Corbis: Gates Other Company Focuses on Rights Management

Corbis' revenues are up 20 percent, in part due to strong growth in its rights licensing and management services. (Microsoft Watch)

NEW YORK—When Bill Gates founded his second company in 1990, he had an inkling that digital rights for images might be important some day. He was dead-on.

The second and "perhaps the lesser known of the two" companies that the Microsoft chairman founded, as Gates quipped, announced on Wednesday that its revenues grew 20 percent last year, to $140 million. Gates and wife Melinda were on hand for the first annual meeting of privately held Corbis.

Some had expected Corbis to use the meeting to announce plans to go public. But company principals said earlier this week there are no such near-term plans. The topic did not arise at the meeting.

"This is a company I am very proud of," Gates told meeting attendees.

Over the past 13 years, Corbis has morphed from a provider of still photography to a round-the-clock services business. One of the biggest services it delivers is "rights clearance." Corbis negotiates the legal rights for its own and third-party images for its clients with stakeholders, such as studios, publishers and celebrities. In 2001 Corbis acquired the Second Line Search clearance agency to help it build an online clearance service.

Corbis also licenses images itself; assigns photography for its clients; and provides a variety of other services, such as digital-asset management, content management and media packaging.

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