In Focus: iCopyright, Inc.

Article ImageiCopyright is a business built for publishing in the 21st century. iCopyright, which is short for Intelligent Copyright, boasts an 80% market share of major publishers and newswire services in the United States. The company is not resting on its laurels, though; it recently expanded its reach to Canada and Europe and continued to enhance and launch products throughout the past year.

More than 1,000 publications currently use iCopyright services, and a similar number have signed up to implement the company’s products. The iCopyright symbol and links appear on more than 50 million web pages a month, a number that’s expected to grow to 1 billion pages a month in 2008, based on the number of publications that have signed on to the service.

The Seattle-based company features two products in the copyright space: 1) iCopyright for publishers of newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, and 2) Clip&Copy, a news-alerts and press clippings service of content that includes the legal rights for copies and reuse for consumers. iCopyright currently transacts about 5,000 copyright permissions and licenses each day, a number that is expected to grow to more than 100,000 per day in 2008, based on the publications that have signed up to implement the company’s products.

iCopyright has invested more than $25 million to build and deploy the iCopyright and Clip&Copy technologies, and the company has seven patents pending in the field of automated copyright licensing and permissions.

“Copyright is the foundation upon which all content is created,” says CEO Michael O’Donnell, who founded the company in 1998. “In the same way that a deed controls property rights and provides a framework for buying and selling tangible property, copyright controls intellectual property. Without this framework, copyright would not be enforceable and would become irrelevant in the digital age.”

The company’s goal is to become the copyright symbol of the 21st century, transacting a license to use any content from any publisher in any language or currency within 30 seconds. iCopyright enables owners of content to preserve their copyrights, grant permissions, and sell reprints and licenses to their content while allowing users of content to obtain rights quickly, comply with copyright, and avoid infringement penalties.

During the final quarter of 2007, iCopyright launched three significant innovations designed to advance content security and sales for publishers and consumption of content by end users.

The first is Advertiser-Supported Permissions, a service to allow users instant rights to email, print, share, and save content, paid for by advertisers. There is a clear upgrade path to paid uses for users who want more copies and don’t want ads to accompany the content. iCopyright’s beta test has shown that ad-supported free uses increase sales of paid uses by 30% or more.

iCopyright for Creators is designed for individual rightsholders such as writers, bloggers, and photographers. There are tens of millions of small content producers who attract a few thousand visitors to their sites each month. iCopyright for Creators is positioned for the large number of bloggers and small publishers who get fewer page views. Copyright is just as critical to the millions of bloggers as it is to the big publishers. From a content-consumer perspective, the copyright symbol and automated permissions system must be ubiquitous across all content.

Finally, iCopyright is planning an aggressive international push. The company has reached an agreement with Access Copyright, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency. Access Copyright will be the distributor and operator of the iCopyright system for publishers, universities, and corporations in Canada. Access Copyright is also a member of an international federation of copyright agencies located in developed countries throughout the world. The iCopyright–Access Copyright deal will establish a model through which a universal copyright system can be effectively deployed for all digital content, regardless of where it is created or distributed.

Cygnus Business Media, Inc. announced in September that it will use the iCopyright suite of web-based licensing and permissioning tools on more than 60 of its websites. “The iCopyright service allows us to define a spectrum of affordable reuse terms for each of our publications,” says Corilee Christou, VP of innovation at Cygnus Business Media. “We looked carefully at other solutions for managing our online content licensing and permissions and we just could not find or build anything as flexible and well-thought-out as iCopyright.”


Fun Fact: The company ordered 5,000 glow-in-the-dark yo-yos with the iCopyright logo on them and built a huge wall in the desert that could be seen from space.