LicenseStream - Evaporating Into Thin Air?

For several days recently, the LicenseStream website has been down. ImageSpan (Which changed it's name to LicenseStream in January of 2011), was the company behind LicenseStream, and billed the site as "the market-leading licensing and royalty payment automation platform for all media types and businesses." Yet, we have never really seen a functioning business model that we thought would work.

More than one LicenseStream employee was on-site at PhotoPlus Expo back in October in New York City looking for a new place of employment, stating that the company only had enough money to last through the end of December, as they spoke to prospective employers. Oddly, as Digital Railroad ( the formal online portal for image archiving, marketing, and sales, as well as a client delivery platform) went down in flames several years ago, they shopped their company around and then, with no buyers, shuttered operations with little warning to clients. LicenseStream has, according to sources, not been doing so - at least not amongst prospective buyers that would make sense to take over operations that we checked with. Whispers of friendly staff telling image owners they had relationships with to backup their images & data have not been substantiated, however, with enough chatter on the subject, and the risks if the data isn't redundant, we strongly encourage you to have all your LicenseStream content archived, either way.

LicenseStream secured Series A funding back in February 2007 (here) and another $11,000,000 in June of 2008 as a part of a second round of funding (here). In April of 2010, a new CEO was brought in, and another round of financing, billed as "growth financing", with an unreported amount of additional funds (here).

In preparing for this posting, we checked one last time and found that the website, at least as of this publishing, was back up. Perhaps it was just a multi-day site crash over the holidays, or perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

Workflow Hardware Upgrade: Wiebetech Solution

As technology changes, so do our needs as a photographer. This December, we've upgraded our boxes we use to store our images.

Here's our system:

When considering other solutions, we particularly do not like the Drobo boxes for several reasons, and want to caution you strongly before considering them. Problems abound, as reported all over the internet, however, I am sure that some people will sing their praises. Below are several problems - each in-and-of themselves would be a reason not to use the boxes. Together, they make a compelling argument to avoid Drobo. If you're not going to choose the system we're reviewing and reporting on today, then consider other solutions.

Here are some of the Drobo issues:
  1. Proprietary file format. Thus, if you need to pull a drive from their box, you cannot plug it into a Mac or PC and browse/access the files. Further, unless you re-insert the drives with the exact same configuration as when the files were written, you have no access to the files.
  2. The drives/boxes tend to be far too slow for drive-access intensive needs like opening, saving, and other file-releated needs.
  3. A mirrored drive array is not a backup, just reliability protection. You'd need to run two Drobos to do have two backups, as whatever you do (or is erroneously affected on one drive) is immediately replicated on the second. So, you're protected from "drive failure", but not an accidental deletion, or file corruption which then corrupts the file on the mirrored drive. A backup would not only protect you from drive failure, but also those accidental deletions, accidental "save" when you meant "save as" file changes, and other unwanted file changes. Further, the Drobo isn't a true "mirror", it's an odd-flavor RAID 5.
  4. An electrical fault that fries one drive likely will fry the other. You do truly need a dual drive system, with redundancy offline (and preferably off-site) in order to be properly protected. When we have both drives mounted (as explained in the video) it is for manual mirroring, then the backup copy of the primary drive goes offline (and, in a perfect world, off-site.) We try very hard to keep drives seperate to protect them, and thus, our images.
  5. The Drobo does not check the integrity of the data. This is a problem from a data-integrity standpoint.
Upgrading and evolving your workflow - and the hardware solutions that you use to care for your images - is a critical component of your business.
(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

Convoluted Views about Media Ownership Inhibit Effective Policy

I was recently reviewing the effectiveness of media ownership policies and regulations and was struck by the limited success they have achieved during the past 50 years in Western nations.

There seem to be two central problems with ownership regulation efforts: ownership really is not the issue that we are trying to address through policy and we have convoluted views of ownership.
Media ownership is not really what concerns us, but is a proxy of other concerns. What we are really worried about is interference with democratic processes, manipulation of the flow of news and information, powerful interests controlling public conversation, exclusion of voices from public debate, and the use of market power to mistreat consumers. It is thus the behavior of some of those who own media rather than the ownership form or extent of ownership that really concerns us.

This is compounded because media practitioners, scholars, and social critics have highly convoluted views about ownership and most have complaints about all forms of ownership. It is thus nearly impossible to identify a preferential a form or extent of ownership.
We don’t like private ownership of media because proprietors can use them pursue their private interests; we don’t like corporate ownership because companies can put profit goals ahead of social goals; and we don’t like having just public service media because they doesn’t provide enough choice and are often limited in their ability to pursue political agendas--a function important in democracy.

We don’t like big companies because they can be arrogant and unapproachable and because they can control content as well as markets; we don’t like small companies because they can’t provide the range and quality of content we desire and because they sometimes can’t withstand pressures from powerful interests.
We don’t like foreign owners because they don’t share our identity, don’t represent who we are very well, and can bring foreign influences that affect national sovereignty; we don’t like domestic owners because they can be too close to those with domestic social and political power.

The list of ownership we do not like—and the fact that most regulation is promoted because of particular proprietors we disliked—makes it difficult to fashion effective policies. We are stymied because no ownership form itself is good or bad and they all have advantages and disadvantages. And there are examples of good and bad owners under all the forms of ownership.
Using ownership regulation to control the behavior of bad owners can only somewhat limit the scope and scale of their activities, not address their poor behavior. It is like permitting higher levels of crime in one area of town as long as it does expand into other areas.

If we are to effectively address our real concerns, we need to develop better mechanisms for influencing behaviour and we need to stop ineffectively regulating ownership just because it makes us feel like we are doing something.