Transcript: Now At CCC, Michael Healy Looks To Future

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As Copyright Clearance Center expands its business models to address a broader set of licensing issues facing its customers, Michael Healy, the newly-appointed Executive Director of Author & Publisher Relations is expected to be instrumental.

In September 2011, Healy joined CCC after serving as Executive Director (Designate) for the Book Rights Registry, and previously, in the same role at the Book Industry Study Group.

He spoke recently about his new work with CCC’s Chris Kenneally.

KENNEALLY: As Copyright Clearance Center expands its business models to address a broader set of licensing issues facing its customers, the newly appointed Executive Director of Author and Publisher Relations is expected to be instrumental. Michael Healy, welcome to our program, and welcome to Copyright Clearance Center.

HEALY: Thanks, Chris. It’s great to be here.

KENNEALLY: Well, it’s nice to have you join us, and I should say join us again because your name and your voice will be familiar to many people who listen to the podcast series. You’ve appeared with us in the past in your role as Executive Director at the Book Rights Registry, and even if we wind the tape back far enough to your days when you were Executive Director at the Book Industry Study Group. So it’s nice to see you and again, let me just warmly welcome you to Copyright Clearance Center, as someone looking forward to working with you. I guess the question to start with then is, why did you choose to join Copyright Clearance Center?

HEALY: Well, Chris, it’s an organization I’ve been fairly familiar with over the years, and throughout the course of a set of conversations with Tracey Armstrong, the CEO here, it became clear to me that the organization had a really exciting future, and have some very ambitious plans for the future. So as I thought about the opportunity, I became increasingly confident that CCC is the sort of organization that has the knowledge, the resources, and the experience to be part of a global solution to many critical problems the industry’s facing.

KENNEALLY: Right. And we should point out that certainly in your background, you’ve got a lot of ability, both on the library side, you told me one time that you began the career as a librarian, you really understand all the challenges that come to play in publishing these days around publishing and technology and metadata and so forth. And so you see Copyright Clearance Center is really kind of helping to advance the ball for publishers in this country and around the world.

HEALY: Absolutely the case. And I think you touched on it very well in your introductory remarks when you talked about that broader set of licensing issues and challenges that the global publishing industry is facing. And it’s going to be fun to be part of that.

KENNEALLY: Well, your title at Copyright Clearance Center is Executive Director, Author and Publisher Relations, which covers a multitude of sins, as they would say. What are you exactly going to be responsible for in that role?

HEALY: Well, it’s probably best to think of it as a product and service development role, at least initially. I’m clear that I’m responsible for the development of a set of new services and new products to support the author and publisher communities.

KENNEALLY: And you mentioned about CCC, addressing a whole broader range of licensing issues, are there some gaps that you’ve identified already that you’re looking to help close for publishers and authors, as far as rights are concerned?

HEALY: I think there is a very clear set of market gaps and we’re still working on those, but the obvious ones include things like ebook rights, the position of orphan works, and also the challenge of managing digital rights for pre-existing works. That’s just a small sample of the sort of things that I’ll be addressing with colleagues going forward.

KENNEALLY: Right. And certainly concerns familiar enough to Copyright Clearance Center, and to our audience in the rights holder community, as well as to the content users themselves. So now that you’ve had about 100 days, more or less, to get settled and learn your way around the office and so forth, what are you currently working on?

HEALY: Well, the immediate priority is an exciting new service that we’re planning to launch, namely the Permissions Acquisition Service. For those who don’t know that, and many won’t, this is a sort of full service bureau offering for those publishers, agents, authors who need help acquiring permissions for their front list and indeed their back list publications as well.

KENNEALLY: Right. This was something that got announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s a challenge, as you say, that the industry has recognized for many years. What’s the current state of play? Most publishers do this themselves right now, but they’re probably frustrated because they just can’t get the permissions to all the things they want, and I know that many authors are now expected to clear the kind of material that you’re talking about, visual and text and otherwise, before they hand in the manuscript.

HEALY: That’s absolutely the case. Many publishers have well-established permissions teams, but it’s increasingly the case that the responsibility is being devolved and delegated to authors themselves. So it’s something of a mixed picture now, but whoever is responsible for clearing these permissions, the consistent report that we receive is that the process of clearing permissions for previously published content can be very, very time consuming, very labor intensive, and slow and inefficient.

KENNEALLY: Right. And it seems to me that the digital era, the digital revolution, has made this an even bigger problem, just because the access to work is so much greater than it ever was in the past. I mean today, we can go on a search engine and find nearly anything. So the potential for needing permission to reuse something has just grown.

HEALY: Absolutely. As digital media has evolved, as you’re suggesting, there’s all sorts of new product opportunities. Apps, enhanced ebooks, web publishing opportunities, and so on. And many of these new projects have significant permissions activities associated with them. So the challenge I’ve described as onerous and time consuming and inefficient in many respects is becoming even more so as those digital product opportunities develop.

KENNEALLY: And I would think it’s also just frustrating and disappointing. If you’re an author and you would like to reuse a certain image, for example, and you’re unable to get the permission that you know you need, if you can’t use it, you would feel like you were leaving the readers down.

HEALY: I think that’s absolutely right, and to be fair, many of the authors who have got involved in this sort of work probably didn’t get into writing to be in the business of clearing permissions. They love writing and that’s what they do best, and we’re hearing increasingly that they’re very keen to find a professional partner to whom they can delegate this sort of work.

KENNEALLY: All right. Well, let’s sort of delve a little bit further into it then. This Permissions Acquisition Service that we say was announced back at Frankfurt is supposed to meet varying needs. I mean there are a number of players involved here. There’s publishers, as you mentioned. Authors. Agents. Other third parties. What are some things that the Permissions Acquisition Service here at Copyright Clearance Center can try to do?

HEALY: Well, we’re hearing from all of those constituents that they need help acquiring permissions for their back list titles when they’re being published or republished in new formats or in new territories and so on. So that’s a first clear and immediate need. They need help acquiring permissions for new front list titles. And they also need help in acquiring language and distribution rights. For example, if they’re distributing textbooks in territories that supplement those of the primary publishers.

KENNEALLY: And you’ll also be, as you say, warehousing rights for backlist assets, as it’s called, for publishers. Tell us a bit more about that. Warehousing rights, I mean I guess it exists in the cloud or somewhere similar to that.

HEALY: Well, yes. We do hear from publishers that they’re not necessarily collecting in a systematic and as comprehensive a way the rights information, the rights data, that they know they own. And again, they’ve come to us and said that there may be an opportunity to work with a professional partner to assist in helping them assess what rights they own, and then to store that data on rights information with them and on their behalf.

KENNEALLY: Right, because without that information, it has no real value. It’s sort of lost to them. It may be there, but they can’t get at it.

HEALY: Exactly so. In a sense, you only own what you know you own, and the rights metadata is a critical part of the whole overall picture.

KENNEALLY: It would be kind of like losing track of a bankbook or something like that.

HEALY: Exactly.

KENNEALLY: You know, the old bankbooks. What am I saying? If you’re losing track of your password and your ATM card. Well, Michael, the benefits of working with Copyright Clearance Center, I mean the company has done rights licensing of all kinds since 30 years or more. For this service, what are going to be some of the offerings that CCC hopes to have that we think will really make a difference in the marketplace?

HEALY: Well, it’s certainly more than simply acquiring permissions and clearing permissions. We can help publishers, authors, and agents review back list contracts, and develop permission logs to identify permissions gaps that may be there for very complex projects. We’re able, because of the length of our experience and the sophistication of our systems here, to do item level reporting and cost tracking as part of these permission activities. And of course, we’re able to offer a consolidated payment structure, and that eliminates the need for a publisher or an author, for example, to do several micropayments to multiple different rights owners. So there are a whole bundle of associated services that accompany the simple permissions acquisition activities.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, we’re talking right now with Michael Healy, who is the newly appointed Executive Director for Author and Publisher Relations at Copyright Clearance Center. And Michael, I was reflecting that your career, you’ve been an information professional in one kind or another throughout your career. Just give us the benefit of that experience and talk about the way that the nature of information and the way that we consume it, and I always sort of gag at using that work. We used to read, Michael, and now we consume information. But talk about it from your perspective, you know, as someone who’s seen that information tide grow and grow.

HEALY: Well, it’s been extraordinary. I’ve been some 25 years in the book publishing industry, and every aspect of the industry has been transformed in that period, and the transformation has been led, of course, by digital technology. So the way books are commissioned and produced and marketed and sold and priced, let alone consumed, all of those facets have been totally transformed during my time in the industry, and that has created enormous opportunities for the dissemination of information, but with it comes a whole set of really serious and significant rights challenges, and going back to your very first question to me, what’s so exciting about joining CCC at this particular turning point in the industry is that CCC is so fully engaged with the rights owners and the users of content to develop forward looking solutions for the future.

KENNEALLY: Well, I think that’s the point. I mean there’s perception among some that the rights questions kind of gum up the works, but in fact, the rights questions can make things flow that much more smoothly, if you get the proper answers.

HEALY: Absolutely. You have to have the right solutions, and the right solutions have to go with the content, we have to follow the content, we have to follow the users of the content into all sorts of new and exciting areas.

KENNEALLY: Well, Michael Healy, the new and very exciting Executive Director of Author and Publisher Relations. I’m excited to have you join us at Copyright Clearance Center. I know everyone else here is as well, and thank you so much for chatting with me.

HEALY: Well, thank you for asking me. It was good to see you, Chris.

KENNEALLY: It is great to see you back here. This podcast is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought after materials, including millions of books and ebooks, journals, newspapers, magazines, images, and blogs. We are online at copyright.com, where you can learn a great deal more information about the new Permissions Acquisition Service. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening.