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ROI on Rights Management Investments

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Marilyn Cresswell is Implementation and Support Consultant at knk and Bradbury Phillips, whose products are used by publishers and agencies worldwide. She is an experienced publishing professional with first-hand expertise in rights sales, royalties, licensing, and copyright permissions. Having worked in several publishing roles, most recently at Manchester University Press as Rights and Digital Systems Manager and then as Distribution and Content Manager, she has extensive knowledge of the rights and content management process.

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

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