DRM 101 for Marketers

DRM 101 for Marketers

The Evolution of DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been around for decades – designed to protect copyrighted materials from being copied or used illegally. In the US, George Washington first signed the Copyright Act into law in 1790, but the digital age really brought piracy into the public eye. The rise and fall of Napster, the file-sharing service that gained speedy popularity for mass redistribution of copyrighted music, was a cautionary tale for entrepreneurs who tried to skirt copyright law.

Today, technology exists to prevent piracy and theft of that material such as: 

  • encryption, used on music, for example, to prevent it from being played on certain devices.
  • product keys that limit the number of times an application can be installed.
  • restricted access and permission management, which blocks content based on location, type of device, or user login credentials.
  • blackout screens that prevent visitors from taking screenshots or making recordings.
  • watermarks across images that have not been licensed.

However, DRM for a marketer is less about the theft of their content and more about the compliant use of it. How do you properly arm your own marketing and advertising teams to prevent the unintentional misuse of content, especially when you’re dealing with thousands of digital assets with a vast array of terms and expiration dates?

What is DRM for Marketers?

DRM allows marketing and brand managers to track the rights associated with their digital assets in order to protect against the unauthorized use, sharing, or distribution of assets. There are several key benefits that we will expand on in this article including:

  • Mitigate the risk of copyright infringement and litigation 
  • Protect a brand’s reputation and financial interests
  • Ensure that assets are used in a way that is consistent with the brand’s overall marketing strategy

Modern DRM software has built-in strategies and processes that help brands and their agencies aggregate content and validate compliance with usage rights for all licensed content .

The Powerful Combination of DAM + DRM

In today’s digital age, managing digital assets and rights has become increasingly important for large brands. Every company is in some way a media company, using omnichannel marketing across multiple regions to communicate with customers. 

Digital asset management (DAM) and digital rights management (DRM) are two key strategies that can help marketing managers effectively manage and protect their digital assets, while also improving their overall marketing efforts. Marketers can organize, search across, and share only the right assets with the “right rights.”

“Creating, managing, activating, and retiring digital media assets to maximize their value for marketing and customer experience is a complex and growing challenge,” said Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute. The holistic approach to these strategies has given birth to an entire market called Digital Brand Compliance

Importance of Centralized DRM when Creating a Campaign

 Let’s examine an everyday scenario for advertising agencies and marketing departments:

Creative is developing an advertising campaign, which may include licensed or produced music, photos, videos, and brands, as well as talent such as models, actors, and photographers. Each asset and artist may have different terms of use you must adhere to.

A photo, for instance, carries:

  • individual rights and usages for the models, the photographer, and perhaps the location.
  • limits on when it can be used and on what channels, as well as regional restrictions. 

One of the photos that is being considered features three models and a celebrity, all with unique contract rights. The ad also uses product placement to promote a famous brand. For some channels, the campaign will use video, music, and voiceovers – each of which are linked to specific agreements.

As you can see, determining how the various media can be used and whether your campaign and ads are cleared to launch can entail a lot of digging unless you have a centralized rights management platform.

Why Metadata Isn’t the “Rights” Approach

Metadata is often used to simplify future retrieval and store content usage rights. While that’s a great first step to providing visibility into what you have and provisioning access to it internally and externally, it falls short of filling the needs of most businesses at this point. Storing rights information in metadata might work if there are only simple, linear rules associated with assets, such as you can only use the asset in the US. However, trying to support a matrixed rights model, such as using an asset in one country between a certain period of time, another country for another period of time but only in a specific format, and a third asset in another set of formats with upcoming expiration dates is beyond the pay grade of metadata.

In order to address the complexity of content rights and reduce manual workarounds large brands are turning to DRM technology to improve marketing operations, empower reuse, and ensure content compliance. 

Tracking Expirations Post-Distribution

Once campaign content is distributed across the desired channels and has been published and marketed, the project is likely marked as complete. Marketers are great at measuring and analyzing the results of a campaign and the effectiveness of the content but are they also tracking where it is live months or years later and whether it remains in compliance? 

Down the road, content can be forgotten or can be picked up and used by your partners in places that are harder to track down. But what if your asset expires, or your talent’s contract is canceled, or you rebranded your logo? It is increasingly important to be able to track down your digital content and brand assets across various distribution channels and monitor against expiration dates or non-compliant uses. Many companies have their staff manage expirations in spreadsheets and search across sites to look for their content but the emergence of content tracking tools is making the job far more efficient.

Mitigate the Risk of Copyright Infringement and Litigation

Simply put, illegal use of IP is a gamble you don’t want to make, for multiple reasons, including settlement costs, legal fees, and brand reputation.

As you can see, copyright infringement cases can be messy, time consuming, and costly. Even far-fetched claims require time and energy to resolve and may result in unfavorable press for the brand, for example the 2017 case of a California woman suing Chipotle for 2.2 billion for using her image.  

As a marketer and advertiser, you are a steward of your brand. That entails promoting a positive brand image, not compromising brand equity, and definitely not putting your brand at risk for a lawsuit. The abundance of multi-million-dollar lawsuits and settlements prove that unauthorized use is nothing to take lightly. You never want “lawsuit” to follow your brand’s name as the #1 most searched keyword pairing.

The ROI of DRM

While brands often focus on the risk related to unauthorized use of digital assets, the opportunity cost of failing to make the most of owned assets may be an even bigger selling point for those controlling the purse strings. Not knowing what you already have can blow a marketing budget in two ways: 

  1. Wasting precious time searching for licensed media and the related terms of use, and
  2. creating unnecessary spend on additional assets. 

Using DRM strategies and tools offers significant value for the customer to not only mitigate risk but also increase profitability and improve the customer experience.

Confident in your Compliance with Content Usage Rights?

To ensure we didn’t just drink our own Kool-Aid, we took a poll during one of our recent brand management webinars about attendees’ confidence in their visibility into asset usage rights. Only 31% said they were certain they knew the usage rights and legal terms of their digital assets, and their concerns reflected our beliefs.

  • Improper Usage Kills Brands. Misuse can cost millions in penalties–not to mention firefighting and rework. Plus, the negative press associated with a lawsuit can also lead to financial loss for both the brand and the advertising agency. 
  • Stalled Campaigns Delay Go-to-Market. Having to peruse complex documents or track down content rights can cause costly stalls in production. The need to cross-reference between departments, for example marketing and legal, takes time and occupies resources. This can delay the time to profitability for a product, wreaking havoc on balance sheets.
  • Content is Underutilized. Lack of visibility into creative inventory prohibits many advertisers from getting the most out of their investments. Many advertisers cannot clearly see what they own or, if they can, are unsure whether they can reuse it without violating their contract. To optimally monetize content, it should be available across departments and rights should be available real time, on demand.

A Comprehensive DRM Platform

Having a single source of truth to manage content rights is now a must. It can help you avoid the costs involved in infringement or hunting with the legal department for obscure contracts, while also helping creative departments get revenue-generating campaigns to market quicker.

A comprehensive DRM platform enables you to:

  • view real time where and how your content is being used Web-wide.
  • capture and manage agreements for all rights holders.
  • provide notifications on omnichannel usage, expirations, and violations.
  • centralize assets for easy location, sharing, and management.
  • clear aggregated content for campaign execution.
  • open up additional revenue streams through repurposed content and syndication.

If you are still working on your digital rights management strategy, check out FADEL’s Guide to Digital Rights Management: A 10-Step Checklist of DRM Best Practices.