The emphasis that speed is of the essence when it comes to determining and simplifying digital rights and permissions set the theme at Monday’s panel “Protecting Your Titles: Building Out the Rights and Permissions Marketplace” as Bob Kasher, rights industry consultant for Digi-Express.com, moderated.
Kasher introduced panelists Michael Healy, executive director of author and publisher relations for the Copyright Clearance Center; Bill Manfull, director of sales at Digital Nirvana; and Digi-Express’s managing director Dick Stahl, then gave an overview of the panel’s key points. “This is the next digital frontier in publishing,” Kasher said. “Digital books now command anywhere from 20% to 30% of the book market. Judgments protecting are on the rise, from YouTube to Google, and speed to market is becoming an essential fact of life in publishing.” He explained that the consumers’ inability to digitally access information leads to loss of revenue, misplacement of assets, potential copyright infringement, or unnecessary licensing fees.
“Third-party rights are established on print books,” Kasher said, “but they’re unclear on the digital side—including fonts and cover art.” Warning that authors could move to the self-publishing format unless digital rights are quickly identified, he gave the example of a Korean publishing company having to wait nine months to determine U.S. digital rights on one of its titles last year. “There are now 746,000 self-published titles,” he added. “Not knowing your digital rights obviously inhibits the growth of your company. Clear them quickly, or they’re a cost drag.”
Healy said that the industry disruption caused by these rights issues has reached an overwhelming level. “You have to redefine the value chain in light of increased competition,” he told a nearly packed room of publishers, agents, and authors. Mobile and global consumers further complicate rights clearances. “Strive for authority and credibility. Licensing revenue opportunities are being overlooked, and lost savings are as well,” he added.
The audience laughed when Healy showed a slide of an old, bulky photocopier circa 1978 that was the industry standard for sharing content. This was followed by an image of a new smartphone. “There’s been an explosion of content usage in the mobile environment,” said Healy. “Blog content has to be licensed directly now, and anything from a Web site.” Republication licensing and clearing permissions is a slow, difficult process, and Healy touted the permissions acquisition service now available from the Copyright Clearance Center.
“It’s time to shift from manual to overdrive,” said Stahl. “Automate your rights and permissions by using cloud rights management, because digital rights transactions are exploding, and there are serious liabilities for infringement.” He explained that 50% of publishers still use paper contracts and rely on freelancers to track rights, which make for inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
Manfull’s concern is that publishers are dealing with multiple levels of content. “This is an awkward time in publishing,” he said. “You have to look at all your multimedia content to determine rights. Digital video and audio rights are more complex than print.” In creating content, a company must also be sure to create synchronization between formats.
At the end of the session a literary agent in the audience asked, “How do you monetize all of this?” Healy emphasized that open-ended rights should never be offered, because the rights holder should always have total control.