10 Nov

How Rights Clearance Got Complicated (and what to do about it)

In practice, rights clearance often works something like this.

An employee in a marketing department has an asset such as a photograph. The photo was taken by a photographer one year ago for a print campaign, and the employee needs to know whether she can post it to the company website.

The employee might query a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system or a database, look at the metadata associated with the photo, and get a yes/no answer to a simple question (can/can’t publish on the web, can/can’t publish internationally).

Alternatively, the employee might call the contracts department. Someone in contracts will look up the photo in their own database, and clear the photo for publication. In some companies, the contracts department may have to physically track down the contract.

When the universe of digital assets was smaller, channels were fewer, and life was simpler, this approach worked reasonably well. But as managing content assets grows more complex, existing systems are starting to break down under seven major rights clearance challenges.

Here are the seven challenges facing asset rights clearance systems today:

  1. Proliferation of channels. An expanding universe of websites and social media means content is published on many more channels than ever, and accessed by more digital devices than ever.
  2. Digital IP assets have become commoditized. As a result of the proliferation of channels, a single digital asset has become a commodity that can be used in, literally, thousands of ways.
  3. The need for speed in web publishing. Web publishers are under enormous pressure to be engaging, compelling, and above all, first. Slow rights clearance can cost publishers the advantage, but rushing to publish without rights increases the risk of a copyright infringement lawsuit.
  4. Consumer-driven (and consumer-created) content. The creation and use of content is increasingly driven by consumers’ changing tastes and behaviors.
  5. Internationalization of business. As companies move fluidly across national boundaries, territorial restrictions on IP licensing require more careful attention.
  6. More companies are content companies. Media assets are no longer just the domain of media companies. Manufacturers, consumer companies, and marketing and advertising agencies (to name a few) all have substantial repositories of content to be managed.
  7. Most importantly, DAMs and other existing systems weren’t built to handle these changes and weren’t designed for rights management. They therefore cannot perform the dynamic rights clearance users require today.

Limitations of existing rights clearance systems

Returning to the example of the employee trying to clear a photograph for online use, existing DAM and rights systems face two problems: complexity and visibility.

If rights information is simple, it can be attached to a digital asset as metadata. But often permissions to use digital content are not simple. Instead, they are often complex combinations of channel, time, territory, and other restrictions. As a result, DAMs struggle to model them.

For example, the photographer’s contract may simply allow the photo to be published on the internet. But what if the contract says the photo can be published on the internet, but only after three years, or after the payment of an additional fee? Or that different territorial restrictions apply to different kinds of publication?

And that’s just one contract. Several contracts might cover one digital asset—for a photo, there may be contracts with the photographer, the model, and the location owner—all of which may impose different restrictions. That kind of complex, hierarchical information is difficult to squeeze into metadata.

Passing these problems along to the contracts department isn’t the answer. Because of the proliferation of content and channels discussed earlier, the number and complexity of queries threatens to overwhelm contracts departments, creating delays just when speed is important.

Requirements of an asset rights clearance system

Having stated the challenge, it’s possible to state the requirements of a good asset rights clearance system:

  1. Information should be accessible to the specific people who need it, cutting down on back-and-forth communications.
  2. Handles complex, hierarchical data. As we have seen, rights clearance requires more than simply assigning simple attributes to assets. Rights clearance has to preserve complexity.
  3. Yields useful answers. The database should be still capable of distilling complexity and yielding simple answers. Can this photograph be posted online today? If not, what digital assets does your company have that can?
  4. The system needs to be able to obtain asset data from a DAM or other database, as well as rights data. It needs an accurate, reliable way to assign rights data to the relevant assets.
  5. The asset rights clearance system needs to work well with other databases or risk becoming another layer of complexity or point of failure.
  6. A good solution should do all of these things quickly.

Asset Rights Clearance Solutions

FADEL’s extensive rights management background, combined with focused discussions with customers and other industry leaders about these issues, has resulted in its own Asset Rights Clearance (ARC) solution.

ARC is a cloud-based solution. It works by integrating data from DAMs and contractual rights databases, matching assets to associated rights and restrictions. FADEL’s expertise in applying attribute-based rights models to intellectual property—developed over years of experience in IP Rights Management—allows ARC to model complex IP rights and answer queries in real time.

For more information about ARC, our Asset Rights Clearance page has further resources, including an overview of the product. You can also contact us for more information.



Watch a 2-minute video on digital asset rights management & clearance with FADEL ARC, or contact us to request a demo.





Categories associated with this post: Asset Rights Clearance, Rights Management
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Rob Montrone
Rob Montrone is a Product Consultant working on developing and executing the go-to-market strategy for some of FADEL's products, including ARC. Rob brings years of product management experience from tech, pharma, and television. Additionally, Rob is the proud winner of a CLIO Award for a commercial he wrote and produced and has been nominated for an Emmy Award 3 times.

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