Permission to talk about licensing…

skills for publishing

When we talk about rights and licensing one of the most underestimated components in this sector are permissions. In many ways they are the unsung hero, the less ‘glamorous’ part of the licensing equation. Permissions are non-exclusive rights that tend to be lower-value for publishers. In contrast, subsidiary deals tend to be exclusive for a certain period of time and higher in value, therefore often taking top billing when it comes to headline grabbing deals. But that’s not to say permissions aren’t a valued and valuable revenue stream for a variety of publishers.

As such it was good to see this highlighted in a recent article on the Publishing Perspectives website penned by Michael Healy, Executive Director, International Relations at Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). Now for complete transparency, we work very closely with CCC, and its first paragraph nicely sums up their vital role in the modern publishing marketplace.

‘As digital technology continues its steady transformation of the publishing world, many new companies have been entering the industry. During this process, publishers have recognised significant opportunity to license their content for republication. In turn, the new entrants have begun to experience — many for the first time — the challenges associated with securing permissions to use previously published content, whether text, illustrations, or video. As the global marketplace evolves, new content developers more and more frequently need to obtain permissions to re-use content from established publishers, as well as directly from authors. In doing so, the new companies assume they will find in place permissions processes that are quick, automated and otherwise trouble-free.’

Whilst permission business remains a large revenue generator for the vast majority of educational, management, medical and technical presses there is a danger that trade publishers could under-prioritise this vital revenue stream because of the resources required and time implications involved.

However, with more general revenue margins being squeezed, permissions (and subsidiary licensing) are areas in which more and more trade publishers have expressed sustained interest in. As suggested within the aforementioned article, advances in technology now enable permission transactions to be completed within hours, including the issuing of the contract and payment. And, again echoing the words of Micheal Healy: ‘A significant part of a publisher’s digital strategy should be a continuous refocusing on new ways to license and deliver content. Such a focus can assure increases in revenue during times of transformation.’ Something that STM and trade publishing houses alike are all striving for.

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