Five steps to good rights management


Good rights management can make every publishing business better. It helps rightsholders to extract full value from their content, makes the most diverse use of it possible, and generates valuable additional income. It makes it easier to control and enforce rights (usually copyright), protecting the content that authors, illustrators and publishers work hard to create. Professional and efficient management also improves the reputation and value of a publishing business and its list, and futureproofs it against changes to copyright frameworks and industry disruption. 

For those seeking help with establishing good practice, PLS has created the Rights & Licensing Hub, a new portal of resources relating to rights management, as well as many more issues around licensing, FAQ on copyright and more. It has a fuller outline of why good management matters, and case studies of various publishers’ approaches to it.  

Here are five key things all publishers can do to improve rights management. 

1. Think about rights as early as possible 

If you can be sure of the rights you acquire from the very start of a project, it will make it much easier to manage and act on them later on. Consider which rights are relevant to your needs, and what content and formats might be created in the future. Establish company policies for the acquisition and ownership of rights so you have consistency across the business.

2. Follow up with good contracts

The contracts you sign when you acquire content should have complete clarity on rights. Leave no doubt about ownership or rights to use content, and ensure your template contracts are rigorous. The same principle applies to contracts signed on the sale (licensing) of rights.

3. Clear third party content

Particular care is needed with the management of the rights to content created by third parties. You should establish and note aspects including uses, territories, timeframes and reversions.

4. Keep good records

An orderly filing of rights information makes it much easier to control and make full use of them. If you do not already do so, establish a contract management system that gives you the ability to search records and find documents quickly. This may be done in-house, especially for relatively small lists, but various third party management systems are available to help.

5. Establish good communications

Everyone in a publishing business should understand at least the basic aspects of rights. Clear and timely communications about what rights are coming in and out of the company will make it easier to manage and use them and avoid mistakes.

Marjon Esfandiary is head of legal and policy at PLS. Click here to visit the Rights & Licensing Hub.