Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lisensa Leverages the Creative Commons Model to Simplify Copyright Management and Monetization

The Creative Commons system for establishing general licensing terms for online content has been the hobby horse of proponent Lawrence Lessig and other free content enthusiasts for several years, but it's a system that seems to get more lip service than use at times. The key gap is that while Creative Commons license "deeds" define when people may reserve full copyright for commercial uses the Creative Commons system itself does little to facilitate the conversion of those opportunities into revenues for a publisher.

The announcement of Lisensa may herald a closing of this gap. Lisensa is a new service that facilitates both the licensing of content for commercial use and the collection of use payments. A publisher can identify a Web site URL to be managed by Lisensa and then specify the terms of its commercial use. You can specify no commercial use, use without limitations or use with specific limitations - similar to the Creative Commons deed structure. In the "Yes but" option, though, the publisher can request attribution, a link-back to the original post, use of only a 500-character "fair use" snippet from the piece and whether payment is required for an annual subscription or per-post. Once this information has been specified, Lisensa generates HTML code that can be inserted into the online publication to generate a link back to Lisensa to manage the commercial licensing process. Lisensa takes ten percent of whatever commercial transaction transpires, if there is in fact money changing hands.

With spam weblogs mushrooming and individuals becoming more aware of the commercial potential for their self-published content a system such as Lisensa may offer an appealing way for independent media producers to have a clear path to monetizing their content that doesn't require a fleet of media lawyers to "do the deal." Unlike services such as Copyright Clearance Center and iCopyright, the emphasis in Lisensa's approach is on facilitating primary content licensing via commercial publishing partners instead of content relicensing by individuals and institutions using content for purposes other than commercial publishing.

With a networked world of publishers and republishers the model of Lisensa offers some important lessons for how publishers can approach the user publishing community more effectively without finding themselves dealing with new permutations of the Legg Mason lawsuit. It also offers some lessons for content relicensing companies, which need to consider how to position their capabilities in a world that is creating new publishers every minute via weblogs and other social media services. Lisensa may not be the most sophisticated license manager in the world but as with weblogs themselves sometimes simplicity is a virtue that can gain you a lot of mileage in the marketplace.
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