse by publishers but has also opened up its doors to individual authors.
Registering a work with Copyright.com is a cumbersome process involving mailing in several physical forms. However, you can grant permission online and set up most of your rules electronically.
Copyright.com allows perhaps the greatest flexibility of any content licensing service. You can set costs per page, per copy and distinguish between commercial, non-commercial and academic use. You can grant or deny on a case-by-case basis or sign a broad agreement with the Copyright Clearance Center so you aren’t required to approve or deny every request.
Pricing: For their services, the Copyright Clearance Center retains between 15%-25% of all fees collected. Registering with the service is free.
Conclusions: Copyright.com is a well-respected and professional service that many major publishers use. However, their application process is too cumbersome for most bloggers and Webmasters. In the end, this service is best targeted at authors of lengthy works who expect to get a large volume of copyright requests but can’t use Creative Commons Licenses.
With so many different services available. Finding one service to fill all of your needs is nearly impossible.
Fortunately though, most of the services are compatible with one another and are not exclusive. Though some will not play well together, Lisensa and Scoopt Words for example, most can cooperate and be used at the same time.
It’s your content and your hard work. You should license it in the way that best achieves your goal and not let yourself be locked in to one or two services, especially when they are in such different areas and work hard to avoid stepping on one another’s toes.
Take some time, look through the list and find a strategy that works for you. If you can think of a service that I missed, leave a comment below and I’ll add it soon.
Note: Absent from this list is, of course, Creative Commons Licenses. Though I have a strong fondness for CC licenses, it’s what I use on all of my sites, I left it off because most of the services above hook into CC Licenses. Furthermore, most who are interested already know about CC licenses. I wanted, in this article, to go beyond that and cover services that either add to or CC licenses or provide a new licensing scheme.
Tags: Attribution, Copyright, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Law, Creative Commons, Lisensa, Plagiarism, Scoopt, Scoopt Words, Numly, Registered Commons, Copyright Clearance Center, BlogBurst, Yepic