Transcript: The Global Licensing Landscape

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At Buying & Selling Content 2015, attendees heard presenters from start-ups, international marketing agencies and leading publishers enumerate the new rules of buying and selling content. From data licensing and copyright to mobile, apps, and SaaS platforms, the conference – organized by SIIA, the Software & Information Industry Association – addressed a range of controversial global licensing issues.

In a panel discussion. Dawn Conway, Cision COO, and Andrew Hughes, Commercial Director, NLA media access, explored how “media monitoring organizations” – typically, public relations agencies and social media consultants – are finding ways to license publishers’ content even as they scour the Web for news about their clients. CCC’s Chris Kenneally moderated.

For podcast release Monday, January 26, 2015

KENNEALLY: When it comes to copyright, there are international treaties regarding copyright, but all global copyright, if you will, is local. It’s a bit like what Tip O’Neill said about politics in Boston – all politics is local. O’Neill also said that it is easier to run for office than to run the office. And I think what publishers today understand better than they ever have in the past is it’s easy to publish. That they get. They’ve been doing that for a couple of hundred years. What is difficult and increasingly challenging is running the business. And so licensing is now looked to as an important part of running that business. It’s still a small part. We have to concede that. But it is a growing part, and the attention on it is certainly growing.

So I’m going to now turn to my panel. And to my right is Andrew Hughes. Andrew, welcome.

HUGHES: Thank you.

KENNEALLY: Andrew Hughes is commercial director for NLA Media Access, which he joined in 2004. NLA, the Newspaper Licensing Agency, is a publisher-owned rights licensing and database business in the UK that provides access to and licenses for the reuse of publishers’ content. And to my left is Dawn Conway, who I know is well known to many of you here. Dawn, welcome.

CONWAY: Thank you.

KENNEALLY: As Cision’s chief operating officer, Dawn leads Cision’s product sales, marketing, analysis, and research teams to drive the overall strategic vision for that business. She has extensive background in content licensing, marketing, and business development, and has held key senior management positions at LexisNexis. She’s also an attorney and a board member for the Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communications. And we’ll get some more information from her about that organization in just a moment.

But Andrew, I’d like to turn to you first, because you join us from London, so welcome to New York. It’s great to have you join us here. We’ve got at least, if not a real global perspective, at least two sides of the Atlantic for a discussion point. And I’m curious if you can give us an idea of just how different things may be in the UK. I was reading that the police department in the city of London actually has an intellectual property unit. And I don’t know that the NYPD would have one or if they would even be interested in patrolling right now IP, given what we know from the news. But does that mean that there is a more restrictive view of copyright in the UK than we might be accustomed to here in the US?

HUGHES: I think there are some difference. The US fair use principle doesn’t translate to UK. So I think in general, the courts have been – there’s slightly more certainty for content owners. And that has been very welcome. It certainly helped us in building our business. But I think you look at the wider question on the agenda of would your experience, if you came to the UK, of licensing content be that different from that in the US? I don’t think it would if you were doing B-to-B work with other publishers. Contracts are contracts and they apply across the world. So the UK’s a little different. PICPU (sic), the police effort, is a short term initiative –

KENNEALLY: What did you say? Wait a minute. Did you say PICPU?

HUGHES: I think they’re called PIC – I think it’s pronounced PIPCU or PICPU. Anyway, the police effort you name is half a dozen coppers that have been funded by the Intellectual Property Office in the UK to beef up enforcement at the publishers’ request. And they’re doing some great work.

KENNEALLY: It sounds like a great spinoff for Law & Order. Right? Sort of ripped from the headlines – as long as you get permission to rip them.

HUGHES: Well, I think you need to look at what the police are focusing on. Infringement comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It might be did your business make a copy of something on a website or not. That’s not the sort of the thing the police are going to be getting excited about. The sort of colors they’re feeling are – I mean, they arrested a couple of people last week who’d been taking live football streams and rebroadcasting them on the web, selling advertising against it. Quite an organized, serious, and very obvious and very flagrantly illegal activity. So yeah, there’s a little bit of enforcement work being done, but it’s not particularly extensive.

KENNEALLY: Now, Dawn Conway, the Cision business is a global business. I know we spoke earlier this week – you were in Toronto – and we can tell people that you’ve got something like 100,000 customers and maintain offices in Canada, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, and China. As an American going abroad, what would you say is the state of the union, if I could put it that way – the state of copyright – when it comes to the countries of Europe? Is it more restrictive than we expect? Is it looser? How would you put it?

CONWAY: I’ll be happy to answer that. I just want, for the audience, because I’m not sure that everyone is familiar with Cision – and certainly, you’re familiar with LexisNexis, but maybe not Cision. Some of you might –

KENNEALLY: Could I do it for you? We have that Cision is a leading – did I say that already?

CONWAY: I can say it very simply. We are a integrated PR campaign software. So we’re a software as a service, plus we also have services. So we are not a traditional aggregator. It is a new – you’ll hear of media monitoring organizations. I would say that Cision has evolved from a traditional MMO to a software as a service company. But we do have a module within that software that monitors content. So that’s the piece. And just earlier, when people were talking about new ways to monetize your content, it is looking at what are those new softwares that are serving certain markets that are utilizing content as part of a workflow. So I just wanted to be clear about what Cision does.

KENNEALLY: Fair enough. And we’ll get into what they’re measuring and how that’s really changed and how that’s changing the relationship that publishers and others have with companies like your own. But to the question about the rest of the world – I know that’s a very large question – but you have experience across Europe. How would you say copyright is – as an American coming to those environments, is it more restrictive? Is it easier? What’s the take on it?

CONWAY: It’s country by country. And in some cases, it’s easier, and Andrew will probably say, Dawn Conway, you’re saying that working at the NLA is easy? Because he knows that some of the reporting, etc. – but it is a one-stop shop. So you have the NLA in the UK. You know what the rules of the road are. You know how to go acquire that content. You’re in Germany, you work with PMG. So there are various – what we talked about earlier – RROs that are around the world.

In other countries, it’s not so easy. In fact, one of the organizations that Andrew leads called PDLN, which is the publisher licensing organization, and AMEC, the measurement and evaluation organization that I’m a board member of, are actually looking at how can we create something for the media monitoring organizations to be able to access content in a more simplistic way. But it is not – it’s country by country.

KENNEALLY: It is still country by country. And those initiatives you were speaking about, we’ll ask Andrew about them. He is president, as you say, of the Press Database and Licensing Network, PDLN, and you as a board member of AMEC, are involved in creating something called the Rights Knowledge Exchange. How is that addressing some of these challenges, Andrew?

HUGHES: Well, we are recognizing that it is country by country, and there are a lot of countries in the world. We thought it would be useful for our members, and particularly for AMEC and other media monitoring company association members, to create a database which simply says if you’re going to Argentina, these are the rules in Argentina, these are the key people you want to contact. That database is being created. It sits behind the firewalls of the PDLN website, also the AMEC website. It’s a first step, but it’s a guide to the road, and it’s designed to help avoid road crashes in terms of misunderstanding. And hopefully it will lead on to bigger and better things in terms of cooperating.

Licensing is about meeting users’ needs, and we welcome the fact that AMEC for the media monitoring industry is a very good articulator of those needs. And we’re hoping we can put a cash value on what meeting those needs is going to achieve and take the case back to the publishers and create better solutions. The world’s gone global. Our next conference in Zurich is really on that theme – the global village – media monitoring in the global village. And we recognize we need to come up with global solutions. Takes a lot of work to make that happen.

The analogy we use quite a lot in PDLN is that of the mobile phone. I’ve got a phone in my pocket. I’m registered with a UK user. I’m using the phone here in New York. It works. A lot of work’s gone in behind the scenes to make sure the data’s transferred across so that everybody gets paid. And we recognize we need to work with the other side of the industry that we’re in to make sure that methodologies for tracking what’s used and making sure people get paid are seamless to the end user. That’s the way it’s got to work.

KENNEALLY: Right. And so, Dawn, as a board member, then of – again, because I think it’s important to say the full name – the Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communication – is the kind of data that this Rights Knowledge Exchange gathering – tell us a bit about it. Give us some specifics. Is that the kind of data that your companies, your users are looking to have?

CONWAY: Well, from a licensing standpoint, it’s just what we’re doing for our members, because they’re using content. These are companies that are monitoring content, but they’re also then doing measurement and evaluation of the content, specifically in communication. And so they’re looking for ways of how to easily access that content, and how do you get that content.

So AMEC and PDLN and actually another organization called FIBEP – we actually came together because there was a need for our customers – not our customers, but the organizations that serve those communication customers – to bring that knowledge together. So there was no single resource to go and look country by county on how to acquire content. So we came together on that. So again, solving an issue for the customer.

KENNEALLY: Right. And Andrew, you joined NLA and helped create something called the eClips Database. And as I understand it – tell us a bit about that, because I think it serves one of these particular needs. It’s the digital child of the old press clipping parent. Is that a good way to describe it?

HUGHES: Well, press clippings, like everything else, has gone digital. And what do media monitoring companies and their customers need? They need fast access to data, and they need lots of data. So what we do is we take the newspapers as they’re published on PDF, we break that down into a database, and we present it to the media monitoring companies in a form they can search easily so they find more stories.

The architecture kind of mirrors something Thomson Reuters used to sell, the Investext database. The link comes back to our database. We know who’s using content. There’s a lot of transparency for publishers, which is great. There’s more content for the intermediary. It’s just a (inaudible) system. It covers web as well as print. I don’t often get asked the question tell me about your database, so thank you for that. I appreciate that question.

KENNEALLY: (laughter) Well, this seems to me really to be a discussion about data. So much of the future of publishing is really around data. Tracey Armstrong was talking about text and data mining. Dawn, with that description of the eClips Database, is that an approach that, again, Cision and other media monitoring organizations are finding helpful in this new environment?

CONWAY: Right. I mean, we’re looking for how do you license this content? And we’re not an aggregator. So we’re not a Factiva. We’re not a Dialog. We’re not a LexisNexis. It is getting content to be able to monitor what – where you had mentioned. We serve PR communication professionals. All they want to know is how many mentions, was it positive or was it negative. Don’t even care about the full text. Most of them have underlying subscriptions. They can go get it directly. So we’re just looking for the rights to be able to mine, I suppose, or monitor that data, to be able to deliver how many mentions.

So most of the media monitoring companies don’t have the infrastructure to do royalties, aren’t going to do direct deals, so are looking for those aggregation, whether we’re working with a LexisNexis or a ProQuest or an NLA or PMG or other organizations that are aggregating this content. That’s how we’re trying to get to the content. And one of the biggest issues is – for publishers specifically – content – we’re trying to get behind the paywall content. We don’t go behind the paywall today. And there is no easy way to find that content, so therefore, it’s not being included in the monitoring, because you can’t get to it.

KENNEALLY: Right. Is that a specifically US, North American challenge, the paywall?

CONWAY: No, that’s global.

KENNEALLY: It really is.

CONWAY: That’s a global challenge.

KENNEALLY: So I know it’s tough, this audience – a lot of publishers in the room – so I’m going to ask you, how easy do publishers make it for you to do your work? Do you think they could make it easier? Would you ask them something in particular that would help make it easier for you to work with them than they are doing today?

CONWAY: So again, because we don’t do a lot of direct deals with publishers – but of course, I spent many, many years at LexisNexis running global licensing, so I know most of the publishers in the room, doing direct deals – I would say it would be working with these aggregators and ensuring that they have the rights so that they can extend to others.

There’s a lot of innovation out there, particularly in the software space, that these software companies – which I consider ourselves a software as a service company, not an MMO in the traditional sense of press clipping – we’ve divested most of those businesses – and making it easy for them to be able to – we’ve got to go to an aggregator. We can’t go to you each individually.

But I think in the case of both ProQuest and LexisNexis, I think they’re doing a very good job at looking for those new markets by partnering with organizations like ours. They just haven’t solved the internet question.

KENNEALLY: Right. Andrew Hughes at NLA, your view as equally looking across the Atlantic and the US as well as across the Channel to Europe – and again, as we heard Tracey Armstrong speak about, there have been some legislative efforts to assert the rights of publishers – how well has that gone? I’m thinking about in Germany and Spain. Is there a –

HUGHES: Well, yeah. What Tracey said about the model in Europe, which derives from the author’s right, there’s no – you ned to remember that copyright is a word we all use and we’ve talked about a lot today – you go to France where the word was coined, and it was droit d’auteur. It’s the author’s right. And that creates some complications possibly in licensing models, the expectations that authors will be involved in revenue share or whatever.

I kind of live with those, and in practical terms, I am very appreciate of the fact that the UK doesn’t have that model. We share more with your law for various historical reasons than we do with that across the Channel. But is it a practical issue? Well, it is when it comes to Dawn wanting to get a license from some of the particularly smaller European countries.

Is it an issue for us? It’s a bit of a challenge when we try and swap rights with parallel bodies in other countries. You’ll get to places like Sweden, Norway, where they can’t quite get their heads around the fact that we’re not going to – we recognize contributor rights. We pay contributors – not directly through NLA, but we make sure publishers pay contributors appropriately. But the models are very different, and that creates friction, misunderstanding, and you have to work harder to communicate around that.

I would like to briefly come back, Chris, though, if I may, on some of Dawn’s comments. I think one of the most interesting things in this area about media monitoring companies and publishers and people like us who try and form the bridge between them is that you need economic alignment. And when you run into statements like people don’t have the resources to administer royalties, you begin to kind of see that there might be a bit of a problem here. And the problem is unless you respect the content that you’re using and respect that you need permission to use it and pay appropriate sums of money for that and are transparent about what the usage is, I don’t see how there is a basis for working together.

And I’m frantically keen that we expand and create basis for working. We’ve done that in the UK. We’ve done that because we had a favorable copyright regime. And we did that – I think there was a bit of kind of calculated brutality at the outset in terms of forcing through a solution that worked. But that solution works now, and businesses in that sector have the security of a solid IP understanding with a content set on which their businesses are based. And then it’s always going to be friction about making that work.

It’s been quite interesting for us working with Meltwater. We had a big legal case –

KENNEALLY: And Meltwater – we should tell people –

HUGHES: I’ll come back to it. All right.

KENNEALLY: No, no, that’s OK. I didn’t want to stop you, but people may not be familiar – Meltwater is an MMO.

HUGHES: Meltwater’s a web-only MMO who launched about the same time as Google News and grew quite rapidly, but didn’t pay for content. And we ultimately took a case against them and made them pay for content. AP have done the same in the states. And it’s been interesting that as they – as we’ve gone through that process, and they’re seeking to license, and I think they’re speaking to a number of people in the room here today seeking to get licenses – you get a situation where you do run into a paywall problem. You try and solve the problem for them. We’re currently delivering Meltwater paywall data using our eClips service in a way that we wouldn’t if there wasn’t a royalty-based relationship.

And so the win-win is when both sides of an industry recognize the value, share it fairly. What’s a fair share? Certain amount of negotiation is required. And there is a danger, because organizations like ours – mine can be monopolistic. We’re regulated, which is right and proper. But I think once you’ve got that economic alignment, you work together. We do better now in the UK when Meltwater sell more. We want them to sell more, preferably not to Cision’s customers. But we want them to sell more. And that’s a good place to be.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, compensation for use of material is at least getting more attention than it ever has before, because, again, as I mentioned at the start, everyone’s business is under real challenges today. And I know that it’s interesting to point out to this audience, this push for some kind of licensing income is coming from unexpected places. So for example, Twitter now is looking to license its feed to you people.

CONWAY: So we license Twitter, and I think a few years ago, Twitter had a public API that most people were using, and now they’re licensing it. And I will say that the social data is becoming increasingly more important than traditional, particularly in the PR communication world, because they want to hear the voice of the customer. It’s that social listening that is so important to them.

So those models have changed. We license from a number of different organizations that are aggregating social data. So that’s becoming extremely important. And actually, because the licensing model is fairly simple to administer, and we’re getting that aggregation, which is key, at least for us, we haven’t run into a situation on the social side as we have on the traditional side.

KENNEALLY: And again, I don’t want to make this too much of a Northern Hemisphere discussion. You do have an office in China. Can you give people an update on the situation in China right now?

CONWAY: I don’t know if I can specifically speak to China in terms of – from a licensing – we do have an office there. It’s mostly around doing high end analysis work. So in addition to selling our software, we also sell what I would say – their insights. So it’s more that consulting in terms of looking at the data and then producing reports about what the data is telling you.

So we do have an on the ground team in China, and are also buying data in China for those global customers that we have. Typically, our customers are big global brands. So when you say US versus non-US, I don’t think of it that way, because we are a global company, and we are buying data globally to serve the needs of our clients both here in the US who are global as well as outside.

KENNEALLY: What I had in mind, too, is that at one point, China might have been labelled a bit of an outlier in all of this, but now it’s the –

CONWAY: Well, in terms of copyright – right.

KENNEALLY: Right. But now as they are increasingly an intellectual property holder themselves, I believe that the government of Xi Jinping –

HUGHES: I can –

CONWAY: You can probably speak to China better than I can.

KENNEALLY: – has begun to call more attention to copyright.

HUGHES: Yeah, I attended a meeting which our government hosted recently with a whole bunch of Chinese collective management organizations. They’re setting these things up. They’re doing what the Chinese do, going around the world, looking very carefully at what works and what doesn’t. And they’re a maturing market. They’re a maturing model. In some ways, they’re like Meltwater. You reach a certain point where you grow up and you start behaving like an adult. And I think the Chinese are going through that just like any growing economy will go through that. If that sounded patronizing, I apologize. I didn’t mean it quite in those terms. I wouldn’t patronize the Chinese. Not a wise move.

KENNEALLY: A billion people. (laughter)

HUGHES: They’re moving in the right direction, and that’s great to see.

KENNEALLY: Well, that was the point I was kind of driving at, which is when it comes to licensing, there seems to be, if not a consensus, at least a drive towards finding workable solutions, working together. I mean, I know, Andrew, you put it that it shouldn’t be a matter for the lawyers. It should be a matter for good manners, and that a kind of respect for both sides, as we see here, is something that will get us to a solution that will benefit everybody. And we’ve heard from Jennifer this morning, speaking about the NewsCred, that there’s a need to provide some protection or some nurturing for that journalism ecosystem that we all value so much as corporate citizens, but also as individual citizens.

CONWAY: And truly, we served a Fortune 500 in terms of these are big brand companies who have a great respect for copyright, as well. So they’re expecting us to ensure that we are not delivering content that is not copyright compliant, as well. So we are extremely mindful of that. And many –

KENNEALLY: Because that’s important to their brand, and that brand counts in China as much as it counts here in New York.

CONWAY: Exactly. And then trying to make that work – I mean, I often get – because I know, Chris, you’re with CCC – many of our customers, as ourselves, they have CCC and they’re covered by that, and they’re asking us questions. Well, we’re already subscribing to this data. We also subscribe to CCC. But yet you’re telling us we can’t do anything with this data. Where do we go to be able to distribute and do what we need to do with this content? So we still have issues to solve for our clients, but taking it – as Tracey mentioned – taking it from the client and then figuring out what is the business model to be able to deliver it in the way the client needs to either distribute or to consume it.

KENNEALLY: Right. And, Andrew, as president of PDLN, you’ve had some success in helping to create organizations across Europe that are addressing all of this. I believe you’ve got some solutions in place in Portugal and Spain.

HUGHES: We’ve worked – I mean, PDLN started with about 13 members. We now have 30 members in 20 different countries, and some of those we have actively helped go through the process of identifying the opportunity, build the model, launching it – and some with more success with others. There’s always resistance to change, that’s for sure.

But I think publishers – they are very hard pressed. You go back to supporting journalism. We think NLA fees, if you calculate it in terms of journalists’ salaries, we’re about 1,100 journalist jobs in the UK newspaper industry. Sadly, that’s not enough. News organizations most places in the Western Hemisphere are shedding journalists, and that has potentially very serious wider repercussions than purely revenue and revenue for us. But we think we’re an important part of creating an element of an alternative business model.

The challenge, though – and talking to Dawn about this and others about this earlier – is that we’re probably one of the most successful news licensing organizations in the world, and we are generating, well, $50 million. As a percentage of turnover for a UK newspaper, it might be getting towards 1% in some cases. It might be a little bit higher in one or two cases.

But at 1% of turnover, we are the tail, not the dog. Licensing is not the future. They’ve got to find their future somewhere else in the ad-supported space if they have a future at all. And getting their attention and sustaining their attention to cater for some of the new models that come up is not straightforward. We’re quite fortunate. We’re owned by the eight national newspapers in the UK. They sit around our board table. They’ve had a good experience. That’s a great platform for development.

Elsewhere, it’s been tough. And coming back to your question, yeah, Spain have struggled through a lot of tension to get to a workable model. Portugal – they’ve got so far, it’s stalled. There’s still a dispute with the MMOs there. Italy are stalled. It’s working well in some places and not working well in others. But PLDN has been fascinating for us because it gives us a chance to get outside the UK and look at ourselves through other people’s eyes, and you always learn something from anyone if you keep listening in that environment.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, here in the US, we do have a solution to all of this. Get Jeff Bezos to buy your company.


Well, I want to thank Andrew Hughes, who is commercial director of NLA Media Access and Cision’s chief operating officer, Dawn Conway, for their contributions. Again, thank you all at SIIA for the invitation to do this. My name is Chris Kenneally for Copyright Clearance Center, and have a great afternoon. Thank you.


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