At the heart of the publishing industry lies the capability of a publisher to select or commission content that the public will be ready to buy, which will satisfy their interests in various thematic areas. Publishers produce content in print and/or in other formats (electronic versions of books, periodicals, websites, blogs, etc.) and use various marketing tactics to sell this content to its mass audience. It’s this content that generates the most income in the future. For instance, imagine a book publisher has emptied his/her warehouse and sold every single copy. The publishing company’s value is determined not by physical assets but rather the rights the company owns or controls. In the digital publishing world, Rights and Permissions is one of the major driving forces to generate revenue with time.
Copyright is like a force of nature changing constantly. For a publisher, the need of the hour is to keep track of those changes. For instance, in 2016, the European Union (EU) unveiled broad changes to its copyright law. According to ec.europa.eu, “these proposals will help European copyright industries to flourish in the Digital Single Market and European authors to reach new audiences, while making European works widely accessible it to European citizens, also across borders.” But critics have felt that it allows too much access. For instance, educational material would be beamed across the countries at no extra cost.
While this is great for students, it doesn’t help the publishers who make money on rights and permissions as every piece of text, image, design, and other material is copyright protected. It puts the rights acquisition issue front and center. Publishers would lose out on revenue as institutions/individuals across 28 countries would have access to educational material and other content for free. It’s a question of authorship and ownership. In the United States, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) sent an open letter to President Donald Trump regarding current laws being ill-equipped to protect their intellectual property. Copyright law creates a balance between authors, publishers and distributors, and users and the general public.
The changing face of the publishing sphere makes rights acquisition an essential aspect across its different sectors. For instance, take the open-access debate that is ongoing in the STM publishing sector. The STM world’s core concept is the idea that scientific papers and journals can be easily shared with free access for all. But publishing is a business, and publishers are not going to give anything for free. It’s a conflict between authors and publishers about who owns the content and whether permission is necessary. According to a recent publisher-commissioned survey of more than 5,000 scientists by the research-impact service Kudos in Wheatley, UK suggested that 57% had uploaded their work to scholarly communication networks; 79% of those said they checked copyright policies before they did so, but 60% thought they should be allowed to upload their articles regardless of publisher or journal policies. Essentially, an intermediary is necessary so that both parties can be satisfied.
As a result, companies have heavily invested in digital assets rights and permissions as content has become assets that are brought, sold, and traded worldwide. Publishers and publishing services providers have created platforms for easy access and improved upon them each passing year. Assets range from images, text, graphics, and other forms of content, which helps publishers reduce their overhead costs, keep track of their backlist titles, and offer a fair use analysis of their assets.
The promotion and protection of publishers’ assets, investments, and return on assets must be ensured for the publishing industry’s greater good. It’s an interdependent network where both sides have to be respected to succeed in the long term.
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