GumGum Launches New Image Licensing Platform

GumGum launches an ambitious new project today – a new platform and business model for licensing content on the Internet, beginning with images.

Image piracy runs rampant on the Internet, of course. Blogger Perez Hilton was sued for stealing images of celebrities, and we’ve had (ridiculous) charges leveled at us as well. And don’t forget the recent Lane Hartwell debacle.

Attributor, a Silicon Valley startup, helps content owners track their intellectual property to find examples of infringement. But until now, no one has really thought about a better way to license content on the Internet, so that both large and tiny publishers have an incentive to avoid simply stealing stuff.

That’s where GumGum comes in. Images today are generally licensed for a flat fee, exclusively or non-exclusively. GumGum founders Ophir Tanz and Ari Mir think a better way is to charge for impressions, or on an advertising-supported basis. But tracking image impressions isn’t trivial, so they first had to build a platform to do that.

GumGum allows any publisher to search for images (there are thousands available now via a number of photography agencies) – here’s an example search for “Britney.” Images can be licensed on a CPM basis (generally $0.20 or so, but determined by content owner), or for free with an advertisement.

GumGum requires images be published via a Flash object so that impressions can be tracked and billed properly. Flash also allows them to serve interactive advertisements, served via VideoEgg (we wrote about their Flash ad product here).

Here are two images, one based on CPM licensing, one based on advertising:

Any photographer can now upload images and sell them. And any publisher can create an account to license images. Down the road, GumGum says, they’ll be adding video, audio and text content for licensing as well.

Will This Work?

It’s certainly a pain for publishers to have to embed a Flash object to publish an image, but it is the only reasonable way that GumGum can track impressions and serve ads. Many small publishers will of course simply continue to steal images, or look for freely usable stuff on Flickr. But if there is a killer image that a lot of people will want to publish, GumGum is a great way to easily license it to an unlimited number of people. At the very least, it’s an interesting experiment.

GumGum raised $125k in a December seed round from friends and family. The founders, who sold a previous startup Mojungle to Shozu in 2007, also put $125k of their own capital into GumGum.