BISG Recaps "Doing Rights Right"

Posted By: Brooke Horn Announcements, Committees,

Every day, organizations and individuals seek rights and permissions for intellectual property whose owners are difficult to reach, ambiguous, or unknown. The supply chain for rights frustrates anyone trying to negotiate a fair deal, and globally, millions of dollars are left on the table each year. An operational set of standards and global best practices for efficient, effective, legally sound rights licensing continues to elude us. 

With the support of Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Book Industry Study Group was pleased to bring together rights professionals from the book industry and beyond for "Doing Rights Right: Making the Case for Change" on Friday, January 19, 2024 at the Goethe Institute in NYC. This hybrid event explored opportunities and conveyed the urgent need for a concerted, collaborative effort to be made to solve challenges in book rights.

Keynote speaker Sebastian Ritscher of Mohrbooks Literary Agency shared the following thoughts after the event: 

"Ownership and license to publish literary works drive the publishing industry. In my speech, I reminded the audience of the urgency to improve the mechanics of rights management. The challenge lies in the industry's reliance on outdated methods for communicating rights-related information. The process is text-based and dangerously inefficient. To address this, the publishing industry should adopt a common, non-proprietary language model for rights-related messages, including rights requests, contracts, permissions, and royalty statements. This shift will enable data flow, allowing software providers to create cost-effective and interoperable tools. A change is essential to protect publishing as a cultural and global endeavor dedicated to education, enlightenment, diversity, and entertainment."

Kris Kliemann of Kliemann & Company (and the chair of BISG's Rights Committee), a driving force behind the conception and execution of the event, found the day to be a success: 

"Gathering several rights pros, plus a group of publishing folks who may not be directly in rights licensing, but who “get” the importance of rights—well, that’s a great day, as far as I’m concerned.  For all of us who are working hard to achieve great deals—whether in granting permissions, licensing digital, or matching books with great translation publishers—it is simply cathartic to be with colleagues who know that the effort will be lighter, the rewards will be higher, when rights professionals are finally enabled to access the types of benefits from digital workflow that have transformed editorial, production, marketing, and sales in publishing over the past several years."   

Attendee Alan Hirsch of knk agreed:

 “It was worth braving the snow to go to the BISG meeting “Doing Rights Right.” Keynote speaker Sebastian Ritscher (from Switzerland!) gave a brilliant address, reminding us of the fundamental importance of the mission for all us who work in publishing, and, at the same time, how important it is to stay current with the latest technology, if we want continued success. And great to network with BISG colleagues, too!”

So, what do rights professionals want?

  • Customers who can find us directly via a digital repository that transparently reveals the contact info for the correct rights holder (rights type by rights type) to any title published or to be published in near future.  
  • Clear records within our companies that allow us to answer inquiries speedily and perform analysis easily.
  • Royalty statements that include all the basic information we need to be able to report and allocate swiftly and correctly to our companies and authors.

If you want to be involved in this important work, BISG is actively seeking volunteers to join the Rights Committee. We want to learn from the successes of rights professionals in other industries (looking at you, music business!) and continue to push on all fronts in publishing.   The BISG Rights Committee is the place to work out the details, benefit from the support of colleagues, and see the desired changes in this industry come to fruition.

Join the Rights Committee