Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rights Fog

For those who can remember there was a time in the late 90’s when the world of rights clearance and permissions tracking and clearance came close. The likes of, and Yankee Book Pedler were all pushing the envelope based on Internet services. Then came the reality of the size of the issues faced, the lack and consistency of the base information within the industry, the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the economics of start ups breaking new ground.
It is interesting to think what they each set out to achieve and wonder what would have happened if they had succeeded? was probably making the smallest leap but if my memory serves me well went first. They basically wanted to trade subsidiary rights on line cheap and cheerful. A rights trading market offering buyers and sellers a place to trade.

Rightscenter were a bit more ambitious and with Silicon Valley backing wanted to create a global rights trading clearance house. The issue wasn’t the system as this was slick but about capturing the information efficiently and it soon got sidetracked into the Asian market opportunities. Some may say it lost its focus.

Yankee was driven to address that old thorny issue of permissions. They wanted to do this online, first capturing the publisher’s expression and associated value and then resolving requests and taking the money. Unfortunately permissions were often a mystery to most and one old colleague once described it as being managed behind closed doors with little logic and few questions asked. The champion went off to Hewlett Packard and Yankee went in another direction.

I may have had selected memory on the above and missed some points or even got some wrong but that is not the point.

So why is all this relevant today?

We still don’t have a rights clearing centre that can capture and resolve rights queries or trade rights and as more content goes online and is digitised the need to identify who owns it and what rights are associated with it becomes more important. Where do you start and what is the natural development path? Are rights and their trading separate to the content or inherently linked to it? Should you be able to click on any object and see an expression of its ownership and attributes?

Alternatively should there just be a clearing house that stores all information and allows search and discovery? Should the ownership be with the industry fairs as that is the trading forum for much of this activity? Should be the driver be the bibliographic houses who some would argue are the obvious aggregators? Is rights trading purely a B2B activity?

It is interesting that a business that is primarily about rights and the trading of rights, appears not to have agreed a road map of how to address and approach this in this global and digital environment.

No comments: