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Why Rights and Licensing Automation is Essential to a Publisher's Bottom Line

An Interview with Jane Tappuni, General Manager, IPR License

The rights department is not an area in which publishers tend to invest, and yet, it’s one of the key areas of the industry with untapped revenue opportunities. With most rights deals still handled via paper contracts and one-to-one communication between editors and rights holders, it can be a slow process. Furthermore, it’s hard for publishers to have an accurate accounting of what rights they hold (and sometimes when a license runs out or rights revert to another party), how to monetize those rights against current market trends, and even more difficult to generate a quick deal in order to free up time for more complicated rights deals that may require more thoughtful consideration.

Enter technology. In a blog post earlier this year, we discussed rights deals, smart contracts, and illustrated how we thought they might be useful to publishers; “For publishers, the world of contracts unfortunately continues to be predominantly ruled by paper, creating a lag in transactional payment and royalty collection. But, that doesn’t have to be the case going forward.”

By automating systems in the rights department, using tools which generate smart contracts that can be resolved and signed in a matter of moments, a publisher can not only increase their revenue but also have a better understanding of the marketplace to make better acquisitions in the future. So, why are publishers so hesitant to adopt technology into the rights department?

Jane Tappuni, an expert on the frontlines of the rights and licensing industry, and General Manager, IPR License, deals with publishers and rights every day. As a platform built to discover, buy, and sell international rights online, IPR License deals daily with the challenges publishers face in this brave new technological world. We asked her to weigh in on how technology can help publishers…or not.

Jane Tappuni, IPR License

PageMajik: How will smart contracts help publishers?

Jane Tappuni: The smart contract can be built onto the blockchain and allow for the IP to be transacted or in simple terms for the creator to make money. Smart contracts help you exchange something of value in a transparent, conflict-free way while avoiding the services of a middleman. In publishing this could mean a better way to transact rights by taking the information out of the publishing organizations and into a blockchain with smart contracts attached that allow for the rights sale to take place.

PageMajik: Do you see smart contracts significantly changing the way publishers handle rights and licensing in the future or will it be a slow adoption over many years in particular sectors of the industry?

Tappuni: Yes I think there is an opportunity to change and improve the way rights and licensing is handled via a blockchain and smart contract solution. This is a massive behavioural shift from using internal, siloed systems into a shared verifiable database of sorts. This change in behaviour could take a long time.

PageMajik: When you work with publishers, what have been their biggest concerns about adopting technological improvements in their business?

Tappuni: Their biggest concern is value for money, return on investment is always the number one concern.

PageMajik: Do you see any downside to publishers relying on technology to help improve their business?

Tappuni: Not as long as publishers choose the right technology tools for the problem they want to solve. All too often organizations implement new software to repeat the processes they already have in place. New technology implementations are a good time to really think about process improvement.

PageMajik: With the adoption of smart contracts to secure rights transactions and track royalties, providing more revenue for publishers and freeing up staff to focus on other work, how do you see the international rights and licensing industry changing? Will there be additional challenges to overcome?

Tappuni: I see this as a possible solution to a huge problem of rights tracking. At the moment publishers use a variety of rights solutions to store their rights data some good and some not so good. This would take the rights storage data out of the silo publishing systems owned by IT and into a secure, accessible arena. The day-to-day role of a rights professional would not change as they would still be performing a rights sales role but using a global blockchain solution as a positive tool to give rights ownership data.

Jane Tappuni has more than 20 years of publishing experience and is currently the General Manager (consulting) at IPR License, a place to discover and buy international rights and permissions online. IPR License is owned by The Frankfurter Buchmesse, Copyright Clearance Center and the China South Publishing & Media Group. Jane is a specialist in publishing technology, with a focus on transactional IP management and solutions and also a graduate of the Oxford University Said Business School Blockchain Strategy Programme.

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