What Can I Do With This Content? – Some More Information and An Interview with Paul Rollins of the CLA

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What Can I Do With This Content?

In recent years there has been lively debate within the publishing industry around the potential of exciting, new digital formats: from iPad apps to Hybrid Books. There is no doubt this is a dynamic time for the industry and for content creators too. However, underlying the debate, a pivotal question remains: In the digital age, what steps can publishers take to protect their online content—and future-proof their businesses?

In this digital environment, ‘publishers’ are everywhere. The proliferation of ‘free’ digital content has dramatically affected the way in which users regard content in general and more specifically, the way in which it is used. The social ‘share’ widget has become symbolic of the way many perceive content online: users expect to be able to share information with their friends, family and colleagues at the click of a button.

Of course, sharing is not the same as copying and publishers have the right to protect their content against unwanted reuse of content from their online publications. However, users have difficulty understanding what they are permitted to do with content, because terms of use are sometimes hidden, copyright is seen to be complicated and it is often far easier to ignore the rules than to try to understand them. So, how can publishers clearly and simply communicate their copyright terms to users?

With their new digital copyright icon ‘What Can I Do With This Content?’ The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) may have found a solution.

PAUL ROLLINS, CLA’S MARKETING MANAGER spoke about the new icon.

First of all tell us about the concept of What Can I Do With This Content?

“Well, basically it provides a simple means for online publishers to communicate their copyright terms. It brings to users attention that the content is subject to copyright and that users can’t just copy content and reuse it elsewhere without permission. It’s like the copyright notice on the inside of a traditional print book only for digital use. After all, you can’t expect the public to abide by your terms if you don’t make them clear and easy to find. We hope that it will help to educate the digital generation about copyright.”

So how does the icon work, what does it do?

“It is similar to the common social share widgets seen on many websites. When a user clicks the icon, it will display a summary of the publisher’s terms for reuse of the content – what they do and don’t allow. For example, let’s say it is used on an online trade magazine. The icon lets a business user know if they are permitted to print the content multiple times, save a copy of it to their network, use extracts in internal communications or send it to share with clients. These are common uses which often require permission, and the icon helps to clarify what is permitted. It can be used across a whole website or a single article or page.

The icon is recognisable and user-friendly, allowing terms to be accessed directly on a page that is being browsed. That means there is no searching for terms in the small print.

And the fact that the icon brings the conditions of use to the reader, as opposed to them having to actively look for them, we think makes it more likely to be read. As a result there is more chance of people complying with those conditions.”

Is it really that difficult for users to find the terms of use already, after all, publishers do have copyright notices or terms published on their sites don’t they?

“Well, they are often hidden away in an obscure corner of the site or in the footer. They can be hidden in extensive small print, which is often part of a larger set of terms written in impenetrable legal language. So yes, it really can be difficult. How many people read small print when it is put in front of them, let alone if you have to seek it out?”

The icon has been promoted around the publishing trade fairs and exhibitions – how well has it been received?

“It has been very enthusiastically received so far, in particular by the business media, who often experience problems with content being copied and reused without permission. Copyright is an issue for them, or rather piracy and enforcement, which can be very costly and damaging. They recognise that, ultimately, education is part of that battle and they support our idea. This concept also supports our core licensing role which generates revenue for publishers so they are happy to help with that.”

How does it generate revenue? Finding new ways to earn revenue from online content is a challenge across the industry.

“Well, CLA makes money for publishers through the collective licensing of businesses and public sector organisations on behalf of publishers, authors and visual creators. Last year our licences generated £37.1m for publishers. The more licences that we issue, the more revenue is in the pot to be paid out; and by increasing awareness and driving prospective licensees back to CLA we can grow that amount. Uptake of ‘What Can I Do With This Content?’ will do both. It will educate users about copyright generally, and the display makes it clear that a CLA licence provides many of the most commonly needed permissions. They can then follow a link to apply for one. But publishers need to opt-in to the scheme to be eligible to receive payments. ”

OK, so how do they sign up to receive money from licensing?

“CLA represents both publishers and writers. Publishers are represented in the scheme by the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS), and if you are a publisher you simply contact them and they will explain what you need to do to sign up. Basically, all you need do is complete a mandate form and provide a list of your catalogue of titles and you will then be eligible to receive payments. There are no joining fees, and revenue paid to publishers goes straight to their bottom line.”

How do PLS know which publishers to pay?

“CLA captures and records what is being copied across all types of licensed organisation, from schools and colleges to business and government departments. They collect data from hundreds of them every year. This information allows CLA to work out which copyright owners should be paid and PLS distributes that revenue to those members that are signed up.”

So, are publishers using the icon now?

“Yes, we are slowly but steadily seeing publishers registering and installing the icon. Some are book publishers, some academic and some business media. We have some independent websites and blogs using it too.”

How easy is it to actually install and use?

“Very, providing you can access the site to add the html code. It takes a few minutes to complete the installation process – and it’s free. When publishers visit whatcanidowiththiscontent.com they register their user details and select the copyright terms that suit them. The website then generates a code to copy and install to their site. This installs the icon and displays their selected terms on their sites. The display can also be personalised, with publishers having the option to brand the display with their logo and insert their contact details. It is that easy.”

Finally, what is your ambition for the new icon?

“We want to encourage as many publishers, especially those that are signed up with PLS for the collective licensing scheme, that it not only benefits them, but it also benefits users of their online content. It should be considered part and parcel of the PLS scheme and it would be nice to think that in the longer term it might be regarded as an industry standard.”

Thanks for telling us about the new icon and explaining how publishers can take advantage of the benefits.

PREVIEW WHAT CAN I DO WITH THIS CONTENT and install the icon directly from www.whatcanidowiththiscontent.com

Contact PLS

Tel: 020 7079 5930; email: pls@pls.org.uk or visit: www.pls.org.uk

Contact Paul at CLA

Direct line: 020 7400 3140; email: paul.rollins@cla.co.uk or visit cla.co.uk

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