When paidContent.org noted last December that the Weed file sharing rights management software had been licensed by Microsoft we were pretty excited about the potential for the future of this ground-breaking approach to making money from viral premium content distribution. The future may yet be bright for the IP that Weed licensed to Microsoft but it's rather dim for Weed itself. In a recent visit to the Weedshare.com site Weed's parent Shared Media Licensing , Inc. notes that it has suspended operations of Weed for the indefinite future. The FAQ page notes that the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Media Player no longer supports the Weed rights management capabilities. Hmm, so much for coopetition. Perhaps the Weed system makes its way into a more robust DRM for Microsoft's Zune platform, but with Apple pushing to eliminate DRM altogether for music distribution the future doesn't look bright for users sharing in the profits of premium music distribution.
Yet at the same time services such as TheNewsRoom are pushing forward with sharing ad revenues for virally distributed video, audio and text content from premium sources. It's interesting that major news and entertainment media companies are waking up to the potential for viral revenues even as Microsoft and the music companies fumble with the concept. Perhaps the idea of sharing revenues with audiences is just one more wrinkle in licensing that they're not ready to deal with - and yet it's the way in which independent content creators are most likely to be rewarded quickly and effectively from viral content distribution. Seeing Weed fall into the weeds is kind of a saddening and sobering lesson but I still believe that there is great potential for viral distribution of premium content - and for the users distributing it to benefit from helping that content to find its most valuable contexts.