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Blog about Digital Asset Management

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How do I audit my assets for a DAM?

In my last blog post, we talked about rights management, DAM and good record keeping. This blog has nothing to do with tax audits.

I wanted to continue discussing rights management and good record keeping.

Before you add an asset to your DAM, do you know what rights you have to that asset?

You know whether you are permitted to use, reuse and re-purpose it, right?

That should be included in your metadata.

Not sure what assets are licensed? In the interest of being transparent and legally abiding in today’s business environment, you could do a self audit of all your assets.

Yes, that may mean everything you have on hand. You are organized, right? No? Well, here you chance.


  • Start with a clean slate.
  • Pick what is worth keeping.
  • Add proper metadata.
  • Know what you have.
  • Know how and where to find it all (in your DAM).
  • Instant archive/historical record of organization’s IP.


  • It will be time consuming.
  • The longer the organization has been in existence, the more assets you may have on hand to sort through.
  • Where are all the assets hiding in your organization?
  • Who knows about these assets? Is your institutional knowledge leaving the organization?
  • How many assets are not digitized?
  • Who will add metadata to these assets?
  • Easier said than done.

Questions to answer before you start

  • How many assets do you have?
  • Where are they?
  • Can you find them quickly?
  • Do you have the proper licenses to use what you have?
  • When do the licenses for Rights Managed assets expire?

If you can’t answer those five questions, particularly the last one, you may need to perform an internal self audit of your assets. Someone is tracking all licenses for your organization, right? If you don’t know, you may have a liability on your hands.

Here is how you could do a self audit  of your assets:

  1. Check with your legal counsel before starting the self audit.
  2. Find and list all the assets you have on hand.
  3. Compare this with any documentation you have to see if they match.
  4. Contact all of the vendors you have licensed assets from.
  5. Let vendors know you would like a confirmation of all licenses with the understanding you are doing this in good faith to redeem any issues. Unless you are blatantly stealing assets regularly, you have little to fear aside from an invoice. You should get a clear idea of what needs to be done and what may need a license.
  6. Vendors will usually reciprocate with the information you need to know and note anything you need to address. You could even ask the vendor to supply the metadata in bulk at the same time.

This will help you get your licensing straightened out, give you a clean slate to continue proper rights management and give your legal counsel less headaches in the future.


Can a DAM handle Rights Managed assets?

Many organizations license Rights Managed (RM) assets such as photographs from vendors like Corbis or Getty Images. Many organizations do not manage these licensed assets well nor keep track of when they expire.

The Stock Artist Alliance (SAA) reported “…nine out of every ten images [were] unauthorized uses.”

Many of these ‘unauthorized uses’ involve Rights Managed assets.

This is a legal liability for many businesses and there is very little done about this issue today. There is little awareness about this issue and the widespread education about Rights Management is abysmal. There are a handful of associations who try, but have such as limited audience and even less people listening to what they have to say about Rights Management.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions try, but do not resolve these issues. Why? Rights Management is about knowing:

  • Can you use/reuse this asset?
  • What rights do you have to the asset?
  • Where can you use the asset?
  • How long can you use the asset?
  • How can you use the asset with the license(s) you acquire?

DRM attempts to do this by simply trying to limit the use of the asset.

There are so many ways DRM often fails to work. For starters, DRM technology rarely remains intact when an asset is copied, renamed or reformatted. Creators of content such as movies, music and photographs are the most common victims to suffer from this type of theft and result in huge losses in sales. This is because DRM technologies are fighting an almost fruitless battle. The money it costs to pursue offenders must vastly out weight the possible royalties and money to be regained in a law suit.

Giulio Prisco, chief executive of Metafuturing Second Life, formerly of CERN said “You cannot stop a tide with a spoon. Cracking technology will always be several steps ahead of DRM and content will be redistributed on anonymous networks.”

Very few DRM track the use of the assets. A few technologies track the illegal uses of the assets after the fact and report this back to the content owners. Then again, do the owners of the content and licensors even know where these assets are supposed to appear? Good record keeping on all sides is part of the solution here.

Rights Management can be quite complex. Many people simply do not understand rights management. Anyone ordering rights managed assets from a vendor must understand licensing and copyright. Otherwise, this is a liability to the organization and ignorance is not an excuse.

Rights Managed (RM) assets are negotiated and licensed, not purchased, with finite terms which may include:

  • Where the asset can be distributed (geographically)?
  • How the asset can be distributed (in what media)?
  • How can the asset be used (on the home page, cover of a book, inside,etc)?
  • Where will the asset be used in the media?
  • How many people will receive or see the asset?
  • How long will the asset be used?
  • What size will the asset be used?
  • How much of the asset will be used?
  • Who can access the asset?
  • Is this exclusive or non-exclusive to the organization?
  • Are there other restrictions from the creator, licensor or vendor?
  • Are there any third party rights?

Can a DAM handle Rights Managed assets? This is far more than simply an issue of storing Rights Managed assets in a DAM and associating some metadata which state the terms of the asset. Most Rights Managed assets can not even be archived if they are not currently licensed. A few vendors do not even want you to archive the asset at all, so check with the vendor/licensor directly. If you have Rights Managed assets, what system do you have in place which will:

  • Warn you before the license expires?
  • Tell you who contact when you renew the license?
  • What are the licensing terms are/were?
  • How much you paid and when?
  • Track how and where an asset has been used?

This is part of good record keeping.

What if you have multiple licenses for the same asset used different ways? This is getting complex, isn’t it? A highly customized DAM could do this for your organization. Or you could have another system to handle just the licensing separate from  the assets themselves. I would recommend one centralized system instead of separate systems do each task which can be even more costly and time consuming.

It is possible to store licensed Rights Managed (RM) assets in a DAM, but major customizations are often required.

In order to use a DAM for this, the DAM would need to track every use of every RM asset ordered out of the DAM. If an asset can be ordered from the DAM, it can be tracked by the DAM with a record of what has been used where. Some DAMs can apply licensing information into the embedded metadata. There are a few DAM systems which can even apply DRM to an outbound asset (we talked about DRM though). The idea is the DAM order must include how and where the asset will be used. The DAM can act as a central repository for all assets as well as the rights management information. This information can be relayed to the vendor for the proper licensing each and every time. There are workflows to accomplish this.

The good news is that in the past years, more of the market has become Royalty Free and DRM-free. That does not directly affect what you have licensed to date  though. Much of historic content that is not public domain hangs on to the Rights Managed model of doing business. After all , it is a bit hard to recreate history after it happened.

So how is your organization handling the licenses of Rights Managed assets today?