Corporate governance is a substantial and strategic topic for large organizations that cuts across many functions to ensure proper oversight and accountability. One key factor in any governance strategy is risk management. We normally think of this as financial, operational, or legal risks, but have you considered the risk associated with your premium content and contracted talent? Without a well-designed content rights management strategy, brands face tremendous exposure in terms of brand equity damage and huge litigation and settlement costs from potential content misuse.
We recommend looking at how your governance processes empower your teams to manage content globally, across all potential users, brands, channels, and territories, while ensuring the content is used within regulation and/or according to contracts. By adding a rights verification step during production, monitoring content consumption and tracking against expirations, companies gain content compliance that will save millions in litigation costs and protect brand reputation.
Rights management improvements are typically comprised of business process optimization and automation, both internally and externally, as marketing teams at large enterprises often work with external as well as in-house agencies and look for ways to achieve better interdepartmental and interagency transparency, visibility, and collaboration. When putting in place new rights management processes you should ensure these governance improvements are rolled out across each agency.
It’s Never too Early
A common pitfall is the failure to catalog your rights for an asset at acquisition, which often increases risk and future maintenance. Account for the asset ingestion process and capture as much data as you can at the beginning of the process–it’s much harder to come back later and get the rights data you’ll need to clear the asset in future.
Some companies use a manual approach involving spreadsheets, file folders, or attaching PDF contracts. However, that can quickly become too complex to manage and maintain as assets proliferate and agreements become more granular.
Assets are proliferating at rapid speeds while at the same time becoming more complex with several attributes, multiple restrictions, and multipart structures. A common consideration is to store complex rights data in your Digital Asset Management solution. However, while these systems can handle asset metadata well (i.e. the information fields associated with a piece of content like title, version, description, etc.), in most cases they cannot store dynamic, granular, and hierarchical rights data.
We recommend automating the rights clearance step so users become knowledgeable and accountable and brands are protected. Otherwise you run into several functional limitations:
- An asset is often associated with multiple talent(s) or other agreements that may have different rights that need to be accounted for
- A contract or asset with one talent may have different expiration dates for different distribution channels
- Each time a contract is updated, affected assets need to be identified and metadata needs to be updated manually
- There is no guarantee that users will check the usage rights metadata field and interpret it correctly
When looking at your process governance you also want to clearly define and allocate roles and ensure you use those roles to provide role-based, brand-based, and permission-based data. You could consider triggering behavior based on rights results. For instance, if a content piece cannot be used according to the bounds of a particular campaign then you must prevent it from being downloaded or throw up a disclaimer or stamp it with a watermark. This can only be done properly if you’re tying together content with content rights during the production process, at the point of selection for use.
Rights-based workflow is a very interesting concept that’s typically for organizations that are further along in their DAM maturity models. This can drive ways to protect content such as what was mentioned in the above paragraph, but also introduce process efficiencies with workflow tasks and business process management, such as requesting additional rights for a content piece in order to meet your content and brand objectives. Additionally, you can look to drive notification and alerts based on content intelligence such as when content or agreements expire, where you might be in violation, and when a buyer enters the last stage of their experience.
In today’s digital age, an asset manager and/or a librarian are a must-have for a large brand. Key responsibilities are to maintain the content and its integrity, manage rights, and promote the efficient use and reuse of existing investments.
We strongly recommend that you have the positions distributed by brand or across brands. The person or persons will manage the metadata and taxonomy of assets, have in-depth knowledge of copyright regulations, and can mine “rights” information from contracts, agreements, and releases. They also will associate assets to agreements and ensure those are made properly. With the multi-dimensional nature of rights and the multitude of contracts that can be associated with one or more content pieces, this association is complex but critical. The person in this role will often initiate the acquisition of new rights required for campaigns.
It’s ideal to introduce a “rights check” across the content supply chain – from the early creative and planning stage to production to distribution – in order to prevent against compliance risks, potential litigation costs, last-minute rework, and a tarnished brand. However, it’s also essential to monitor and manage against expirations and violations in content usage post-production – whether on your own brand websites, your partner’s sites, or across social and e-commerce applications.
By introducing rights management processes and technology as part of your governance strategy, you gain preventive measures against content misuse and can increase visibility and transparency across departments, brands, and agencies into content rights and restrictions.