Has a news outlet ever asked to use your Twitter video clip for free or have you found your Instagram photo published on a random website? There are countless examples of social media content being used online without proper compensation or even permission. And the problem is only growing.
“Today everyone produces a lot of data, photos and video,” explains Janne Neuvonen, BCaster founder. “Data is said to be the currency of the future. But at the moment people are giving away valuable data for free to companies who know how to monetise it.”
BCaster believes its AI-powered mobile media platform can turn the situation around. Let’s say you capture a major accident on your phone. You upload the video to the BCaster app where it is automatically analysed, priced and embedded with copyright information. A journalist looking for footage of the accident can easily find your video based on its time and place and purchase the usage rights with a few clicks.
“Our AI makes the whole process fast. When you take a photo or video [using our app] it can be found in our search engine within seconds,” Neuvonen says. “In that time our AI has dug out what or who is in the picture, where it was taken and when.”
It sounds like a win-win situation. The content owner is fairly compensated (BCaster takes a small slice of the fee) and the media, or any company in need of video and photo material, gets to beef up their coverage without risking copyright infringement.
The 1.2 million-euro surprise
BCaster took a long time to take shape. Neuvonen first got the idea six years ago when he saw a TV crew desperately trying to find someone who filmed an accident at a Finnish rally event.
“I thought what if we had a media service which can analyse where something has happened and offer time-and-place connected content from everyone there,” Neuvonen recalls. “The production team wouldn’t have to run around a forest, they could look on the app where things are happening and buy the footage they want.”
But it wasn’t until 2016 the idea really took off. Neuvonen found two co-founders, Seppo Sormunen and Olli Rantula, participated in an accelerator programme and raised 600 000 euros of funding from private investors and Business Finland to kick-off BCaster.
This was used to build an early version of the app, which BCaster tested at events around Finland. Encouraged by the positive response, in November 2017 the startup turned to crowdfunding to speed up product development. It was the right decision.
“We started the campaign on a Friday evening, and when I woke up on Saturday morning we had raised 1.2 million euros. In less than 20 hours. We had to stop the campaign there,” Neuvonen says and laughs.
Now BCaster is gearing up for its next moment of truth. Its media platform will be launched internationally at the South by Southwest festival in Texas in March.
The startup has a topical pitch particularly for the US market. In addition to copyright protection, the BCaster app uses blockchain technology to verify all content and to detect if anything is faked or manipulated. The company is also patenting a content protection technology which makes it impossible to remove copyright information from a file without damaging it. If it takes off, it could mean trying times for movie pirates.
But first BCaster’s full focus is on the everyday consumer:
“We want to ensure no one loses the copyright to their content without being paid for it,” Neuvonen stresses. “Every person creates valuable content and we want to be an advocate for them.”