Update, July 2017, from Jasmine Lee:
On April 26, 2017, Mediachain Labs, an open-source blockchain database, announced its acquisition by Spotify. The streaming music service Spotify would solve the problem that had plagued its platform: attributing music to the musicians featured on Spotify.
In the blog post underneath, Research Specialist Grace Pinegar discussed the importance of digital asset management (DAM) software to protecting a company’s licensure when it comes to storing, using and sharing creative intellectual property. I wrote about the implementation of blockchain technology across various industries in a more recent blog post, and briefly touched upon Mediachain’s Attribution Engine, which takes the premise of a DAM solution and applies it to the non-corporate world.
Via blockchain time stamp and identity verification, the Attribution Engine facilitates publishers and creators of visual images securing the rights to their digital content. That means that anyone who accesses and uses images found within a public domain media library won’t need to worry about manually attributing content to the original creator.
Previously, the discovery of that attribution had been difficult, considering the variety of mediums that visual images can potentially be used and shared. With its acquisition of Mediachain Labs and their technology, Spotify is now equipped to accurately give credit to their featured musicians as well as more easily solve the ownership question: “Whose song is this?”
The digital age presents a whole new set of challenges for intellectual property protection. Whereas access to content was once limited to available, physical publications, today’s media landscape puts files and documents no further than our fingertips. Easy access to graphics, photos, music and other digital media has contributed to a culture that assumes content comes free. Digital asset management (DAM) tools help organizations avoid copyright infringements and safeguards the artists whose works are in use.
DAM software exists to benefit teams that are frequently sharing or contributing to various types of media. It speeds up editing processes and organizes content in a centralized location with permission features that can limit individual access.
Digital Asset Management and Content Rights
A reputable DAM solution will also understand and prioritize digital rights, or the relationship between content curators and those with permission to use and duplicate said content. Digital rights management (DRM) features keep assets safe from overuse and illegal distribution. This protects individuals’ work and reduces liability in organizations that outsource media.
In reference to licensure, a media file can be categorized as rights managed, royalty free, editorial, creative commons or public domain. Rights-managed media are individually curated and typically cost more. The buyer pays a licensing fee determined by length of usage, type of media, location to be published and whether the rights will be exclusive.
Royalty-free rights are purchased without a time limit, but the owner can continue to distribute the content to other sources. There is a one-time fee paid to the owner, but the rights aren’t exclusive. Examples of royalty-free content are stock photos bought in bulk or theatre permissions to stage a production of a playwright’s script.
A file can never be both rights managed and royalty free, as that would create a conflict in exclusivity. The rights-managed purchaser expects his or her images to be fairly exclusive, whereas a royalty-free purchaser is looking for cheaper access to media that has been used in a higher capacity.
Public domain content is exactly what you think it would be. It’s free to the public and can be used without explicit permission. If photographer or designer information is available, attribution is expected and appreciated but not required.
Storing and distributing content through a DAM solution helps organizations track information and stay within the rights of their licensure. If a company has permission to use a rights-managed image for a year, that information can be stored in the file’s metadata and can prevent the company from—however unintentionally—breaking its legally binding contract.
Digital Asset Management and File Protection
Content creators can also utilize DAM tools for their own purposes. Administrators can choose to distribute non-purchased content to be viewed with watermarks that are to be removed pending acquisition. Software that provides digital watermarking can further protect against theft by tracking content that has been sent to clients for consideration. The Digimarc website describes the process as connecting “content outside Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems back to usage rules, billing information and other critical metadata.” It essentially extends protection to content owners long after the transaction has been completed.
Files can be protected by permission features that deny access to content unless required documents and contracts are attached. File metadata can include expiration dates to ensure content is not accessed past its negotiated timeline. Different solutions will feature different protective measures and creators should be aware what their preferred tool offers before purchasing.
While understanding these details might seem tedious and time consuming, digital rights are not a topic you want to familiarize with after the fact. Violation of these rights can cost businesses thousands to millions of dollars in fines, while ignorance to them costs artists the opportunity to profit from or defend their intellectual property.