Another DAM Blog

Blog about Digital Asset Management


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?


Why do I need a DAM?

Some organizations may have considered a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system, but thought:

“We’ll do it later” or “We don’t need one of those DAM things.”

In the same breath, you might as well pick any of the following phrases below:

  1. “We don’t need to save money now.”
  2. “We will be here forever, so we will be able to preserve our institutional knowledge.”
  3. “We love filing cabinets full of CDs, DVDs, tapes as well as multiple external hard drives, shared drives, folder structures on our computers and other ‘organized’ methods to store and manage our files every day. There is no other way to do this today.”
  4. “We can’t find anything promptly, and we’re okay with that.”
  5. “We can wait until tomorrow when the other office is open with the files we need for that presentation today.”
  6. “We will continue to wait for Joe to come back from vacation and Susan to return from sick leave to retrieve files we really needed for that public release last week.”
  7. “We love employees who hoard company assets on just their computer that are so important to our business. What could possibly ever happen to their computer or them for that matter? Our employees never go anywhere.”
  8. “We love to wait hours or days for files, don’t we all?”
  9. “We like to waste time and money and so do our managers.”
  10. “We don’t need to know what files we have. Why would anyone want to know that?”
  11. “We don’t accumulate many files each year. We trash our intellectual property every few months just to clear our limited hard drive space. It’s really no big deal.”
  12. “There is no other way we can be more efficient. We each have our very own sets of standards and procedures followed sometimes.”
  13. “We love paper. It’s so cheap. We like swimming in it too. What’s a PDF anyhow?”
  14. “Why would we change how we deliver stuff? Mailing stuff is really cheap and fast nowadays. We don’t even need email today.”
  15. “We can only collaborate in person or by email nowadays. What will they think of next? Telecommuting for office workers? We would have to trust our employees.”
  16. “We have to hold all our files very close, so no one can find our files including us.”
  17. “We love re-creating files over again because we can’t find it to use it again. In fact, we’ll do it all over again next month.”
  18. “We love to think inside the box. We don’t streamline anything around here. I know because I’m an innovator. We don’t need any changes here.”
  19. Improve workflow? Our work flows just fine around here. We do not need to upgrade any software nor hardware each decade.”
  20. “Change costs money. Technology can’t save the organization time and money. We just need more people to work harder and longer hours. That’s why they are here, and they know it.”

None of these ridiculous phrases have to be true in any organization today. Everything listed in bold can be done with DAM. If you don’t believe any of these ‘unspoken ways of doing business’ actually happen in your organization, find out how all your files are really stored and managed every year. Be ready for a surprise. Aside from what was discussed in the last 20 points above:

  • Can you find every file created last month or last year?
  • What if the person looking did not create nor archive any of the files they are looking for themselves?
  • How quickly can these files be accessed?
  • How many files do you have?
  • Where are these files kept?
  • Are they archived for future use?
  • How many files are redundant (not a backup copy nor a different version)?
  • How can you be sure without opening each file?

There is a better way. With a DAM, you can know the answer to all these questions. Planning for a DAM can make any organization really audit their assets and their workflows. A properly implemented DAM can make an organization streamlined and standardized. If a DAM is applied to an organization the right way, people can efficiently and effectively store, archive, search, find, use, reuse and repurpose assets as needed. Anyone who should be able to access files can securely find out what is available at anytime from anywhere with an internet connection.

Stay tuned to this blog for more on DAM and how it can help your organization.