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On Establishing a Global Platform for Book Content Rights

Rights and content licensing for books remains a fairly dormant business. IPR License is a platform looking to unlock that potential revenue.

By Daniel Kalder

LONDON: IPR License is new service intended by its creators to become a global hub for content rights. It promises ease of access and use — rights holders upload their content, while interested parties can browse and perhaps purchase. Is a revolution in the world of rights licensing round the corner? Publishing Perspectives spoke to publisher, retailer and IPR License Managing Director Tom Chalmers to find out.

“…book rights and licensing is an increasingly central revenue stream for publishers,” says Tom Chalmers, IPR License

Some ideas are so obvious that it is amazing to discover that when you first see them realized it seems amazing that nobody has done it already; the ketchup bottle that rests on its cap for instance. From the outside IPR License looks like that kind of idea—simple, obvious, and yet fairly nascent.

“Yes, it’s one of those ideas that just makes sense — there are challenges but very often the most straightforward ideas are the best,” says Chalmers. “The management of IPR License has a 40-year history in licensing and events and we were working on a new business looking at trademarks and patents, when a great opportunity in copyright was identified.

“Initially, I spoke to the major publishers regarding creating a complete list of who owns the rights to what. It quickly became clear the level of dormant business within book rights and licensing is an increasingly central revenue stream for publishers. So the idea evolved into creating a marketplace for the listing and trading of content rights.”

There were some precursors, says Chalmers — such as online offerings in the US focused on permissions, such as Copyright Clearance Center, while the auction house Christie’s has “shown the way forward in terms of online auctions and licensing.” However he adds: “Between all of these there is a clear and important gap which can be applied to content rights and there lies a huge opportunity.”

The site operates on a membership basis. Fees range from £99 for an individual up to £1,999.00 for the largest companies. Once you are a member, you can upload as many titles as you like and detail the rights you hold to them, or assign your rights to existing books on the platform (there are 13 million existing titles). IPR License has a team that approves rights listed to ensure accuracy and they will also work with members to upload information on their behalf.

“Search is a vital function of the platform. It can be by a wide criteria, including publishers, key word, category etc. Our aim is to extend this out until if you have a certain type of right in a certain area the platform will find a range for you. In addition, we recognize the importance of personal contact and our Account Managers work with members to make sure they find what they are looking for from the platform.”

Although the service is still young, business has been “a whirlwind,” says Chalmers: “Initially we were focused on launching the platform in its initial phase and then talking to as many publishers and agencies as possible to explain how the platform will work and the opportunities for business for them.

“At the end of the first month, we had been contacted by publishers in 22 different countries, had run a seminar with Kings College looking at creating a roadmap on copyright for the government and were already taking to senior figures in the industry regarding working on the next of the platform. It has quickly become apparent that IPR License is a very exciting route forward for the industry.”

Others agree, as IPR License has attracted powerful players to its team. Adds Chalmers: “The principal of the IPR businesses, Roger Shashoua, has a hugely successful business background, having floated four companies and this year was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. Roger has had various involvements in the publishing industry over the last 40 years, as is the case with our other directors Jonathan Reuvid and Stanislava Blagoeva. With a blend of business, licensing and publishing experience, it seems the perfect mix to have recognized and realized the opportunity for an online rights trading platform.”

international booksInitially IPR License focused on publishers and agencies as the main bulk holders or representatives of book rights. But, adds Chalmers: “We are also looking as internationally as possible as we realize the importance of the platform operating on a global scale. During the second phase we will look to expand this into other content holders, from writers and other creatives to companies from different creative sectors, such as film, music, art, design etc.

Might this in the future be a way for authors, musicians and filmmakers to sidestep “gatekeepers” such as agents, by uploading their own content to IPR License and selling it directly to publishers and studios? Yes and no, says Chalmers:

“We are looking at widening the offering to include the producers of creative content, such as authors directly, though we have also been speaking to agents as we aim this to be an all-inclusive platform. All parties can use the IPR License platform to meet their own business objectives. You can upload a preview and as a self-published author could be working with the team to license the rights you hold directly. But if the author has an agent who is the best person to sell their rights, then they can do so on the platform — it is aimed as an evolution of the industry rather than moving existing business from A to B.”

DISCUSS: Why Isn’t More Book Content Licensed? Easy, No Brand

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5 Comments

  1. Vincent
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Another fee, another layer of paperwork. If they had linked the rights issue with the ISBN fee than that would have been impressive.

  2. Posted December 18, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    If I understand correctly, this approach is very similar to what http://www.rightscenter.com was proposing some 12 years ago, yet was not embraced by the traders.
    (The current website under that URL proclaims such services for film rights, yet lacks any more specs, notably on who is behind it).

  3. Alexandra Gruebler
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    contrary to the intro that rights business is a dormant business, I find that rights business is a very active and busy area for additional revenue for most publishers and our rights department is very buoyant and expansive. I wonder if the writer here is just slightly naive? In fact, we found that IPR service for our size of company is overpriced and their service doesn’t add much to what we have already established in terms of client relationships and networks which are largely personal and consolidated over many years. I doubt that IPR is having the great impact on publishers’ incomes which it claims. It would be good to see some concrete figures in terms of real income and licenses concluded so far – backing up their success statements.

  4. Edward Nawotka
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    @Alexandra, the company is a relatively new one, so success stories aren’t likely to be forthcoming as yet. And while the claims are grandiose—doesn’t everyone say they are going to “revolutionize” the book business—I would expect such a company to be of service to the burgeoning number of smaller, independent publishers who don’t have established rights departments with well-connected and established personnel at work on their behalf.

  5. Posted December 19, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Good to see the comments and thanks to Publishing Perspectives for the feature. Aims are definitely lofty and it is certainly up to us to prove we’ve achieved them as the platform grows. The reaction we’ve had to date has been split between large publishers wanting us to focus either on backlist or emerging territories while their rights resources focus on the core areas, to smaller publishers with limited rights resources for which IPR License can provide a form of bolt-on rights department.

    With regards to film, we have been having initial discussions with film bodies re initiatives, though we want to get the literary side completely right first. However, I believe increasing the routes to film adaption will prove very interesting.

    I believe, as I of course would say, that the timing is completely right for this platform, and while in its initial stages we are receiving new enquiries most days from new markets to the platform and potential partners.

    Any questions, feel free to email me directly at tom.chalmers@iprlicense.com

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