In the two years that Tracey Armstrong has been leading the Copyright Clearance Center, her priority has been to make sure the organization keeps pace with the changes occurring at a rapid pace in the industry it was created to serve. “I have been here over 19 years and came up through the ranks. Over that time CCC has been evolving,” Armstrong said.
Part of that evolution is a direct result of CCC trying to keep ahead of the digital revolution—and the ability of publishers to parse their content in increasingly sophisticated ways. By the end of 2008, its 30th anniversary year, CCC was managing more than 300 million rights, not just for traditional print media like books and journal articles, but for e-books, blogs, Web sites and small snippets of content. As an example of its coverage, Armstrong points to O'Reilly Media, which uses CCC's Rightslink point-of-content licensing program to provide click-through permissions for online content as tiny as a paragraph or a bit of code. At the same time, CCC has worked to make Rightslink responsive to publishers' needs to offer myriad permissions, currently 150 types, including options for coursepacks, corporate use and translation rights.
That CCC has been successful in getting publishers and authors paid for their works that have been used by others can be seen in the steady climb in royalty distribution over the past 15 years, a span in which the organization has distributed more than $1 billion. Going forward, said Armstrong, her goal is to continue to think about how book content can be monetized for the small publisher, the individual creator or large house. “We're investing in the future and in growth,” said Armstrong. “I have more and more publishers asking me, 'Can you license my video, my images, my digital content?' ” Last fall CCC introduced a beta version of Ozmo, an online point-of-content service created for micro-publishers, bloggers, photographers and other artists. It's streamlined so that users new to copyright can set it up in five minutes, gratis. Income from licensing fees is split with CCC.
Other new projects include the Web portal Rights Central, which launched in late 2008. It's modeled after an online financial portfolio and supplies publishers with reports and statistics indicating underlying trends of licensing use. Publishers can view charts showing which titles are driving their royalties and where. About 800 customers have signed on to Rights Central to date. In December, CCC also introduced Copyright Labs, a permissions utility for users who want to license content found via Google Scholar.
CCC is also expanding its efforts to collect royalties from international sources. For the last fiscal year, ending June 2008, international licensing grew by 25%, and CCC repatriated $30 million in payments to U.S. rightsholders. Now Armstrong is pushing CCC into emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe.
As for fiscal 2009, Armstrong indicates that this has been a solid year, but like everyone else, CCC has felt the effect of the fall's economic slowdown. The final figures will not be available for several more months. But that hasn't kept CCC from continuing to move forward with more copyright choices, including an iPhone app, which should be available in a few weeks. That's one way to ensure that copyright remains part of the conversation.