FishbowlNY Interviews ImageSearch Chief Executive Officer Kurt Garbe On The Future Of Licensing Content

By Alex Alvarez Comment


Kurt Garbe has recently stepped in as chief executive officer of ImageSpan Inc., the creator of LicenseStream. We’ve previously mentioned ImageSpan’s role in helping the Chicago Tribune license its archived photos to interested journalists, companies, and publications. Yesterday, we spoke with Garbe to discuss what he has in store for the company, as well as what a simple, streamlined method of licensing images might mean for the future of reporting (… and “borrowing” images from the web, as many online writers are wont to do).

Garbe — who formerly held positions as the CEO of SolutionSet, chief operating officer of USWeb, entrepreneur-in-residence at Adobe, CEO of Movaris and COO of Asera — told us that he is looking forward to helping the company experience continued growth and expansion as more and more media outlets begin to discover that monetizing content has transformed from a “nice extra” to a must for media owners.

In addition to the Chicago Tribune, ImageSpan’s LicenseStream has entered into relationships with Digimarc, PhotoShelter, the McEvoy Group (whose brand media properties include Spin magazine and Chronicle Books) and the Missouri History Museum (which Garbe says has received photo licensing requests from as far away as Australia).

ImageSpan’s platform allows owners of digital content, like scanned photographs, to license, share and monitor all forms of electronic media. Garbe explained that there are two simple ways for interested consumers to acquire a licensed image or video. One could, for example, go directly to, view a photo series of a concert and easily look up the licensing information for the desired images. Alternately, one could perform an “accidental discovery,” by, say, doing a Google Image search for concert photos, happening upon images that appear on, and then going about acquiring the licensing info through a streamlined online process.

We were especially interested in how ImageSpan is able to monitor who purchases their electronic media and how they go about responding to those who, to put it diplomatically, “creatively borrow” their content without first filling out the appropriate licensing forms. Garbe admits that unauthorized use of their content is a “perpetual problem,” so ImageSpan performs a periodic scan of places using their content, and compare these to places that have actually bought licensing rights. Their process for dealing with content-nabbers (“bloggers”) is then automated, allowing the company to easily find a user’s whois info, email address, etc. so that ImageSpan can send a notice alerting major companies that they should, you know. Probably pay for that content.

LicenseStream allows the content owner to determine what type of route they want to take when it comes to dealing with people using unlicensed content. They can choose, for example, to email a request for the image in question to be removed, invite the user visit the content owner’s site and choose additional images for a fee, reuqest that the image or video be properly sourced, etc.

In the case of bloggers, Garbe says many content owners are more inclined to be lenient and may simply ask that writers source the information in question and/or provide a link back to the owner’s site. After all, he says, it benefits these companies to have readers, and potential customers, realize they’re out there providing this service even as ImageScan ensures their customers’ content is able to remain protected.