Guide To Digital Rights Management (DRM): A 10-Step Checklist

Guide To Digital Rights Management (DRM): A 10-Step Checklist

Whether you are just getting started or continuing in your digital rights management journey, FADEL has compiled a checklist of the 10 best practices to guide the way towards optimal DRM practices for brand safety and efficiency.

1. Inventory Your Content and Agreements

To get started on your digital rights management (DRM), inventory the type of content that is rights-managed and understand where the rights are coming from.

  • Are they license agreements or talent contracts?
  • Is the content being governed by more than one contract such as multiple talent or content elements?

If so, it is important to know that and gather all the associated agreements. By taking inventory, you’ll be able to ensure there are no gaps in your information.

Who owns the contract and rights information and does everyone that needs it have visibility into the information?

Understand where your content is being stored and what types of systems are part of your production workflow from planning to production to distribution. Any of these systems might need to check rights before clearing an asset for use. Starting with this step first will make your workflow easier and more efficient, especially when working collaboratively.


2. Centralize Rights Information

By ensuring that rights are centralized and accessible, teams are empowered to make informed decisions, while legal teams are armed to defend the usage, and protect the reputation of the brand and company.

Additionally, the knowledge of where there are exceptions is highly useful. The team can amend and extend agreements rather than produce and acquire from scratch.

A common pitfall is the failure to catalog rights for an asset at acquisition, which then increases both risk and future maintenance. Account for the asset ingestion process and capture as much data as possible at the beginning of the process —it is much harder to come back later and get the rights data necessary to clear the asset in the future.


3. Ensure Rights Management Is Part of Your Governance Process

Any large organization or brand will have a multi-faceted governance process in place. Look at how the plan and process cut across rights management to ensure content is used within regulation. The aim is to be able to manage content globally, across all potential users, brands, channels and territories.

We recommend looking at how your governance processes empower your teams to manage content globally, across all potential users, brands, channels, and territories, while ensuring the content is used within regulation and/or according to contracts. By adding a rights verification step during production, monitoring content consumption and tracking against expirations, companies gain content compliance that will save millions in litigation costs and protect brand reputation.

Ensure each agency is following the same set of steps to ensure checks are in place and information is easy to find.


4. Determine Where You Need a Rights Check Across Your Content Supply Chain

A robust DRM solution is key across your entire supply chain, from content production and planning to distribution and publishing. It’s important to check rights

before a campaign is live but also to monitor for expirations and rights after the campaign has launched.

Adding in one or more rights verification steps can empower the business user across the overall workflow – from campaign planning to asset management to creative processes and finally post-distribution. Say, for example, that the contract for a model used in an asset within your campaign expires. That asset is no longer compliant and can cause your firm damage, both financially and reputationally.

This system for checks and balances will ensure compliance for your assets and talent agreements.


5. Integrate Digital Rights Management with Your 3rd Party Systems

Now that you have identified where your rights clearance checks need to be across the content lifecycle, integrate your rights management process and solution with your DAM, MAM, CMS, Creative Tools and Workflow Tools, and other systems. Ensuring that your DRM is open and extensible is key.

  • Integrate into your planning and workflow management tools
  • Plug rights into your DAM
    • Rights/Restrictions
    • Expirations
  • Ensure an automated rights verification pre-distribution through your PIM, e-Commerce and Social Media platforms, as well as a usage rights check within your Creative Tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud and Figma
  • Coordinate clearance and usage tracking post-distribution with rights information to prevent violations. For further visibility, we recommend investing in a content tracking solution to stay up to date as to where, when, and how your assets are being utilized. Keeping an eye on the digital assets you’re utilizing across advertisements, branding, and content enables you to be aware of content misuse.


6. Carve Out a Librarian Role

In today’s digital age, a librarian is a must-have for a large brand. With digital content being created at a speed and quantity exponentially higher than non-digital content, there are new concerns and responsibilities for librarians making the role essential. A librarian’s responsibility is to maintain the content, its integrity and manage rights to ensure compliance and promote the efficient use and reuse of existing investments.


7. Create a Well-Designed Taxonomy

Taxonomy is essential when working with assets and content as a way of properly classifying and cataloging. Ensure that you consider all your points of sale as well as how an asset might be leveraged across products and brands, so that you are able to properly acquire and track rights. Without a well-structured rights taxonomy, determining your rights can be difficult. Often licensing agreements are bounded with exclusions, restrictions, timeframes, geographic limitations, and more. And assets themselves are becoming more complex –an asset is no longer just a singular item but instead is now becoming a “composite asset” comprised of multiple items forming one new asset. It is important to employ a flexible and extensible model which allows you to track different types of assets (text, images, video, music, brands, etc.) in different ways (formats, territories, usage types, components, exclusivity, date windows, etc.).


8. Automate Rights Management

Some companies use a manual approach involving spreadsheets, file folders or attaching PDF contracts. As assets proliferate and agreements become more granular, however, such an approach can soon become too complex to manage and maintain. For this reason, it is advisable to automate the rights clearance step so that users become knowledgeable and accountable, and brands are protected. Otherwise, there is a risk of encountering a variety of functional limitations.

For example:

  • an asset is often associated with multiple talent(s) or other agreements that may have different rights that need to be accounted for
  • a contract or asset with one talent may have different expiration dates for different distribution channels
  • each time a contract is updated, affected assets need to be identified and metadata must be updated manually…
  • …and there is no guarantee that users will check the usage rights metadata field and interpret it correctly.


9. Introduce Rights-Driven Workflow

Introducing a rights-based workflow is a very interesting concept that typically suits organizations that are further along in their DAM maturity models.

Consider triggering behavior based on rights results. For instance, if a content piece cannot be used according to the bounds of a particular campaign, then prevent it from being downloaded, throw up a disclaimer or stamp it with a watermark. This can only be done properly if the content and associated rights are tied together during the production process, at the point of selection for use.

You can also introduce process efficiencies with workflow tasks and business process management, such as requesting additional rights for a content piece in order to meet content and brand objectives. Additionally, one can look to drive notifications and alerts based on content intelligence, such as when content or agreements expire, where one might be in violation, and when a buyer enters the last stage of their experience.


10. Provide Reporting and Analytics

Visibility is power. Visibility is critical during the production process, internally and externally. Not just understanding what is available but also understanding the content’s digital rights. By adding in this visibility during the creative and production process you are injecting transparency and creating greater compliance. Now legal teams are armed to defend the usage of content and talent. With analytics on the trend data, you are able to negotiate better licensing terms and talent rates.

Visibility post-production can greatly improve your company’s processes. For instance, by reporting on asset and contract expirations you are able to proactively handle impending expirations and negotiate for extensions, as well as immediately address violations.



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