How do you know that your rights are alright: interview with Clare Painter

In the run up to next week’s event: How do you know that your rights are alright?, we interviewed Clare Painter, one of our expert panellists – to find out more about how publishers can manage their rights more effectively. Clare is a licensing agent and digital rights consultant, helping publishers and other users of digital content to grapple with practical and commercial rights issues.

You can join Clare next Thursday from 6.30pm as we join PLS to discuss how savvy publishers can keep their rights in order. Click here for tickets.

1. How did you start off with a career in rights?

I was lucky enough to start off in rights at the Italian publisher Mondadori. I quickly found that publishing contracts caught my interest because of the impact they can have when they play out in practice. Selling rights was a logical next step when I moved back to the UK: firstly translation rights and co-editions, then branching out into digital when I joined Helicon in Oxford, just at the time when multi-platform publishing and content licensing were beginning to really take off.

2. As a rights specialist, how would you summarise ‘good rights management’?

Clearly it’s important to know what rights you hold, but I feel it’s almost as important to know what the gaps are. Which parts of your list do you know never had ebook rights cleared, for example? Do you have titles where the text is OK but images aren’t? Once you have the bigger picture, it’s easier to spot what’s really possible for your particular list in terms of licensing and digital sales. It’s about much more than selling ebooks through the big name retailers, important though that is.

3. What is the main difference between managing rights for digital and print?

The acquisition of rights really needs to be for both digital and print from the start. It’s good to think creatively about ways you might repurpose your titles in future. But if you’re granting digital licences or permissions, then generally you’ll be offering non-exclusive rights, and pinning down as many details as you can about the licensee’s business model. That’s different from translation rights, where you’d usually offer exclusive rights for a particular territory and language.

4. You work with book and journal publishers, professional associations and business schools. Which sector has the biggest rights considerations to work with?

I’m not sure I would rank them as such, they just have different starting points. Publishers understand that proper rights management opens up digital sales opportunities, and it also makes high margin rights deals possible – very welcome to the bottom line!

A lot of institutions are just now discovering how important publishing knowledge is for them. Sometimes they’ll put valuable content online completely free of charge, before pausing to think about the value of their rights. Or they might be aware that they need to clear licences for material in their books or case studies or e-learning programmes, but they’re not sure how to go about it. They worry they’ll get it wrong or tie up a lot of resources.

5. Could you please share one insight, ahead of the event, about how publishers can manage their rights more effectively?

I’d say a key thing is not to be too daunted about sorting out digital rights for your backlist or archive materials. You can work on digital rights a chunk at a time, and prioritise. You don’t have to do it all in one go.

I’d recommend looking for the sweet spot where two things collide: where digital rights aren’t going to be overly complicated to clear, and where you can also see there’s going to be real commercial value in digital form. For example, if images come from just a handful of different sources, rather than from dozens, and at the same time there are niche digital services looking for content just like yours. That’s where it makes sense to start.

You can join Clare next Thursday from 6.30pm as we join PLS to discuss how savvy publishers can keep their rights in order. Click here for tickets.

Here is more information about Clare Painter: http://clarepainterassociates.com/

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