Tackling IP complexities in the age of streaming

Rise of the subscription economy, fuelled by new streaming services across books, music, games, TV and film, has multiplied the complexities facing publishers when it comes to intellectual property (IP) rights and how authors and artists get paid for their work.

Just like the music, gaming and film industries have already been drastically influenced by streaming, led by the popularity of Spotify and Netflix, book publishing is heading in a comparable direction through ebook subscription services such as Kindle Unlimited.

Streaming has shifted music’s key monetisation model from the physical distribution of albums to streaming royalties on individual songs and the book world is facing similar disruptions as subscriptions rip up the rules on how authors are contracted and paid.

A move towards more time-based contracts, whereby the distributors own the rights on a work for only a set period of time, creates further complexity around IP. And in the midst of this, if a book leads to a movie or musical, or in some cases a whole lot more commercialisation, who is keeping up with who should be paid for what and when?

Our role is to support complexity in the world of IP

“The deals, the contracts, how works are licensed, how parties are paid, the number of parties that get paid and contribute to work, the globalisation of the market, the backlash from artists and authors who want to be paid more, all this is adding an incredible amount of complexity to IP in the streaming age,” says Scott Winner, chief executive of Ingenta, an Oxford-based provider of content services for the publishing industry.

“It seems simple, but in execution it’s very complex. I write a book and you license it from me, so you can distribute and sell that book and I get payments based on what we agree in our contract. But what if you’re doing that for 1,000 different people with slightly different agreements every time? That’s hard. Companies end up with lots of spreadsheets with different formulas because there are 15 different types of contract.”

Peloton, the high-tech exercise bike that enables users to join streamed spinning classes, is currently facing a $300-million lawsuit from music publishers that claim it distributed their songs without the correct licensing. The sheer scale of the damages that Peloton could face demonstrates the risks of ignoring the complexities of IP in the digital age.

Ingenta solves these unique problems with robust solutions for IP management. Its commercial platform manages the contracts, rights and royalties for some of the largest global book publishers. The technology is media agnostic, enhances the tracking of ownership from contract to payment through metadata best practices and enables easy discovery of underutilised rights to highlight new opportunities to monetise IP.

Last year Ingenta also launched its first dedicated product for the music industry and is also working with the gaming industries. The system provides music publishers with a comprehensive and consistent resource for creating and managing music rights contracts and the various ways in which they can be utilised. Royalties are reliably calculated based on IP usage across any format, including mechanical, public performance, print and synchronisation royalties.

“Our role is to support complexity in the world of IP,” says Winner. “We have focused on highly configurable, rules-driven systems, so we can change them without changing the software, and we’re constantly working on adding new modules to keep up with new developments. We use an end-to-end approach, from the contracts stage right through to the payments, ensuring it all flows from a data perspective.

“It’s easy for large publishers to get into a mode where they lack standardisation around their contracts, leaving holes and gaps in how they process payments. They might have 15 people negotiating contracts at any given time, so we allow them to enforce standards of review, contract structures and clauses. We ensure compliance and give publishers the confidence to embrace the exciting new business models and opportunities in these industries.”

For more information please visit ingenta.com