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fotoglifWeb sites that use photos for free have been the bane of professional photographers. But Fotoglif has a solution that can make it easier — and more lucrative — for web sites to use the highest-quality photos with proper licenses.

The company licenses photos from a bunch of photo agencies and embeds those photos with ads (see example below). Web sites can use the photos for free, and Fotoglif shares 50 percent of the ad revenue with the pro photographers, 20 percent with the site publisher, and it keeps 30 percent for itself. It also records usage metrics.

Mike Betts, chief executive of Fotoglif, expects that sharing revenue with bloggers and other web sites that use Fotoglif photos will incent those sites to forego using pirated photos.

The Toronto, Canada-based company is announcing its site today. It currently has three million photos in its library with about 15,000 new ones coming in every day.

Fotoglif has partnered with the world’s leading photo agencies, including Getty Images, Thomson Reuters, Splash News, the European Press Agency, Newscom, Zuma Press and others. It hosts and manages the content itself, organizing the photos so content publishers can find what they want quickly. It also makes photos available in real time, so that recently-taken photos can be used quickly — for example, it has a current photo of President Obama in Russia.

Rivals aren’t doing exactly the same thing. PhoTrade embeds ads in photos, but it’s soliciting photos from general users not professional photographers who submit photos to photo agencies. GumGum is a more direct rival, but you need multiple logins and passwords to access multiple photo agencies. GumGum also does not share revenue with site publishers.

By contrast, Fotoglif is more like a single destination site for multiple photo agencies. Content publishers sign in with one password and get access to all of the photos. The company has been testing the site for a few months, gathering more photos and partners in the meantime.

Fotoglif was founded in early 2008 and has 6 employees. It was funded by angels, friends and family. But more recently it raised $1 million from SunWah high-tech, a company in Hong Kong. Betts, the founder, is a photo studio owner himself.


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