Now, more than ever, there are many compelling reasons for implementing a rights management system, all of which will justify the potential return on investment often targeted. A good rights management system is crucial to any business involved in the buying and selling of rights – from the smallest agency to the largest publisher.
Dual record card systems and spreadsheets are no longer enough!
The rights and licensing industry is expanding exponentially as the digital services evolve. Those involved in selling and licensing rights are exploring increasingly complex and diverse selling models and licensing terms in order to maximize income. Cross-platform media licensing continues to expand as a market as the worlds of publishing, film, TV, gaming and merchandising enter into ever more collaborative projects. A good rights system should offer excellent record-keeping and accounting as they have done traditionally, but also CRM, and informed reporting. So, what are some of the main benefits of implementing a rights solution, and how can investment be justified?
Risk Management – Failing to observe the terms of an agreement for rights held as a licensee can result in significant financial penalties and legal fees. Recording and monitoring compliance to agreed terms in licenses, tracking expiry dates, and getting reports outlining what you can (and can’t) do with acquisitions is an essential yet complex process to manage. Mitigating risk is one of the more traditional justifications to outline in any business case for a rights system.
Increased speed to market on new projects – Clearing rights every time a new project is planned by delving into contract files is enormously time-consuming and prone to misinterpretation of contracted terms, especially when the information you need is sitting in a long document full of legalese. By storing the information about all the rights held in one place (where terms can easily be summarized) there is no need to factor so much clearance time into every project. This has the added benefit of reducing duplication in company projects running simultaneously, such as digitization strategies in other departments. Rights are cleared once, recorded once, and everyone who needs to can see what rights are, or need to be, cleared simply by running a report.
Adds value to assets by realizing the potential worth of your IP – Having the ability to record detailed information about rights licenses that are actively earning royalties offers a way to improve forecasting of potential earnings which can, in turn, add to the company valuation. Similarly, the ability to project estimates of the potential gains that could be achieved from exploiting rights and licenses you control is also of benefit to the valuation of your business.
Manage pre-sales effectively – work your CRM – A good rights system should enable you to use it as a CRM system as well. You should be able to easily tell not only who you have sold to/purchased rights from, but also monitor your contact history with them. What titles have you discussed with them in the past? What are the areas they are interested in? What options are open with them? What is it they are looking for? Having the ability to run reports of this kind is invaluable to anyone working in rights. It would be a waste of precious selling time to promote the same content to a client during a book fair meeting when they have previously indicated they are not interested. Similarly, the ability to know when an exclusive option to review content is released means you can offer it to the next interested party without delay.
Being able to run a report on activity with clients in your system prior to a book fair makes preparation significantly easier and quicker. Similarly, dealing with follow-up to book fairs and pre-sales activity is far more manageable and efficient. Make a note of every event you attend, and you will be able to determine the places and events most likely to offer you a return on your investment in attending them. Book fairs are crucial to a rights professional, but expensive to attend. A good rights system will help you maximize the opportunities they present.
Marketing assets – It is just as important for rights marketing to outline what rights are NOT available for a title as it is to advertise which are, so that you aren’t wasting people’s time. If translation rights for a book have sold in several languages, this indicates to a buyer the book project looks likely to translate well and has attracted international interest so there will be more interest in titles like this. Similarly book prize winners attract attention. If your rights system includes comprehensive title metadata of this kind you can output all that data into a rights catalogue: better still, you could even consider tailoring a catalogue for a single customer or country.
Identify trends in rights income – A rights system offers the opportunity to interrogate your data, identify buying and selling patterns, and provides the evidence necessary to take more informed decisions about how to exploit them.
Payments – A rights system should be able to record payments due and received, and for smaller companies with no central purchasing office, be able to cope with the invoices and accounting. Many agreements have statement periods contractually added, so knowing when to expect, or indeed, produce one, is crucial for both compliance and credit control. It can be some time from signature to project publication, so scheduling when an event is due is crucial in monitoring that receipts are timely, and in ensuring a licensing project is proceeding on schedule.
Embarking on a project to ensure all your rights contracts are stored digitally, especially if you have lots of licenses, can be a challenging project to embark upon but try to remember – this will future-proof your assets and add to the value of your business. When the opportunity presents for a major licensing deal, you will be in a much better position to act quickly. Considering all these benefits, you will see a good return on your investment.
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