A new report written by the Book Industry Study Group’s rights committee reveals a dichotomy in the rights world between the increasing importance of rights transactions and the ability of publishers to take advantage of the demand for American content in the international marketplace. Indeed, the name of the report is “Publishing Rights: An Untapped Opportunity.”

Among the findings was that over 53% of survey respondents said that their organization is “currently missing out on meaningful rights revenue.” The survey found a host of issues that have made the failure to collect more rights revenue an ongoing problem. Those issues include ineffective, costly paper-based work flows that are characterized by disconnected systems and a lack of standard approaches . Publishers also said that confusion about who controls which rights has grown worse, particularly for backlist, acquired and divested works, and imprints.

While a solid majority of publishers believe that sales of digital rights will grow both in the U.S. and abroad, many expressed caution about moving ahead to take advantage of the opportunity. As one publisher noted, “Clearing appropriate rights to third-party material is massively time-consuming and a cost burden. It’s very difficult to obtain rights that are sufficient to exploit content and sell on to translating publishers.”

Most respondents agreed that fully exploiting the rights opportunities would require further investment by the organizations they work for, but only 40% said that their organization was prepared to make such investments. A major stumbling block for those companies not considering investments in rights-management systems was an uncertain return on investment (ROI). If there were a clear way to identify how much money was being lost to uncollected rights, half of respondents said that their company would be more likely to make an effort to improve rights collection.

The survey found six areas that respondents said should be made priorities in terms of allocating investment funds: creating a rights licensing database/tracking rights income; upgradingtheir royalties database; systems consolidation; new online systems to capture rights; ERP investment to capture all revenue streams; and digitizing older contracts.

“The research confirms that selling and collecting rights revenue presents both opportunities and challenges,” said BISG executive director Brian O’Leary in a statement. “A global marketplace and more granular rights sales demand more effective rights management. This report provides a baseline for developing the business case for investing in rights management solutions.”

To help find solutions to these issues, BISG has put together another survey of vendors, asking them what services they can provide to address publisher concerns. The results of the survey are scheduled to be released this summer.

In the meantime, members of the rights committee, including Ted Hill, who drafted the survey on which the white paper is based, will discuss the results in conversation at the BISG’s BookExpo booth (#843) at 2 p.m. on June 1. Copies of the report will be available.