Why we wrote this guide
This guide describes the role of a digital rights manager, the value they provide, and a few signs that you may need rights management representation. The information below highlights the budding significance of rights management services in the digital era and how it’s shaping the future of creative industries around the globe. After reading, you’ll be informed of the services and advantages associated with digital rights management as they pertain to music, film, television, and other media.
Who This Guide Is For
A rights manager helps copyright owners maintain control over their work, metadata, licensing, and most notably their royalties. In today’s digital environment, this is an increasingly essential task. The internet is comparable to the “wild west” when it comes to intellectual property management. The sheer volume of content and information being shared between users and across platforms makes it difficult to track use of music, film, and other assets — not to mention accounting royalties back to a given rights owner. Users upload over 720,000 hours of content each day on YouTube alone, a seemingly unmanageable figure when scaled across the internet as a whole. The question then becomes how much of that content belongs to you, and are you being properly compensated for its use? More than likely, a rights management professional can help you find out.
Why should I care about rights management?
Having knowledge and control of your content’s use on the internet is imperative in modern creative industries. You can get the plays, views, and downloads of your heart’s desire, but if your work’s underlying rights are not upheld – these numbers don’t mean much at all. As of 2021, digital revenue accounts for nearly 60% of total revenue in the media and entertainment industry. This revenue is best collected and regulated through Digital Rights Management (DRM), a systematic form of copyright protection provided by a variety of companies, softwares, and encrypted programming. A rights management representative is responsible for understanding the DRM landscape relevant to their clients’ assets and ensuring that they are capitalizing and protecting their rights to the fullest extent possible.
Among other tasks, rights managers help to issue licenses, administer royalties and establish relationships with royalty collection organizations. Their goals include authorization of proper music use, monetization in the form of royalties, and management of ownership conflicts. Much of this is completed through the maintenance of metadata: the underlying data that governs ownership of digital content. Through a variety of services, rights managers help their clients identify, organize, and distribute the data required to thoroughly protect, administer, and profit from their works.
Rights Management Services
The work of rights managers is unique to both the type of copyright they are representing and the needs of their clientele. The means of performing these tasks varies, but rights managers generally offer the following services in some capacity: royalty collection, ownership registration, use tracking, metadata maintenance, claiming, monetizing, authorizing uses of your work, and preventing unauthorized uses of your work. Below is a brief breakdown of each of these services.
The money you earn from your copyrighted work is often returned to you in the form of a royalty payment. Collecting and claiming these royalties is a demanding task that requires continuous organization and attention to detail. Comprehensive royalty collection has many facets including asset management, royalties accounting, ownership conflict resolution, licensing, unclaimed royalty settlements, and versatility in global media rights management. These tasks, among others, are essential for fully collecting the royalties you are owed from the use of your musical and audiovisual works online.
In the realm of royalty collection for musical works, this involves performance royalty administration, mechanical royalty administration, sound recording performance royalty administration, synchronization administration on YouTube, and extending this representation through international CMOs. Rights managers use specialized technology, staff, and relationships to optimally perform these tasks on your behalf.
Much of the royalties from the performance, mechanical reproduction, or derivative uses of your work are centrally accounted and distributed through collective management organizations and media platforms. These organizations typically archive your ownership information and pay out earnings accordingly. However, it is often the responsibility of the content owner to properly register and update their copyright ownership information within these collective management organizations. Albeit, if the necessary data and information in this registration process is inputted incorrectly, you likely won’t see all the royalties you’ve earned.
A rights management partner ensures that your ownership information is registered with the appropriate collective management organizations without error. Specific to digital rights management of musical copyrights, this involves registration and administration with The Harry Fox Agency, Music Reports, Inc., the Mechanical Licensing Collective, CMRRA, the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN) SoundExchange, YouTube and more.
Knowledge of how your copyright assets are performing is a prerequisite to maximizing their return. Analytics measuring consumption demographics, platform specific performance, claiming reports, and conflict data are among the many forms of tracking that allow you to optimize the performance of your content. A rights manager can collect and report on this information allowing you to foster growth in your catalog’s value and protection. It is also possible to audit public databases for a rough estimate of your song catalog’s current and future projected value.
The underlying information embedded in or associated with a digital work is perhaps the most important component of comprehensive royalty collection. This metadata is highly specific and oftentimes goes unmanaged or overlooked. However, it is the key to getting paid in the modern music industry. A rights manager will help you compile, clean, augment, and organize your metadata without additional workload for you or your staff.
Given the sprawling nature of digital content distribution, controlling how and where your content appears to the public is an important but difficult task. A rights management partner is equipped with the necessary tools to control who can use your content, where they can display it, and whether you receive payment for it or not.
On many platforms, a rights manager can issue takedown notices for copyright infringing or unbecoming uses of your content. In the same vein, you can enforce policies of your choice, allowing some uses to be free from monetization or constraint. Examples of this include allowing fans to use your song openly when posting footage of a live performance, but removing the presence of your content when used in a violent or inappropriate context. Point being, a rights management partner gives you more control of how your content gets used. This protects your reputation and your bottom line.
Value Added By Rights Management
Intellectual property is a valuable asset. It currently accounts for nearly 40% of US net exports, worth upwards of $842 billion. If you are a songwriter, filmmaker, author, artist, or original creator of any sort, you generate the intellectual property associated with your work. Copyright law dictates that the rights owner is entitled compensation for uses of your works across formats, platforms, and borders. However, the intangible nature of intellectual property makes its value difficult to define. Much of this value depends on how well the rights associated with your assets are managed, hence the importance of a rights manager.
Intellectual property assets are only as valuable as their rights are enforceable. That is, as far as they are able to be identified and their uses attributed to the proper owner. Additionally, IP value depends on exclusivity and future benefits through the assets’ suitability for licensure and exploitation. A rights manager works to maximize the value of their client’s intellectual property by meeting each of these value-based qualifications. Once these qualifications are met, rights are represented, documented, and collected through all appropriate platforms. This can increase the value of your assets by considerable margins.
We have clients who experienced 99.76% growth in monthly revenue from their music catalog after 16 months of rights management representation.
Developing a creative and original work that reaches a broad audience is no small task, but in today’s entertainment industry this is only half the battle. Exercising ownership rights to their fullest extent and claiming the associated royalties in their entirety is an equally daunting task. However, success in this respect is not defined by artistic merit, but by versatility in data management, contract law, licencing, finance, and conflict resolution. Understandably, these skills typically fall outside the purview of the creative worker. A rights management partner can relieve you and your staff of the workload and administrative strain associated with rights management, and often cover their own costs with the increased return on your IP assets. A rights management partner will typically charge a commission on the royalties they collect for you, this can range from 10-25% of gross royalty revenue.
Rights management is a relatively new practice in the entertainment industry. Historically, companies who specialized in monetizing creative works would finance creators in exchange for ownership of their work. Examples in the music industry include music publishers and record labels. In the film industry, this is often the production studio or broadcaster. This relationship with a media company often obligates the creator to work within the terms and expectations of a written contract. Though this can be a significant form of support for artists and creators, some may consider this to be a hindrance to the creative process.
The digital era has changed the landscape of royalty collection by allowing creators to not only produce, distribute, and own their work, but to collect the associated royalties as well. A rights manager’s expertise empowers creators to collect their royalties to the greatest extent possible without sacrificing their creative autonomy. A rights manager is an essential partner for independent creators.
Do I need a rights management representative?
There are a variety of circumstances that would call for rights management services. The central concern is that your intellectual property assets are not earning as much as you expect. Oftentimes the necessary attention may exist outside of your current bandwidth, skill set, or understanding. Regardless, managing the rights associated with your copyright assets is work that should not be left undone. If you identify with any of the statements below, it’s advisable for you to seek out a rights management partner:
A rights management partner can help you address these questions and more, all you have to do is find one that meets your needs. Start the conversation to own your content control your data, and collect your money.
Short List of Rights Managers
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