By Michael Healy, Executive Director, International Relations, Copyright Clearance Center
As digital technology continues its steady transformation of the publishing world, many new companies have been entering the industry. During this process, publishers have recognized significant opportunity to license their content for republication. In turn, the new entrants have begun to experience — many for the first time — the challenges associated with securing permissions to use previously published content, whether text, illustrations, or video. As the global marketplace evolves, new content developers more and more frequently need to obtain permissions to re-use content from established publishers, as well as directly from authors. In doing so, the new companies assume they will find in place permissions processes that are quick, automated and otherwise trouble-free.
As many publishers will readily admit, the task of securing or granting permissions usually features hurdles. The slow, time-intensive, manual, costly and inefficient process tightens already dense production schedules and budgets. As new types of digital products proliferate — especially in education — these problems intensify. In these circumstances, it is fortunate that licensing, like the publishing industry it serves, is also changing rapidly and that many new services in the market can help publishers — old and new — grant and secure permissions for republication more easily, more efficiently, and more cost-effectively. Such services are not only facilitating the many new types of permissions required by new forms of publishing, but are also helping to eliminate much of the difficulty associated with the permissions process. With these new services, content owners can more easily exploit the licensing revenue opportunities that come with the availability of new types of products and new market channels. Everyone — those seeking permission to re-use content and those granting permission to use it — benefits when processes are simplified and when inefficiency and delay are reduced.
Those wishing to secure permission to re-use previously published content usually know exactly what they require. Most want to get permission for all the rights they need in a single, completely transparent online transaction and thereby avoid going through the labor-intensive and costly back-and-forth of rights negotiations.
Those selling rights also have clear requirements. Of course, they aspire to secure the highest possible revenue for their content, but they often want more than that. They want pricing control and flexibility. They want as much automation as possible, and sometimes, when it’s appropriate, they want to outsource some or all of the work to a trusted and experienced partner and, by doing so, relieve some of the pressure on already over-burdened permissions staff.
With that in mind, here are three ways to help increase permissions revenue generated from content:
1. Make it easy for customers to secure permissions to reuse content and respect intellectual property rights by offering instant permissions through automated transactional services. Without these services, publishers may miss out on revenue opportunities and frustrate users accustomed to getting what they want when they want it.
2. Take advantage of existing web and mobile traffic to increase revenue. For example, add a “get permissions” button to websites and mobile apps that links customers directly to a service that allows them to secure permissions immediately. The direct linkage reinforces the value of the content and increases the likelihood that users will pay to reuse it.
3. Make content of all types available for licensing and purchase – not only full text, but also portions of text, as well as images, audio, and video. Savvy rightsholders are licensing portions of their content because content buyers want this flexibility.
The revenue upside might be significant. Keep in mind that Copyright Clearance Center has distributed more than $1.5 billion to rightsholders from its licensing activities in the past ten years (and more than $190 million in 2014 alone).
Producing great content remains at the heart of publishing. But monetizing online articles, images, multimedia and other digital content can be challenging as old revenue models disappear and new ones emerge. A significant part of a publisher’s digital strategy should be a continuous refocusing on new ways to license and deliver content. Such a focus can assure increases in revenue during times of transformation.