We hadn’t heard from the PLUS coalition for a while. This loose organization of visual professional who has been tediously trying to create a standard for licensing has suddenly burst out of its silence with two important announcements:
1) The ASMP has dug into its $1,3 Million fund it had received last year ( we hadn’t not heard of that for a while too) to retrieve $150,000 as a generous gift to PLUS. This adds up to the $85,000 ASMP had already given to the coalition. This probably makes the ASMP the biggest provider of funds to PLUS by far (usually, organizations donate around $25,000). The question is why is the ASMP so interested in PLUS as opposed to fighting Google and its book scanning initiative ? PLUS has made no headway in the last few years and although everyone agrees it could become a useful tool, it has yet to be adopted and put in practice anywhere. It is also quite evident, although never clearly announced, that the PLUS business model is to create a licensing registry that would charge for its usage. For pennies, indeed, but with billions of licenses happening online worldwide, it can quickly becomes a huge cash cow. Maybe ASMP sees this as a long term investment.
Also, with such a heavy donor, will PLUS feel the pressure to satisfy their needs (those of ASMP) rather than those of publishers. After all, like in politics, those who have put more in usually see the benefits first.
2) PLUS has chosen Picscout as the exclusive provider of image recognition services to the PLUS Registry . That resembles the deal that PLUS had made with ImageSpan a while back. How does a coalition that is supposed to create a standard make exclusive arrangements with private companies ? It is a bit like the IPTC deciding that the only tool for reading metadata should be made by Adobe ? Image tracking is still in its infancy but yet PLUS has decided that Picscout is not only the best, but the only one? There are companies currently working on similar, if not better solutions that I really doubt PLUS has even approached. What is behind this deal that we are not told about ?
Picscout has recently announced its Image IRC, which is an image registry who does not to want to say its real name, and has now combine forces with PLUS, another image registry in the making, for more fire power. Both will split the huge potential revenue for access to their overgrowing databases. What will happen soon is that image creators and copyright holders will soon be held captive by these organizations that will become the forced middle man for every licensing transaction.
With investors with mysterious agendas, strange relationships ( Creative Commons), Exclusive agreements ( ImageSpan and now Picscout), it is behaving more like a secret society that keeps its operations in the shade while putting little effort in the wide spread acceptances of its offerings. Not very social.