Deal Radar 2008: ImageSpan

This story was written by Sramana Mitra.
The world of copyrights and content licensing is a mess on the web. Plagiarism runs amok. People tend to be very cavalier about stealing content. In this installment of the Deal Radar, we will look at a company that attempts to put some structure around the evidently unmanageable content licensing and monetization issue.

ImageSpan, our featured company, was conceived when the company's founder and CEO, Iain Scholnick, was in a meeting with a digital content asset management company.He decided to come up with a way to make digital content flow from creator to final consumer with all the necessary information required to carry out a transaction.Scholnick decided to tackle the massive and complex problem of managing and monetizing digital content on the web, thereby benefiting everyone in the supply chain.

Together with Jeff Shear, co-founder, CIO and domain expert for digital imaging and rights management, Scholnick formed ImageSpan in 2003. The company's goal is to address the complexities of managing and monetizing intellectual property, including the payment of royalties,in the highly distributed environment of a Web 2.0 world. Their product LicenseStream, a digital content licensing platform, enables participants to communicate and exchange media assets and metadata including licensing terms with automatic consent.The service is available to both enterprises and individuals.

In February 2007, ImageSpan raised its Series A round of financing led by legendary media investor Alan Patricof and his venture fund Greycroft Partners.Also participating in the round were Ron Conway's Angel Investors and Village Ventures.The amount of this round has not been disclosed by the company. An $11 million Series B was financed by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI),New York City Investment Fund, City Light Capital, Ackerley Partners, and their previous investorsin June 2008. ImageSpan is based in Sausalito, California and has offices in New York and Atlanta.

The company works on a subscription and transaction fee structure.For LicenseStream, enterprises pay 5% per licensing transaction (10% for LicenseStream PRO). Subscriptions to LicenseStream Creator Servicestart at $39.99 per year; the average price for this service for individual digital content creators is about $100.Through partnerships with associations like the Wedding and Event Videographers Association (WEVA), ImageSpan has thousands of subscribers, but were unable to provide us with exact numbers.

Their products are also available to Adobe customers worldwide via plugins from within the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Creative Suite 3 software. Since much content gets massaged and manipulated within Adobe's Creative Professionals suite of products, the Adobe partnership is a vital piece of ImageSpan's strategy.

ImageSpan provides a content licensing platform for companies like Omnicom, Zimmerman Partners, Sports Illustrated, TAKKLE, and Visible World. ImageSpan differs from other companies in the industry (RightsLine, GumGum) in that itoffers a platform for all types of content like music, video, images, and text, and thatits licensing services are accessible via Adobe products.

LicenseStream addresses several issues which affect the current media landscape establishing ownership, licensing and monetizing digital content, rights management and protection, and distribution of royalties to all stakeholders.When asked about the value added by using ImageSpan's services,Scholnick said,"Until now, content partners couldn't move forward with other partners on projects because it took too long to work out the licensing agreements. They were frozen on one piece of the transaction, which is in the exchange of payment for the content. What was needed is a global backbone solution that addresses this issue. This is th value we bring, and the value recognized by our global partner Bertelsmann." ImageSpan was selected as an OnHollywood 100 Top Private Company Award Winner in May 2008.

The company declined to provide any revenue or financial guidance.

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By Sramana Mitra