By Liz Bury
BRUSSELS: Cash received by publishers and authors from people who reproduce their works by printing or photocopying them is under threat.
The established flow of secondary income is ebbing away as new digital methods of copying such as scanning, downloading and storing in databases are replacing the old photocopiers.
With around 300 million photocopies made worldwide every year from copyright works, the challenge is on for collective rights management agencies to keep pace with digital markets. An estimated €300 million annually is at stake.
Step forward Olav Stokkmo, CEO of global rights body IFRRO (International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations), a former publisher from Norway, who is helping to establish new digitally-derived flows of income.
IFRRO’s focus is text- and image-based publishing markets. Its members are reproduction rights management organizations, and authors and publishers associations across the globe. Members include the US Copyright Clearance Center, Germany’s VG Wort, the UK’s Copyright Licensing Agency, and a long list of other national collective rights agencies.
Collective rights management grew up because it was uneconomic for individual publishers to police secondary reproduction markets. The agencies work by collecting pots of money from educational organizations, public administration offices, trade and industry, public and research libraries, cultural institutions, and photocopy shops, and distributing the cash between publishers.
Based in Brussels, IFRRO, the global umbrella body for reproduction rights agencies, is actively engaged in a range of lobbying and other projects, many related to digital markets.
One big project is ARROW, a collaboration between European libraries, publishers and rights agencies wanting to create a simple search for rights information that could access multiple databases. ARROW (Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works), has made it much faster to discover rights information about a work, and is seen as an important step in policing and enabling licensing and collecting in digital markets.
It could be used in projects like the one announced by the British Library last month for Google to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright works from its collection. Dating from 1700 to 1870, the works take in the French and Industrial Revolutions, the Battle of Trafalgar, the Crimean War and the end of slavery. It will include works in various European languages and will focus on books not yet available digitally. Once digitized, they’ll be fully searchable and available to download from Google Books.
As digital markets continue to develop, one challenge for IFRRO is to figure out which are the primary, and which the secondary, sources of income.
“Our members focus on secondary uses of published works,” says Stokkmo. “They therefore depend on publishers and authors having clear business models for primary use. We have to identify opportunities for a collective approach — where it’s not cost efficient from an individual company perspective.”
So far this means granting permission for copying fragments of work which are being posted to internal networks, used in virtual learning environments, printed, put into PowerPoint presentations, or projected onto smart boards. In other words, largely where existing secondary market customers have started making digital copies of works.
The next stage is to build rights information and management structures for new digital markets. This involves developing new technical standards and identifiers that will help to streamline and even automate the permissions process.
For example, IFRRO helped to establish ISTC (International Standard Text Code), an identifier for textual works, and ISNI, a way to identify authors and publishers.
It partnered with EDItEUR to develop two XML formats to improve data exchange between rights management agencies, publishers and authors. The first, ONIX for distributions, facilitates the exchange of distribution payment information; the second, ONIX for repertoire, enables data exchange on rights and repertoire.
IFRRO has also joined a project of the European Publishers Council to automate rights management, from labeling content through licensing it, and monitoring its use.
Because digital platforms have made it much easier for users to access copyright works, Stokkmo sees the future of reproduction rights agencies as one-stop-shops for secondary use of digital content, such as repurposing. A business models forum has been set up to explore new opportunities.
“It involves identifying rights, creators, publishers and rights status, and automating permissions to enable legal access to works,” Stokkmo says.
Lastly, and importantly, IFRRO foresees a big role for collective rights agencies in educating consumers, rights holders, and the digital generation on fair remuneration for creative works. Its video, “Building bridges between creators and the digital generation,” kicks off the debate.