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Managing Content Rights to Maximize Value

Have you ever spent a lot of money and effort to bring something new into the world only to regret it later because you aren’t getting the value out of it that you put in? If you haven’t, you’re in luck. However, ask any publisher the same question and you will get an entirely different response.

For most of publishing’s history, companies have enjoyed a near monopoly on production and distribution of their content through mostly print formats. Exclusive access to the market brought them a steady flow of revenues. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, technology changed everything. Enter digital platforms and the need to transform the whole delivery process of content. End users became more informed and demanded things that many publishing houses would had not thought of. Those which didn’t adapt and transform themselves became dinosaurs.

Big publishing houses spent millions of dollars to develop content on multiple channels that would be compatible with new devices. This transformed the entire experience of reading news, books and more. This investment helped publishers to survive and even thrive in the changing business environment but it created problems of its own.

To begin with, integration of content on multiple platforms is extremely difficult. On top of that, distribution on different platforms creates more problems. A publisher generally owns a right to content it brings to market. These rights are then passed on to the distributor who then passes on this content to the end user. Now, a reader accesses the same content on different devices supporting different formats. If different distributors were assigned for different formats, then integrating their services becomes a mammoth task.

That’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest issue now facing publishing houses is when the end user starts unauthorized sharing of publisher content with friends and even strangers - Piracy. Multiple copies get created and publishers lose the opportunity to earn more money. The digital solution, which promised to be a big source of revenue for publishers, has actually in some cases robbed them of dollars.

All these shortcomings of digital channel call for effective rights management of publishers’ content. Rights Management helps publishers check unauthorized usage of their content. It could involve several methods, from limiting the use of content to asking publishers permission whenever a file is copied.

The lifecycle of a typical rights starts with rights generation (when the content is created), moving along to rights maintenance, then clearance and continuing on until tracking. Within this lifecycle, things like contract management, licensing and royalty management become issues for publishers to deal with.

Effective Rights Management

No matter how big or small a publishing house is, effective rights management must involve centralization of rights of all the assets owned by the company. This will first help in effective management of royalties and finance since all the records will be maintained and updated regularly. It will then lead to streamlining of rights inheritance and rights clearance process which arise when legal contracts are made between artists, publishers and distributors. Then comes sub-righting and licensing of rights when the content is passed on to third-party vendors, which also becomes easier as the data is readily available and there is no duplication. All this can help transform the content delivery platform (supply chain network) of publishers to better manage and monetize rights. Finally, there will be one standard within the company, which will establish a reliable link between artists and end users and will lead to effective tracking of rights.

Once publishers manage to address the problem of rights inheritance and distribution, courtesy effective rights management, they are ready to publish their content for end users to read. At this stage, piracy, unauthorized sharing of content, can become an issue. As of today, there is no widely accepted solution to this problem.

The challenge lies in how to use technology so that both publishers and end users get the most value out of content.


-By Vijay Bherwani

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