Rights and clearances with a human touch

Rights and clearances with a human touch

Tanya Sudolnik January 4, 2017

Originally appeared in Connected Media News, The Business of Connected Content, here

In the media and entertainment business, most organisations have vast libraries of content, within which are countless moments that could potentially generate revenue for whomever holds the rights. One way to do that is by licensing video clips to third parties - such as advertising agencies, film and television producers, and sports broadcasters - who are looking for incredible footage to make their projects compelling and profitable.

For example, a professional tennis organisation owns the rights to all tennis matches that feature its athletes. An advertising agency could purchase the license to use a video clip of a particular athlete, which it could then put into an ad or other marketing material. A broadcaster could buy the rights to use clips of an athlete to create promos or shoulder programming around its own broadcasts. And a documentarian could purchase clips to use in a feature film. In all of those cases, the rights holder owns moments that people are willing to pay for because those moments could, in turn, help make money for the buyers.

The process of making clips available for sale and finding clips you want to buy is multifaceted and requires a lot of forethought and expertise to do it properly. One aspect of that process that deserves close attention is rights and clearances. Simply put, this term refers to the process of identifying anything within a particular video clip that would require permission to use, and then doing the research and negotiation necessary to get that permission.

Consider the basics

It behooves both suppliers and buyers to think carefully about rights and clearances and put a viable strategy in place to avoid any pitfalls. This strategy would take the following factors into account:

  • Mitigating risk: As a buyer, the main reason for the rights and clearances process is to minimise the likelihood of liability or legal action. That means scouring the clip for anything that would qualify for copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property and personal rights protections, and then making sure you have the appropriate clearances for every aspect in question. Prudent buyers will cover all bases to avoid getting into legal hot water.
  • Protecting assets and brands: As a content rights holder, you need to preserve your own brand while protecting any people, places, or corporations in your content. That means covering elements such as talent, trademarks, famous landmarks, music, copyrights, and other people in the clip. After all, getting credit - and the licensing fees that go along with it - is how you and your stakeholders make money from the clips. On the flip side, buyers need to respect the rights inherent in the clips and give credit where it’s due. (See ‘Mitigating risk’)
  • Content claiming: Content claiming goes hand in hand with protecting assets and brands. In order to maintain the value of a brand, rights holders must be on the lookout for violators who publish their content without permission. At the same time, buyers need to be aware of the sophisticated technology designed specifically to combat forbidden use. One need only search ‘YouTube Content ID’ to find an example of this technology, which uses digital fingerprinting to identify violators and help rights holders make claims against them.

The value of a content partner who knows rights and clearances

Considering the pitfalls, it pays to turn to a content management service with specific expertise in rights and clearances - one that has mastered the process of both guarding the rights of sellers and mitigating risk for buyers. In that spirit, the right service will have the depth of experience to advise and act on all of the factors above and will work with integrity to represent both parties.

The all-important human touch

Technical mastery is important when it comes to liability protection, brand protection, and content claiming, but what takes a content management service from good to great is the human element - especially if you’re a buyer in search of the perfect clip.

The best services have researchers who not only have the know-how and dogged perseverance to cover all the technical and legal details of rights and clearances, but who also understand the creative process and value hands-on collaboration. People who ask the right questions and work to understand your artistic intent. People who curate a selection of clips that match your vision and collaborate with you to refine the selection. Then, after you’ve chosen the most compelling content, they apply their expertise to identify all elements that require clearance and walk you through the process.

Cultivating relationships is just as important from a supplier’s perspective - and the more exclusive your content, the more important the relationship becomes. The best content management services inspire trust in their processes and their people. They treat your valuable content as if it were their own and work to ensure it is discoverable and accessible for easy sale. And they defend your rights as vigorously as you would. The right service becomes another arm of your business and brings all of its capabilities to bear to make the business successful. One gauge of a company’s relationship-building ability is the caliber of rights holders it already represents.

The reality is, even with the best technology at your fingertips, personal interaction and trust are what finish the job.

Whether you’re a supplier or a buyer, having a rights and clearances strategy in place and building a relationship with a trusted content partner can make all the difference. That way, no matter which side of the equation you’re on, you can rest assured your rights are protected and your legal bases are covered. So you can focus on doing what you do best - creating content that people want. And the circle of life continues.