Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ave Atque Vale: Valeo IP Closing Operations by Early September

It's never a happy day when a company calls it quits, but it's especially sad to hear that Valeo IP will be closing its doors come early September. The company's ownership has decided based on its performance to close up shop, with clients given support until the September closing. Valeo IP caused quite a stir in the industry upon its launch with some innovative marketing ideas, enough to catch the attention of major players in the copyright compliance and relicensing industry and some high-visibility clients. But at the end of the day its messaging and product development became enmired in its legal dispute with Data Depth Corporation over the licensing of Data Depth's "iCopyright Tag" and Instant Licensing Software. The legal matter was never resolved conclusively and could have dragged on indefinitely, a difficult burden for a company managing intellectual property rights to bear.

While on the surface this is a victory for Data Depth Corporation and its investors, it is a victory that came at a fairly high price. Both Data Depth's and Valeo IP's efforts and reputations became damaged in this test of wills, to the benefit of not only Copyright Clearance Center and other content relicensors but also new players looking for marketing opportunities in content licensing. In the opportunities column lurk players such as Google and Microsoft that are focusing on how content gets monetized regardless of its copyrighted status. Many of these opportunities will come after content has been delivered, rather than beforehand, as distribution becomes increasingly commoditized into a utility service. Through this post-delivery view of content the "relicensing" business is being transformed from residual revenues extracted via awareness of legal enforcements into a fertile field for many forms of primary and add-on revenues, with copyrights being but one of many devices to be used for claiming those revenues.

The technologies that Data Depth brings for managing the awareness and licensing of copyrighted content are valuable components but it will take more than good features to claim victory in the marketplace. Recent court cases may bolster the spirits of copyright holders but it's far from clear that copyright in and of itself is a powerful monetization vehicle in the electronic era. It will take a clear vision of where the use and monetization of both copyrighted and non-copyrighted content is moving to create a framework that can benefit audiences as much as copyright holders in generating revenues from content that's already in the hands of licensees. In the meantime best of luck to the staff of Valeo IP as they consider their next moves.
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