By Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR License
This month, in light of the upcoming Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), we’re focusing on China. Despite being an enticing marketplace for a range of companies within the publishing world, there’s no getting away from the fact that it remains a tough nut to crack for both new entrants and acclaimed players within the field. Generating business links within China does take time, patience and cultural sensitivity. However, vast opportunities and potential do remain for rights and licensing business into and out of this extensive publishing industry.
As such we thought it would be interesting to compare a relative newcomers’ experience with that of a more established force. As a key strategic partner of IPR, and with a long history of working within this marketplace, we asked Michael Healy, Executive Director of International Relations at Copyright Clearance Center for his views, and matched them with our own.
What’s your company’s experience of the Chinese market?
Michael Healy (MH): CCC got involved in China several years ago, working in close cooperation with The Charlesworth Group. Our focus throughout that time has been on securing the participation of major Chinese-language publishers in our various licensing programs. That has proved to be successful with over 100 Chinese publishers now participating. There is a growing demand for Chinese-language content outside China, especially in the areas of science, technology, and medicine, and we have found rightsholders in China very interested to explore the revenue opportunities from re-use of their content.
Tom Chalmers (TC): Not long after launching IPR in 2012, we receiving some Chinese interest in acquiring subsidiary rights. This wasn’t entirely unsurprising as the Chinese market has traditionally been a key global purchaser of subsidiary rights mainly across its core genres. However, it was in 2014 when we also partnered with The Charlesworth Group that we started to fully enter the market. Interestingly, there is an increasing drive across the industry to have more Chinese content available globally through licensing. Backed by an additional partnership with the Frankfurt Book Fair’s office in Beijing, the next few years are set to see some active and exciting times.
How do you see the market in China developing over the next 12-24 months?
MH: We expect to see more and more Chinese publishers putting their rights into CCC’s licenses going forward. We’re also hopeful that we will see progress in the area of collective licensing in China and that structures will develop to support the collective management of rights in the near future. There’s clear movement in this direction and that’s very positive.
TC: The size and strength of the Chinese market has recently been demonstrated by the financial results of two of its largest companies and also an appetite for global acquisition. With the increasing drive to make Chinese content more widely available on a global scale, alongside a willingness to embrace different vehicles and medium to achieve this, I expect to see a number of key innovations and developments emerging within the field of licensing. Both in terms of collective licensing and in the development of systems to support the expansion of international licensing business.
Do you see growing interest from Chinese publishers in international rights?
MH: The recent history of CCC’s engagement in China has been one of growing interest from local rightsholders in the opportunities to license their content overseas. We’re pleased to have played a part in enabling that. It has been our experience that Chinese publishers are very knowledgeable about such opportunities and fully engaged in finding ways to exploit the revenue possibilities from rights transactions.
TC: As mentioned earlier, in core market genres such as business STM and Health and Wellness, China has long been a major acquirer of global subsidiary rights. What has also been noticeable over the last year or two is the drive to now also license Chinese content to international publishers. When you consider the sheer volume of works published in China, many with strong historical domestic sales, this push makes complete sense. Generally, I have found the knowledge, appetite and potential for licensing to be strong within China, with many publishers integrating licensing as part of their core strategy.
What do you see as the main challenges facing the Chinese market going forward?
MH: The challenges facing Chinese publishers are not materially different from those facing publishers in any other significant market. Every publisher is grappling with the new ways in which content is being distributed and used, and making sure they are properly rewarded for those uses. Chinese publishers are looking increasingly to global markets and new ways in which to maximize their sales. Rights transactions are an important part of that.
TC: By looking to license more Chinese content globally, Chinese publishers are proactively looking to meet the global challenge of monetizing content in this evolving digital world in a fair and efficient manner. Within subsidiary rights, having work translated from Chinese has traditionally been a challenge but the evolution of technology now allows more cost-effective distribution of samples and other materials. It has also resulted in a growing awareness of the importance of the Chinese market, meaning many obstacles of the past are slowly being reduced.
What are your expectations of this year’s Beijing Book Fair?
MH: We have been attending the book fair in Beijing for several years and we find that it’s growing in importance. Obviously it’s a good opportunity to meet with Chinese rightsholders, and I’m looking forward to meeting not only those already participating in our licenses but also those wishing to do so. It’s also a great forum for learning about what’s happening in the Chinese publishing industry, and I’m especially interested in the STM seminar organized by the Frankfurt Book Fair at which I’ll be speaking about developments in text and data mining.
TC: While being enhanced by technology, publishing is still a very personable business and the book fair offers a great chance to meet various contacts in person, exchange ideas and develop business partnerships. There is also no better way to learn about a market than being in the center of it. And with the Chinese publishing industry evolving so quickly I look forward to educating myself further, forging closer relationships and emerging with lots of new ideas.