Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sampling, Chunking, Permissions and Whose Line is it anyway?

Rights permissions were once described by a very knowledgeable industry colleague as being a publishing mystery. The request was ‘like a piece of paper being quietly slipped under a door to a blue rinsed old lady, who lives in her own cupboard. The answer was whatever she deems appropriate and the monies often end up in a shoebox in the cupboard.’

We all know that is not true, but it was a great image and helps demonstrates the challenges some publisher face when asked not about the work but a fragment of it.

Digitisation by its nature creates more ‘chunking’ opportunities (the selling of fragments). Do contracts fully encompass this and identify the royalty due? Are they fully tracked and reflected in all author communication? Is there really a tribe of blue rinse old ladies hidden in cupboards?

The answers are varied but the issue remains the same. Digitisation is enabling sales to be made in many ways and these need now to be fully covered.

Look at music and the issues sampling gave it when it first happened. Remember when ‘Billy Jean’ was sampled and Michael Jackson took the issue to court?

What is the book publishing answer today to permissions in a digital world and more importantly, tomorrow?

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