US-Based Copyright Clearance Center Buys the UK’s Ixxus

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Content management meets rights management in a newly announced acquisition by Copyright Clearance Center of London’s Ixxus, another merger in the changing world of digital publishing.
Image - iStockphoto: Max Sattana

Image – iStockphoto: Max Sattana

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Deployment-Ready’
Behind the scenes of the contemporary publishing industry, you frequently run into Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) and Ixxus. Dependable sponsors of industry events, you find their logos glowing and their staffers speaking at conferences, in trade show events, in symposia.

COPYRIGHT CLEARANCE CENTER logoAnd now, as it turns out, you’re looking at the same entity. CCC has bought Ixxus for an undisclosed amount.

This is the union of two well-liked but often baffling service entities in publishing. Industry players at surprisingly high levels will sometimes pull aside a journalist at a trade show event and whisper, “What is it that they do?” about either or both of these companies. They’re not books-on-shelves companies, not e-reader plastics manufacturers, and not given to hand-selling new releases in bookshops. But they’re seemingly everywhere. A bit like excellent stage lighting, when their work is done correctly, it disappears.

Based in Danvers, Massachusetts, CCC is “a firm dedicated to creating global licensing and content solutions that make copyright work.”

IXXUS logoBased in London, Ixxus’ field is content management, but it prefers to describe itself as “a software professional services firm and leading provider of publishing solutions that reinvent the way organizations work with content.”

What word do you keep hearing? “Solutions.” Publishing “solutions.” That’s a corporate-speak euphemism, of course, that could well have been mothballed long ago, but in both cases, it refers to a certain amount of flexibility and customization in how clients are served.

Ixxus: ‘Solutions’

Led by Steve Odart, a familiar speaker at trade-show and conference events, Ixxus’ suite of services includes the Ixxus Publishing Modules, which are a set of “deployment-ready software components.” For example, there is the Ixxus Design Hub, which “plugs directly into Adobe InDesign to easily and automatically convert books and publications into fixed-layout EPUBs, PDFs, and HTML files.  Working with the rich-media potential of EPUB3, IDH allows you to include such interactive features as pop-up messages, video clips, or custom Javascript-based widgets.”

Tuesday’s announcement of the acquisition of CCC and Ixxus includes this commentary, which might be read as a rationale for the purchase of Ixxus: “According to The Radicati Group, the enterprise content management (ECM) market will grow from $5.5 billion in 2014 to more than $9.4 billion in 2018. This is an average annual growth of 15 percent over that timeframe. The Ixxus proposition goes beyond the traditional ECM offering, combining content modeling, semantic linking and advanced workflow capabilities to support the publishing process from end to end and deliver truly ‘smart content.’”

Last year, The Bookseller’s The FutureBook program solicited manifestos from the publishing community addressing various issues of its digital transformation. Ixxus’ Steve Odart provided one of the most interesting of these essays, in terms of its conceptualization of content’s place and movement on a new digitally illuminated landscape.

In what he called A Manifesto for ‘Smart Content’ in Publishing, Odart wrote, in part:

Steve Odart

Steve Odart

“Publishers – and indeed any organizations working with content – have suddenly had to become very smart about how we get and hold attention. There’s no one-size fits all: I might wish to consume information from a (frankly archaic) desktop computer, whereas my son has very different preferences. As a publisher, if you’re not able to provide your content to the consumer in the way that they wish to consume it – bearing in mind that that way may not even remain static for one individual consumer accessing across multiple devices – then you’re in a lot of trouble.

“Smart content’ is granular content that can exist in its own right. You don’t know where that one piece of content is going to end up, because you don’t know where you’ll be in a month; 6 months; a year down the road. So how do you make that piece of agnostic content work for you?

“For starters, your content needs to be enriched with all of its relevant information as metadata: that could be the rights associated with it, the context in which that content is being used in a particular product or initiative, how many times it has been used across all products and initiatives. Equally, you need to build semantic links between your content, in a way that maximizes its value at the point of consumption: for instance, including other ‘suggested content’ alongside, opening up research as data APIs, or creating digital products that can be constantly curated and updated automatically to evolve over time.”

Copyright Clearance Center: ‘Reform’
Tracey Armstrong

Tracey Armstrong

Led by Tracey L. Armstrong, CCC addresses many copyright discussions in the industry, and at a time when copyright issues are seriously in play. The digital disruption of publishing, as might be expected, has transformed the way we think of creative products and intellectual property. The company’s mission description talks of making it “easy for people to get, use and share content worldwide, while protecting the interests of creators, publishers and other copyright holders.”

CCC’s Managing Director for New Ventures, Roy Kaufman, spoke to Publishing Perspectives recently about the insights that Australian officials may want to glean from copyright exceptions endorsed by Canadian legislators to their Copyright Act with challenging results.

Mincing no words, Kaufman spoke of “an estimated loss of $50 million a year in royalty payments to content producers” in Canada, “plus an even more insidious but hard-to-quantify disincentive to buying books — an important component of Canadian culture is suffering.”

And CCC’s Michael Healy, Executive Director for International Relations will address the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) conference, “DigiCon 2016” on the eve of BookExpo America (BEA) in Chicago. His address, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT on May 10, is titled “Global Update: The State of Copyright.”

In the description of his talk, IDPF’s material echoes the kind of lessons Kaufman’s interview reveals:

Michael Healy

Michael Healy

“Publishing today depends on technology, and technology is pressing copyright laws in ways never imagined before.

“The vital role copyright plays in the new ‘information economy’ is widely recognized, yet nearly every month another government launches a review of its intellectual property framework or announces new measures to deal with ‘the copyright problem.’

“In courtrooms and legislation across the globe – from India to Canada, Australia to Germany, and beyond – copyright holders must diligently seek to protect their existing rights not only against wide-ranging infringement but also so-called ‘reform.’

“In a worldwide review of “the state of copyright,” including controversial copyright-related judgments that have come out of US courts, Michael Healy…will lay out details of the disruption underway as well as out outline how publishers have become adept at managing the disruption by harnessing market-driven forces.”

Copyright Clearance Center also is one of two sponsors of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights conference — Rights and Content in the Digital Age — on June 13 in New York City, along with Ingenta.

‘At the Center of Every Conversation’

In a prepared statement about the acquisition of Ixxus, CCC chief Armstrong is quoted saying:  “Content is at the center of every conversation we have with our customers. Ixxus and CCC have extensive experience, know-how, talent, and relationships in complementary areas.  Ixxus’ content management expertise and services combined with CCC’s rights management expertise and license products will enable us to create powerful new offerings that our clients are asking for.”

And for his part, Ixxus’ Odart is quoted saying: “Ixxus is recognized as a leading authority on all things content. Our work with respected global publishers, including Wiley and Pearson, gives us unrivaled experience within the field. As part of CCC, we’re now able to address critical rights licensing challenges for current and future customers and develop solutions to support global business transformation.”

The initial announcement from Copyright Clearance Center makes no reference to personnel changes or operating coordination going forward. In time we’ll know more about the practical structure and workflow of the acquisition.

Ironically, both companies seem to have a mild penchant for overheated video presentation. CCC created what may have been the first ever video trailer for a conference panel, an Earth-rise space operetta ahead of its London Book Fair session on “The Data Dilemma.” And Ixxus’ “Our Story” video is scored to music that might have inspired Jeanne d’Arc to take on more Burgundians. One can’t help but wonder if the two outfits aren’t now sharing the same, excitable video producer.

But hard-charging promotional materials aside, this is an interesting merger, not unlike the acquisition last year of Ron Martinez’ Aer.io by Ingram Content Group — a case that offers a clear proposition for two entities to enhance each other’s offers.

Copyright Clearance Center and Ixxus do approach the upended field of publishing from different points on the compass. Working in concert might produce more nuanced and comprehensive approaches to digitally destabilized elements of publishing’s supply chain and workflows. Imagine the videos to come.

 

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.