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What Makes IP an "Asset"?

For several years in the 1990s, I had the pleasure of working closely with Mark Bide on Vista’s “Publishing in the 21st Century” program. Since then, Mark has largely left the book business to attack digital problems of other content industries as well, but I value the opportunity to sit down with him because I always learn something. He was in our office for an hour on Thursday morning and we captured a few gems. Here’s one of them directly relevant to StartwithXML.

Mark offered the observation that too many people in publishing don’t understand what constitutes an “asset.” He maintains that a content asset has two components: the intellectual property itself and the right to use or license it. The content without the rights information is actually a liability, because you’d have to expend effort (which means money) researching the rights situation before you could use or license the intellectual property.

For all the money and effort spent by publishers on DAM systems over the past several years, very few consistently store rights information with the intellectual property. VERY few. One of the things we’ve learned quickly in the StartwithXML project is that, while an XML repository readily enables storing rights information with the IP, almost nobody uses it that way. One of the leading companies enabling XML workflows actually described our suggestion that the XML document should hold rights information as “a very good idea.” It was also, to them, a somewhat novel idea! And they are a cutting edge company on XML workflows.

So chalk up one more reason to go through the pain of the process change to a StartwithXML workflow. If Mark’s formulation is right, and I think it is, doing so is the difference between creating assets and creating liabilities with each new piece of IP!

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  • Claire Lewis Evans

    Absolutely, but rights information goes far beyond the question of whether or not one can use or license a title. What is needed is a standardized method of itemizing third-party content in a title, along with any restrictions governing its use. Such a standard would allow systems interoperability, streamline workflow, and get more material out into the digital realm.