The digital marketplace creates both new opportunities and new challenges for self-published authors. The line between licensing a product and selling it is not as clear as it is with selling a print book or article. As Michael Healey, Executive Director of Author and Publisher Relations from the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) stated at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2012, “In the digital world, all sales transactions are basically licensing agreements.” This perspective was recently given legal validation with the judgment in the case of Re-Digi vs. Capitol Records, where the judge ruled against the idea that digital products qualified for First Sale protection under the law and reinforced the perspective of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that digital products constitute a completely different category of products from hard copy products. So the confusion with both print and digital rights is a legal issue in need of much clarification especially for self published authors as well as traditional publishers.
Why is rights clearance important for self-published authors? Registering and controlling the licensing of your rights to third party distributors, customers or users is essential to protecting your ownership of your content. It also allows you to maximize the opportunity to monetize your content in a variety of ways with potential buyers and clients. Finally, it means that you also need to insure that whatever content you are using in your content book passes muster with either Fair Use standards, or is legally licensed for reproduction in your work.
Because digital reproduction and distribution makes your book potentially available globally, you need to be aware of laws on Fair Use not just in the US but around the world. These laws vary depending on the kind of reproduction that is involved. For instance, copyright protection on what is considered Public Domain overseas may in fact need to still be licensed in the US. A one page segment of a non-fiction book could be considered Fair Use while a two line song lyric might need to be licensed. In fact, Amazon recently prohibited the sale of a self-published book for just this reason, and it isn’t the first time that’s happened.
Libraries are also becoming more and more wary of obtaining self-published digital books that haven’t had their rights properly verified, cleared and audited. For many authors, libraries are not only a large potential market but also an irreplaceable source of marketing for authors helping them develop a reputation and audience.
Getting a Rights Audit can help you avoid any of these potential liabilities and problems. Unfortunately, these can currently be quite expensive and difficult for authors to obtain. This is why Bowker is teaming up with First Source and Digi-Rights to offer a new on-line service coming this summer – Digi-Rights Direct – to help authors, small and medium-sized publishers ( and even large publishers) whose authors clear their rights themselves. With Digi-Rights Direct, authors can easily obtain an audit, as well as on-line clearance services for their content.
We hope to make rights compliance easy, inexpensive and obtainable, so that authors can take full advantage of the value of their work in the digital marketplace. Keep watching on both www.selfpublishedauthor.com and www.myidentifiers.com for more information on this new service.