As is regularly reported, day-to-day business for most publishers is challenging. What with navigating digital and the opportunities of ‘new’ media, competition from e-books and the inevitable Amazon, publishers are moving with the curve, or finding ways to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to stay ahead.
However, thinking smartly around supporting revenue streams, particularly around licensing content, can be an effective way to support the publishing business model.
The rise of digital, and the widespread lack of understanding of digital copyright, means that individuals often think of the digital world as free-to-view, and therefore free-to-copy. This, in addition to historical photocopying and scanning extracts of titles, means that content can now be disseminated even quicker, often without complying with copyright and without any recompense to publishers.
Managing this high volume but low-level copying can understandably be tricky. Partly, the challenge is educational, in terms of ensuring that individuals are aware that making copies of content – be it online or in print – is contravening copyright; and partly because the level of administration needed to manage individual requests to make copies of publication extracts can actually be much more time-consuming than the monetary value brought in, which needs to be a practical consideration.
With the two fold challenge of upholding copyright and also seeking a fair return on copying of content, an increasingly popular approach is collective licensing.
Collective licensing is a method for licensing the low-level photocopying, scanning and online copying of extracts of publications. In the UK, it is managed by the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS), a not-for-profit organisation set up by the publishing industry, to represent publishers in the world of rights management.
Last year, PLS distributed £33.5m to publishers from collective licensing (2012-13), and the organisation is constantly developing in consultation with the publishing industry to develop a range of rights management solutions to aid the publishing further.
“Collective licensing reduces the administrative burden on publishers, and is convenient for users wanting to copy from a wide range of publications by dealing with multiple requests with a simple mandate,” says Sarah Faulder, CEO at the Publishers Licensing Society.
“Then, licensing revenues are distributed back to publishers, for whom this is becoming an increasingly important secondary revenue stream.
“Collective licensing also enables copyright compliance for licensees, and strengthens and promotes copyright awareness, which is the cornerstone of the publishing industry.”
Interested in finding out more?
The Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) is a not-for-profit rights management organisation set up by the publishing industry, for the publishing industry.