iCopyright Gives Online Publishers the Rights Stuff

It’s easy to steal stuff off of the Web: Just select all, cut and paste into another page. But as efforts continue to let people know that such actions are wrong, a service has emerged to help people who seek to reuse content to do so legitimately.

The company, iCopyright, is establishing itself as a clearinghouse for the administration of rights and reminder of responsibilities. “The re-use of intellectual property has been underserved and overlooked,” said company founder and CEO Mike O’Donnell. “People don’t understand rights and permissions, and there is a lot of misuse. And it has been a huge headache for publishers, as it is run manually and haphazardly.”

The modern reprint rights process is an arduous one that can take weeks–and by that time the article is out of date. Additionally, every publisher has a different structure. So a mechanism that provides instant granting of rights through a simple, universal procedure is, as they say, worth the price of admission.

O’Donnell calls the copyright symbol “one of the greatest brands ever created,” one that, ironically, is not copyrighted. The company, as it installs its variation of that symbol on client pages achieves a kind of instant brand recognition. Its presence also serves as a watchdog and a reminder that the content isn’t up for grabs.

Setting up an iCopyright.com account is free to both publishers and customers. The only cost to customers occurs when they purchase permission rights for content that is not offered free of charge. The clearances offered and the cost for each clearance is determined by publishers and varies from one publisher to another–with iCopyright.com taking a 30 percent cut of each paid transaction.

The company began with approximately $700,000 in seed funding. The first VC round, raising $2.8 million, occurred in June 1999 with support from Garage.com and CAD mogul Joseph B. Costello. A $10 million round followed in November 1999 led by Crosslink Capital with significant participation from Menlo Ventures, Times Mirror Ventures and existing Series A investors.

“People have a natural tendency to disregard copyright protection,” said Victor Votch, director for e-Business Infrastructure at the Gartner Group. “So the problem that iCopyright faces is the inertia that allows people to say ‘I can grab this.’ But most people in corporations want to do the right thing.” The secret of success, adds Votch, is for the process to be an easy one.

Beyond this, the company needs to follow its stated path of signing up a lot of publishers.

“They now suffer a brand awareness problem,” Votch said. “The only way they can succeed is to sign up a lot of folks, which will drive traffic to their site. This will result in a cyclical building of awareness.”

This, according to O’Donnell, will be no problem. The company has signed up 37 publishers, with some big announcements planned.

“Everyone wants this. Everyone we’ve approached has either signed on or is taking it under consideration,” he said.

In a Nutshell:

Company Name: iCopyright
Address: 200 Mill Ave South, Suite 600, Renton, Wash. 98055
Phone: (425) 430-4555
Fax: (425) 430-8878
Contact e-mail address: info@icopyright.com
Web address: http://www.iCopyright.com
Total Funding: $13.5 million
Investors: Garage.com, Joseph B. Costello, Crosslink Capital, Menlo Ventures, Times Mirror Ventures and existing Series A investors.

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