Ever-changing technology and consumer demand for instant content access have tremendous implications on rights and permissions. “As recently as four years ago, rights were secured for specific products, territories, and user quantities,” says Jill Dougan, director of rights and permissions at MPS Ltd. “Today, publishers are not only requesting permission for products they have planned, but also for those that are yet to be conceptualized, and sometimes for technologies that are still unavailable commercially. On the other hand, you have copyright owners who want to protect their IPs and require transparency when reviewing requests to use their content.”
Meanwhile, U.S. and European copyright laws are undergoing progressive reforms as lines are drawn between content creators, providers, and users. Navigating dynamic rights and permissions regulations thus requires a systematic approach by a dedicated team.
The first step involves meticulous content examination to identify third-party material and careful license review to determine which rights have already been secured and which still need to be. “Negotiating license terms and associated fees is the next step,” Dougan says, adding that “securing rights has become more challenging as publishers’ production cycles accelerate further while copyright holders’ reviews for requested usage become even more thorough.”
Unsuccessful rights negotiations can be very disappointing to authors. In such cases, MPS’s rights and permissions team is adept in researching alternative options, or replacing the selection with content that is created by its illustrators or subject matter experts.
“Fair use is a defense, not a right,” Dougan says. “Our team uses their experience, understanding of copyright laws, and expert judgment whenever considering materials for fair use.”
The team relies on the Internet as the first source in researching copyright owners. “Simple Google searches often retrieve missing source information,” Dougan says. “Social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Flickr are invaluable tools to locate individuals and estates controlling rights to copyrighted materials. As for Amazon, Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, and TinEye, these are great for reverse researching content and photos. So, in today’s computer-centric world, savvy online research is essential.”
Dougan’s team manages image and art development programs for an online learning and assessments publisher and the entire rights and permissions function for a well-known publisher of medical texts. “We have also been involved in extensive rights analysis projects where we examine backlists to evaluate the costs and complexities of repurposing titles for new formats and markets,” Dougan says. “We have examined over 300,000 book pages and licenses, documenting permissions and shortfalls, and secured the necessary rights for over 100,000 text and image assets.”
MPS’s rights and permissions management system maintains a robust copyright owner database, generates customized correspondence and reports, and analyzes and stores granular data—all within the same platform. “Our clients manage their projects via direct access to the system, as well, while authors and editors use our Lightbox feature to access, review, and approve images.”
For more information on MPS’s rights and permissions capabilities and suites of platforms, including DigiCore, head over to booth 7H48.