Rights and permissions have evolved from a back-office service department that was supposed to get stuff done and stay out of the way. In the modern era, with the introduction of software packages and digital rights management, these departments have become significant revenue producers.
The world’s biggest publishing rights event, Frankfurt Book Fair, returns in just under a month’s time. In the meantime, the rights discussion has already gotten underway for fall 2017. Managing Publishing Rights Across the Supply Chain, a recent Book Industry Study Group special event in New York, delivered a wake-up call for the industry.
As Publishers Weekly senior news editor Calvin Reid reports, what he heard throughout the day at the BISG seminar was a sadly familiar story for anyone following publishing and related rights issues. “Publishers either don’t know what their rights are exactly, have not fully investigated in software solutions, very often don’t know what their rights are, and can’t collect rights revenue that is actually owed them.”
Moving away from that confusion toward rights management clarity was the stated goal of the BISG session. At BookExpo this spring, BISG reported out on a survey of publishers that called rights, “an untapped opportunity.” Publishers who do seize the opportunity have had significant success, Reid notes.
“They rounded out their discussion of rights by talking about how rights and permissions have evolved over the years from a back-office service department that just was supposed to get stuff done and stay out of the way. In the modern era, with the introduction of software packages and digital rights management, these departments have since become significant revenue producers,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally.
In July, a copyright infringement ruling barred a start-up publisher from issuing so-called “children’s guides” to novels still under copyright. The judge in that case, Jed Rakoff, only released his judgment last week, reports Andrew Albanese, PW’s senior writer.
“Rakoff accuses the publisher of not recounting the novels ‘in the service of literary analysis,’ but offering ‘literary analysis in the service of trying to make the Guides qualify for the fair use exception. In other words, what Moppet Books was stealing the works and trying to cover their tracks by making them study guides,” Albanese says. “Adding a bit of commentary to an unauthorized derivative, the judge argues, does not transform a work into a protectable publication.”
Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.