Monday 12 September 2016

Are Your Rights in Order? Clare Hodder reflects on what happens if not...

Clare Hodder, one of the speakers on the Are Your Rights in Order? PLS sponsored session at the ALPSP Conference, is passionate about the right way - and wrong way - to do rights. We interviewed her in advance of the conference to find out just exactly what the problems are.

What are the cost of getting rights wrong?  

There are a few things...missing out on revenue from subsidiary rights, because you don't know what rights you have to licence, not being able to digitise your backlist because you don't know if you have the rights, not being able to enforce infringement action because you have no documentation to prove you are the rights holder (as in the Georgia State University case). And that's just the start.

In one instance, a publishing company had to pulp an entire first print run, because they realised too late in the day, that the licence they thought they had acquired for the picture on a book cover, didn't come with an image release from the people pictured. The people in the picture objected to the use of their image and insisted the book was pulped. The publisher had to foot the bill for destroying their stock, finding an alternative image and reprinting the book and of course valuable sales opportunities were missed and marketing effort wasted, due to the delay to publication.

Some rights holders, particularly photographers are getting really hot at looking for unauthorised uses of their work on-line. Publishers who have acquired licences for a certain number of years or to cover a certain number of copies have been finding themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits when they have exceeded those terms unknowingly. In most cases settlement is reached relatively quickly but its time-consuming and expensive - damages awarded for such infringement, particularly in the US courts are high.

What are the benefits of getting it right?

If you have comprehensive rights data on all of your assets, the world is your oyster. You can endlessly re-publish, slice and dice, and licence those assets in infinite combinations, broadening the reach of your content and generating lots of additional revenue. Without that data, you don't know what it is possible to sell or licence so you either miss out on those opportunities or become a copyright infringer - risking large financial and reputational penalties in so doing. It makes so much sense to put your rights in order first and set yourself up to fully exploit the content you have invested in.

Which of the 7 ways to avoid risks can you share in advance of the conference?

Make sure you have a rights acquisition policy that is widely known within your organization (and complied with!) getting the right rights in the first place saves you a whole world of pain later on! Guard against the raft of infringement claims now facing publishers by ensuring you can manage licence compliance. Adapt systems and processes to alert you when you are about to exceed licence terms and give you time to re-licence or remove content to avoid infringing.

Clare Hodder is a Rights Consultant with Rights2 consultancy. She has been working with the Publishers Licensing Society to develop PLSclear and delivering Straightforward Permissions and Rights Management workshops. Clare will take part in the Are Your Rights in Order? 7 risks and 7 ways of avoiding them at the ALPSP Conference 2016 at 2pm on Thursday 15 September.

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