Radically Simple Licensing

Empowering creators, rightsholders, and platforms to clearly communicate digital copyrights

If you are familiar with Pex you will know that we have built a business over the past five years by helping copyright owners manage their intellectual property. Our database consists of over 18 billion audio and video tracks, and continues to grow. We have helped tens of thousands of artists earn millions of dollars by finding and attributing every copy of their work across the Internet. Every single day we empower rightsholders, both big and small, to know what is happening with their content. Our current service, however, can only help after content is published. There is no solution that enables rightsholders, content creators, and platforms to know the licensing status of content before it is published. Until now.

Introducing the Pex Attribution Engine

Today we are proud to announce Pex’s first step in simplifying the process of licensing content. Named Attribution Engine, we believe it will transform the way intellectual property is licensed in the digital world. Our goal with the Attribution Engine is to enable the proper usage of owned content, so that more content can be published, and stay online, for everyone to enjoy. Built on top of everything we have learned managing digital rights over the past five years, the Attribution Engine is a giant leap forward in the way content is licensed. It represents the first truly comprehensive, digital licensing marketplace and clearing house. We call it radically simple licensing.

Market-leading technology

The Attribution Engine pairs a comprehensive database of media ownership information and a licensing engine with a custom look-up for any platform, and benefits from the proprietary fingerprinting and matching algorithms that have been powering Pex products for the past five years.

The advanced fingerprinting and look-up capabilities allow for content identification:

  • Within five seconds.
  • Of audio, video, and audiovisual files.
  • With matching segments as short as one second in length, optimized for the discovery of copyrighted material in any audio or video content.
  • With melody matching for identification of cover versions of songs.
  • Within compressed, cropped, or otherwise modified copies.

Our infrastructure, processing billions of messages daily across thousands of servers, and having indexed more than 18 billion audiovisual files, gives us the speed and scale to manage a significant undertaking like the Attribution Engine. Because we have long-standing relationships with the major music rightsholders and an extensive index of videos and music, Pex is uniquely positioned to help solve the problem with copyright attribution.

By centralizing media ownership information in a database of registered works, the Attribution Engine streamlines communication between those who hold copyrights and those who want copyright information to facilitate licensing. Because ownership of works change hands and disputes arise, we developed a dispute resolution process to ensure that the database is always up-to-date with the latest information.

The Attribution Engine also uses this database of registered works to power our licensing engine and allow real-time licensing at an unprecedented scale. Rightsholders will be able to leverage the licensing engine to facilitate licensing across the Internet and transmit this information to platforms. Content creators will be able to find and license copyrighted material with certainty.

Radically simple licensing

Enabling the promise of radically simple licensing, however, requires more than just market leading technology. It requires a product approach that is flexible enough to work for all parties. To ensure this the Attribution Engine is based on four principles:

1. Licensing needs to be simple, comprehensive, and market based.

  • The process of transacting licenses needs to be done in a manner that works with existing digital workflows, leveraging existing technology solutions.
  • A comprehensive approach requires complete coverage at both a catalog and a platform level.
  • Market based means that parties get to negotiate and set the rates they are comfortable with.
  • Licensing should be done as close to the point of creation and/or distribution as possible to be most useful.

2. Enforcement and transparency of these licenses must be effective and scalable. Rightsholders must be able to see where their content is being used to ensure compliance, and must be able to quickly and easily deal with any infringements. Platforms must have certainty around the status of content that they distribute.

3. Rightsholders need to be able to get meaningful insights on what is happening with their content, so that they can make informed business decisions about what to do moving forward. Understanding usage is key to making meaningful business decisions.

4. Conflicts must be simple and cost effective to resolve. There will always be issues around both ownership information and use of copyrighted material. Any approach to a new way to license needs to ensure that conflicts are able to be dealt with in an efficient and transparent manner.

Working for all parties

Rightsholders need to be able to communicate what they own and how they want their content to be used. Asset ingestion for rightsholders is simple, using industry standards such as DDEX and CWR. Understanding that issues around ownership information are bound to arise, we have put in place mechanisms to help resolve conflicts between rightsholders.

Platforms need a way to discover copyrighted material in their user-generated content, and act on it appropriately. The Attribution Engine offers a content recognition service and licensing engine. We allow all platforms to take advantage of the speed and scale of our search engine. Platforms can, in real time, identify copyrighted material.

Content creators want to be able to express themselves while recognizing the copyrights of any other works they use as part of their original work. The Attribution Engine enables this by making licensing content as simple as possible and by giving content creators transparent ownership and licensing information.

How much does Attribution Engine cost?

The Attribution Engine is free for rightsholders to register their content and free for platforms using our asset lookup service. By offering asset registration and lookup at no cost, we believe more rightsholders will make their assets available, and more platforms and creators will publish content that respects copyrights.

If Attribution Engine is free, how do you make money?

Our business model lies in revenue sharing from licensing transactions. Pex will make money when content is successfully licensed.

How do I get started?

Pex welcomes anyone who is interested in a better way of communicating copyrights and licensing material to try out the Attribution Engine. If you are a rightsholder or platform, reach out to to get started.

Are Super Bowl ads worth the $5 million price tag?

During perhaps the most politically divisive time in the country’s recent memory, there is still one unifying force that can bring Americans together: the Super Bowl. Whether you watch it for the love of the sport, the half-time show, or just as an excuse to eat your body weight in buffalo chicken dip (no judgment), one thing that keeps everyone talking for days after the game are the commercials.

The average price of a 30-second spot during FOX’s 2017 telecast was $5 million, up nearly $200,000 from last year, setting a new record. With such high stakes, Pex started tracking many of the online ads days before the big game to tally the views and copies — all the videos that are made using any segment from the original ads. For example, some are translated into another language for audiences outside the U.S; some have been have been spliced together in ten-minute long compilation videos; several have been posted by news outlets. And finally, there are instances for every Super Bowl ad of people posting the exact same video just to bring views to to personal or fan accounts, like this T-Mobile ad.

This year, the brands who took risks by making statements saw some of the biggest results. Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” caused quite the brewhaha. The controversial commercial is now the most-viewed of this year’s Super Bowl, proving that a hotly-debated social issue like immigration can rouse audiences more than popular celebrities can. Criticisms of the ad became some of the most-viewed copies made from the commercial.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 37 million

Copies made: 385

Views from copies: 2.8 million

Audi’s “Daughter” took on the subject of the gender wage gap. While many hailed Audi for its commitment to promising equal pay for equal work, others took issue with Audi’s message, deeming it too political. In fact, what seems like a fairly obvious principle seemed to rub many the wrong way: the ad received 55,000 likes on YouTube, but 65,000 dislikes as well. One of the top-viewed copies of this video was posted with praise by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, where it drew over 700,000 views on her official profile.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 14.6 million

Copies: 130

Views from copies: 705,000

A hot-button ad from 84 Lumber was the biggest surprise of the evening. The relatively unknown brand made waves with its ad even before the day of the Super Bowl for the same reason as Budweiser’s. Over 9 million people flocked to 84 Lumber’s website Sunday night to see the whole journey, causing the site to crash. A few of the top-viewed copies made from this ad were posted by known conservative pundits, who took to YouTube to slam the ad for its perceived pro-immigration stance.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 11.7 million

Copies made: 358

Views from copies: 1.2 million

While polarizing political statements dominated the post-game conversation online, commercials featuring some of pop culture’s favorite names fared well with audiences. Justin Bieber and Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski gave us a history of dance moves in one of several T-Mobile spots.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 15.9 million

Copies made: 346

Views from copies: 2.1 million

Comedic darling Melissa McCarthy traipsed through the wilderness to save the whales, the trees, and the rhinos for Kia, while Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton and model Miranda Kerr showed off their acting chops for Buick.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 12 million

Copies made: 474

Views from copies: 2.2 million

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 5.9 million

Copies made: 177

Views from copies: 2.5million

Snickers took a risk with its live commercials — filmed during the game — which featured Star Wars’ actor Adam Driver in an old western setting. Though Snickers took a leap with their live ad, it seems the unconventionality did not deliver as well as the other celebrity-starring ads.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 1.1 million

Copies made: 79

Views from copies: 39,000

And Aflac, taking an expensive risk with a 30-second spot, may reconsider advertising during the Super Bowl next year. Its commercial, which featured the company’s signature spokesduck, did not receive even a quarter million views.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 126,000

Copies: 15

Views from copies: 40,000

Some brands, according to marketing insights site DigiDay, decided to bench ad plans this year. Taco Bell, Toyota, and Frito-Lay, all companies that have advertised their products in Super Bowls past, sat out this year, likely because justifying the costs of the spot without knowing if it will increase revenue is increasingly difficult.

Adam Kleinberg, the CEO of Bay Area-based ad agency Traction, told DigiDay that nowadays, the realm of advertising is not only beholden to television, with other platforms like social media advertising becoming more and more dominant. “Everyone knows there’s value, but no one knows how to quantify it,” he said, noting that no one is really sure what return on investment means today. “There is a lot more pressure than ever before.”

The takeaway here? Buying a $5 million SuperBowl ad isn’t the right option for every company; but if you do choose to do so, calculating your ROI means knowing how far beyond a television audience your ad goes. Thankfully, with Pex, advertisers can finally see the true reach of their commercials. From gifs to direct rip-offs and everything in between, you can see exactly how many views and shares your content gleaned cross-platform. Want to see the real engagement on your videos? Visit to learn more.

*All figures current as of 2/8/17.

From Mixtapes to Millions: How SoundCloud is Launching Rap Careers

Think electronic music still reigns supreme on SoundCloud? Eh, not so fast. When it comes to the most-streamed songs, rap and hip hop outpace other genres 4:1. What once was a mecca for EDM fans is now a thing of the past. Ask any hip hop enthusiast where they find fire releases from the most promising rap artists, and they’ll likely tell you it’s SoundCloud. Move over, Diplo — 21 Savage’s got bars.

YouTube’s list of the 50 all-time most-viewed videos is produced mainly by pop artists well-established among millennial audiences — think Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, and Fifth Harmony — though there are a few exceptions, like the inexplicably viral hit “Gangam Style” from Korean pop singer PSY and a few Spanish-language songs. Though “Gangam Style” has held onto the #1 spot, the next most-viewed videos of all time are “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, and “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift, each earworm garnering more than 1.9 billion views.

On the other hand, out of SoundCloud’s top 50 most-streamed tracks, a whopping majority–41–of the most popular songs fall into the rap/hip hop category, with artists who have found mainstream success like Fetty Wap and The Weeknd being repeat favorites; only nine songs fall into other music genres. Though even SoundCloud has its exceptions: with over 12 million listens, the fifth most-streamed song of all time is “Trumpified,” a pro-Trump anthem from an amateur “rapper” named Scott Isbell. Despite these outliers, according to Pex data, users have tagged their music with “rap,” “hip hop,” and “trap” over 6.7 million times on SoundCloud.

SoundCloud has become a platform that serves as an outlet for artists who cater to a more niche audience, many of whom become chart-toppers without the help of top 40 radio play. Take “Bad and Boujee,” “Black Beatles,” and “Broccoli,” for example: certified bangers from artists who build on newer platforms like SoundCloud and Spotify rather than traditional outlets like top 40 radio. In contrast, nearly all 50 of YouTube’s most-viewed videos are songs that were at one point in the national radio rotation (though when popular rap songs are made into music videos, they’re usually successful on YouTube as well).

Some of rap and hip hop’s newest acts, like Bryson Tiller and PartyNextDoor, as well as some of today’s most popular artists like Chance the Rapper can track much of their success from SoundCloud. Chance, who released his critically-acclaimed “mixtape” Coloring Book in May exclusively to Apple Music, made the album available on his SoundCloud account two weeks later (though the album has been posted by fans on YouTube, Chance never uploaded it to his own account). SoundCloud announced that Coloring Book was their most-listened to album of 2016, thanks in part to the54,000 times it was shared by his 1.34 million followers. Post Malone, a hip hop singer from Texas, caught the attention of the genre’s community with his debut single “White Iverson,” which has garnered over 44 million listens on SoundCloud since its original release date early in 2015; one hit was enough to earn Post Malone a deal with Republic Records.

Though YouTube does have a much larger, more global audience, SoundCloud’s smaller audience and smaller upload pool gives unsigned artists a chance of being discovered more easily. While YouTube’s most popular songs are likely by artists you’ve heard time and time again on the radio, with SoundCloud, you might just discover the next big thing in music.

Rethink Everything You Know About Going Viral

When we think of popular videos, like Chewbacca MomDamn Daniel, or Carpool Karaoke, we automatically know they have been viewed hundreds of thousands or even millions of times. So by those parameters, that means it’s gone viral, right?

Well, not necessarily.

The difference between popularity and virality is an important distinction to make in media analytics when considering a video’s true reach. A video is “popular” when it receives thousands of views. But a video is not “viral” unless it is widely shared and distributed, like the three videos mentioned above. After all, one does not merely get invited onto Ellen or The Late Late Show without first taking the internet by storm.

Take for example, YouTube stuntman/influencer Casey Neistat. Neistat has over six million subscribers, so his videos are consistently popular and always receive more than one million views. Last month, Neistat uploaded a video titled “Human Flying Drone,” which shows the daredevil snowboarder flying through the air while attached to a drone. The original video has received over 8 million views on YouTube alone; a shorter version of the video posted to Neistat’s official Facebook page garnered a whopping 39 million views. But the viral video’s reach doesn’t end there — “Human Flying Drone” was copied 338 times; these copies received an additional 40.9 million views in addition to the 47.7 million views on the original video!

So who is making these copies, and what purpose do they serve? Sometimes, only part of a video is copied — oftentimes, for a parody or a television broadcast. Other times, it’s spliced with footage from other videos to create a round-up of sorts, like this Russian-language copy that was viewed more than 300,000 times. Credible news outlets may include a snippet of the video in their programs — this Al Jazeera newscast featured a segment that contained part of “Human Flying Drone,” earning Neistat over 200,000 views from another non-American audience.

Now let’s compare this to one of the latest videos from PewDiePie, YouTube’s most-followed user with over 52 million subscribers. While it is fair to say that PewDiePie’s videos are consistently more popular than Neistat’s, it does not mean that PewDiePie’s videos are always more viral. On January 22, PewDiePie uploaded a video titled “I’M BANNED..” which was viewed over 5 million times in its first two days. However, by January 30, it had only been copied twice— and those two copies only generated 20 views. The video was popular amongst PewDiePie’s regular audience, but not virally shared and distributed outside of his subscriber base. Despite having 46 million more subscribers than Neistat, PewDiePie’s video did not have as large a reach.

The takeaway? “Going viral” isn’t always about having the most followers: it’s about creating content people not only want to watch, but to participate in and make their own. Pex is the only service that is able to track not just popularity (Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms already do this), but a video’s virality as well. Its unique indexer allows users to see how many times a video has been copied and posted onto other social accounts. Before Pex, it was impossible for a video’s creator to know the true reach of their content. Now, they can find it all in one place at

The Daily Wars of Online Video Platforms

Ever since the launch of Facebook video, the media has been abuzz with conflicting reports — some claiming that Facebook video had officially surpassed YouTube in popularity, while others claim that YouTube is still bigger than Facebook. Interestingly, the reports seem to change on a week-by-week basis. Meanwhile, other social media platforms are fighting for their own stake in the race to be the next big online video platform.

So, how do the top online video platforms stack up? More importantly, which platform is truly garnering the most views and highest social engagement — YouTube or Facebook? To answer these questions, we decided to track the music video for Adele’s most recent lead single “Hello”, which became the first song to sell over a million digital copies in a week. We tracked all copies* of Hello over a period of 101 days, starting on its October 22nd release on YouTube. Here’s what we found.

More after the infographic.

YouTube has the highest level of distribution

In total, we located 60,055 copies of “Hello” across eight popular social media platforms. While one might assume that the the largest percentage of those copies would be found on Facebook, our data found that’s far from the case.

In fact, out of all copies we identified online, 45% were published on YouTube. Interestingly, Facebook accounted for a mere29% of copies, followed by Vine, which accounted for 12.9%.

Facebook grabs the most views per video

Another big surprise: while Facebook had only 64% of the number of copies published to YouTube, Facebook still garnered over 2x more video views than YouTube. On average, Facebook racked up 73,083 views per video, whereas each YouTube amassed an average of 23,095 views per video — ranking 3rd for average number of views per video. Vine took the 2nd place spot with an average of 49,904 views per video.

However, it is important to note that Facebook and YouTube have very different standards for what counts as a view. On YouTube, a user must watch at least 30 seconds of a video for it to be counted as a view. On Facebook, however, it only takes a user watching 3 seconds of an autoplay video in their feed to count a view.

Facebook has the highest level of engagement

Our data shows that Facebook clearly comes out on top in terms of engagement. The social media giant took the top spot with a whopping 41,436,124 cumulative likes and shares on all video copies, and 15,634,315 on the original. Google+ rolled in at 2nd place with 1,715,636 engagements on video copies; 1,496,299 on the original.

Interestingly, our research also found that video copies uploaded by fans were responsible for much of the buzz surrounding Hello’s music video. Cumulatively, all copies of the music video received over 2.5x more engagement than the source video over the course of 101 days.

Videos are copied incredibly fast

Finally, we also noticed a few other interesting patterns unrelated to views and engagement. For example, video copies tend to move incredibly fast. Just 2 minutes and 7 seconds after Hello’s music video was published to Adele’s VEVO channel on YouTube, the first copy appeared on Facebook. 3 minutes and 12 seconds later, the first copy went live on YouTube. A mere 18 minutes and 48 seconds later, the first Vine clip of Hello surfaced.

Takedowns aren’t terribly common

Out of the 60,055 copies of “Hello” we located, only 16.9% were removed via takedown request. While 36% of those takedowns came via YouTube, they accounted for only 13% of the 27,033 total copies published to the site. By comparison, 21% of copies posted to DailyMotion were removed via takedown request.

“Copies” are defined as all copies of “Hello” other than the original video published to Adele’s VEVO YouTube channel. Note that our data may include copies of “Hello” published to other social media channels run by Adele and/or her representatives.