Another DAM Blog

Blog about Digital Asset Management

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What is the life cycle of DAM assets?

Digital assets have a life cycle just like plants and animals. Your organization may acquire, create or even re-purpose digital assets which are:

  • a major milestone in the organization’s history
  • historical (good or bad)
  • required by law or other regulations
  • repeatedly used or requested

What are the signs that digital asset is coming to the end of its life cycle?

Is the asset:

  • Dated (is everyone wearing bell bottoms, plaid and have long sideburns? This could be a sign unless you are covering 1970 revivals)
  • Too generic? Or is it too specific to be of interest to your audience?
  • Antiquated (do you hear dinosaurs roaming or modems dialing for a connection? Or is an abacus the most advanced technology available?)
  • Not downloaded/ordered/requested/used in the past 5 years. (A DAM solution should be able to report the number of times an asset has been downloaded/ordered/requested/used. This is a major indicator.)

If the case is the asset has not been downloaded/ordered/requested/used in over 5 years, it may be time to migrate the asset to an archive outside of the DAM. Or maybe just keep a proxy of the asset in the DAM along with a location/contact for the archive that has a high quality copy of the digital asset. Just keep in mind not to delete all copies of those legacy digital asset  (you know, those assets supposedly at the end of their life cycle), unless required by law or regulation.

  • How many pieces of documentation do you keep for your assets? (This would explain the history and ownership of your digital assets, sometimes known as provenance)
  • How will this content be changed over the life cycle of the asset?
  • How many people do you have accessing this information? (History of the asset as seen from the DAM reports)
  • What is the total value of your asset related projects per year? (Do you keep in mind the value of these projects and assets?)
  • How many people can you afford to have managing this documentation? (This is documented in writing by someone, right?)
  • What happens when someone uses the wrong information? (Do you like errors and inconsistency?)
  • Is any of this a matter of proper version control? (Do you really want to know how many systems fail to have this today? Too many.)

If the digital asset is needed ‘forever,’ consider what file format it is kept in, since this format may not be supported ‘forever.’  These assets may need to be converted into different (more current) file formats. Refer to Another DAM podcast interview with Linda Tadic who speaks about this as well as the time frame to revisit these things.

Consider the same with physical media storage such the evolution of audio from wax cylinders to LPs (33.3 and 45) to 8 tracks to audio tapes to CDs… now on hard drives and portable MP3 players.

How many digital assets do you actively use today?

If you wanted to archive this music, what format do we store this for high quality, everyday listening, or did we all keep all formats/players? Not likely. While some purist may continue to play these antique tools of the past purely for nostalgic reasons, most of these formats do not keep these physically degrading/fading media formats. Instead, we keep the highest quality digital copy of important audio we need to keep. The ones of value. The digital asset.

Consider the same with the evolution of photography:

In less than 200 years, photography went from wet plates to large format to medium format to 35 mm celluloid film then to eventually digital capture. Digital camera sales have surpassed film camera sales for several years now. Some companies are re-purposing their photography infrastructure for something the market actually wants to buy today. Most photographers want to see their images now. Sometimes, even their subjects want to see their image now as well.

When it came to film photography, the photographer often used to hand off the (analog) film for processing and printing to a lab. With digital photography, the photographer often is the lab as well.

Like most digital assets…

We want them now. We may even need them now. For the projects at hand. For the time being.

Our attention span and patience for finite search results (to find the right asset) are constantly getting shorter. We are spoiled thanks to really good search engines and more importantly, their search results. Be sure your digital assets are not just searchable, but found when needed. If these assets can not be found in a DAM, their life cycle is quite limited. Be aware of how to find these digital assets again.

If you need vendor neutral assistance or advice on digital asset life cycles, let us know.

What is the life cycle of your digital assets?



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?