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A Rights Model for the New Millenium

In a typically thoughtful and prescient piece written for Publishing Perspectives, Emily Williams expounded today on how the current rights landscape came to be so tangled, and how we can navigate towards a more comprehensive and fluid understanding on book rights.

As Williams notes, the simple intrinsic beauty of books has long served as a facade, for the convoluted webs of rights they contain, which can encompass multiple entities, territories, and time periods. Now that many books are at least available in electronic format, those copyright tangles are laid bare.

There are now books, Williams notes, which readers may want to read but which aren’t sold for the device they use, and that sharing books – long seen as a near-inalienable right – has become restricted in jarring new ways, because while the physical book has been endowed with digital technology, their copyrights have not been upgraded accordingly.

Among the questions Williams poses are:

  • Do video enhancements to books infringe on film rights?
  • If books contain enhancements created by programmers, who owns those? And can they be sold separately from the book’s text?
  • How should chunks of book content be licensed for the web, or for software developers who want to develop apps?

And the broad answer to these questions – according to Williams – is:

“Many of the opportunities from new technologies will come piecemeal in the form of experiments, but cumulatively they have the potential to build into new areas of profit — if rights holders are prepared to take advantage of them.”

The BISG’s work is aimed at chipping away at the knot of copyrights, to make them easier to navigate, easier to parcel out, and easier to assign fair value to. Williams’ piece is highly recommended for anyone interested in copyright or royalties management, and it can be read in entirety here.

Metacomet is proud to support the work of the BISG, and we’re following closely their work to create a more standardized framework for rights management across territories, platforms and applications.





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MetaComet Systems, Inc., Computer Software Publishers & Developers, South Hadley, MA