World Intellectual Property Organization

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By Mrs. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson

Chief Executive Officer, KOPIOSTO, Helsinki

1. Rights Management in General

      This background paper is supplementary to Dr. Daniel Gervais analysis "Electronic Commerce and Copyright", prepared for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) studying the possible role that organization could have in the interconnection and interoperability of ECMS (Electronic Copyright management Systems).

      The focus of this paper is on the exercise and management of copyrights in general and in the digital era in particular. This encompasses all creations that can be traded in digital from. They can be traded separately, as music, films, texts, photographs, or in combination with each other and non-protected elements, such as multimedia.

      In principle, right owners need to be able to decide how they want to exercise and manage their copyrights, i.e. individually or through rights management organizations. In certain special cases national legislation may stipulate that specific rights may only be managed collectively.

      The natural starting point is individual exercise of rights. This should be done whenever it is feasible from the rights owners' and users' viewpoint. In many cases, however, works protected by copyright are used all over the world by innumerable users. It would be practically impossible for right owners to control the use of their works, and for users to get the necessary licenses to use the works.

      To facilitate this process right owners in different fields have established rights management organizations to administer their copyrights. The first such organizations were first established more than 200 years ago. The owners of musical rights have organized the administration of their copyright worldwide. Owners of copyrights in visual art and photography, literary works and audio-visual works have established rights management organizations to a lesser degree, and often for certain special rights only.

      In mass uses of copyrighted works, such as public performance of music, the only feasible way of rights management is "collective administration proper". In such cases right owners authorize a rights management organization to manage their rights. Such management includes monitoring of rights, giving the necessary licenses against appropriate fees and on proper conditions, collecting the fees and distributing the revenue to the owners of rights.

      Normally the organization applies uniform tariffs and licensing takes the form of "blanket licensing" or "repertoire licensing." This means that the whole repertoire represented by the organization is at the users' disposal.

      In the digital era, right owners increasingly consider to administer their copyrights individually. Today right owners can combine synergistically the positive effects of individual licensing and those of collective administration. Rights clearance centers can function as agents of right owners and establish services that take due account of the individual nature of copyrights. In these services participating rights owners may set the prices for the use of their works individually and decide on the conditions within certain parameters.

      Digital technology and telecommunications infrastructure makes it possible that such services can function online. Owners of rights have a possibility to put their works into a database, a virtual rights selling environment. Users may consult the availability of works and find out which uses are allowed, including the conditions for each type of use. The user may buy the license online, without human intervention, in principle 24 hours a day. Rights management organizations have established such services that function today.

      In some cases users do not need just a license to use a copyrighted work, but also the content in digital form. For instance, a multimedia producer may wish to acquire a photograph or a text to be used in his or her production. Content delivery services can be connected to rights management services and databases containing content may either be situated in the rights management organization or in separate, decentralized databases. Some rights management organizations have established content delivery services that function today.

      This paper describes shortly the current number and form of rights management organizations in operation today. In typical cases different rights are managed separately by a specialized organization. In multimedia, producers need all types of creations: audio, video, text, visual material etc. Rights management organizations have in many countries established coalitions to meet the needs of multimedia producers and provide an infrastructure for joint rights management. Ideally, this infrastructure should work online and on a worldwide basis.

2. Existing Network of Rights Management Organizations

      CISAC (Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Auteurs et Compositeurs) has currently 180 Members and Associate Members in 95 countries or administrative areas.

      Based on the latest available data, the geographical division is the following: there are 21 copyright societies in Africa, 21 in Asian countries, 87 in European countries including CIS-countries, 30 in Latin American countries including the Caribbean, and 12 in North America.

      In total, 129 of the CISAC-societies administer musical works either alone or together with some other repertoire. A number of these societies are so-called multipurpose societies, where the administration encompasses musical works and other types of works. Altogether 18 societies deal in the main with literary works, 17 with visual art including photography, 5 with audio-visual works, and 4 with theatrical/dramatic works.

      In 1999, IFRRO (the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations) has 33 RRO-members (reproduction rights organizations) and five Music RROs. These organizations operate in 32 countries; three in Africa, three in Asia, 18 in Europe, and two in North America. These organizations represent authors and publishers of literary works, visual material and photography and in certain countries also owners of rights in sheet music.

      AIDAA (Association Internationale des Auteurs de l'Audiovisuel) represents authors in audiovisual works, mainly directors and screenwriters. The Association has 23 Members that administer specific rights in audio-visual works. The majority of AIDAA's Members are at the same time members of CISAC.

      Performing artists and phonogram producers have in many countries a right to remuneration for broadcasting and public performance of their phonograms. They have organized the exercise of that remuneration right through rights management societies. While most of these societies represent both performers and producers, in some countries separate societies have been established for both groups.

      Film producers exercise their cable retransmission rights through rights management societies. A joint organization, ACIGOA (Association de Gestion Internationale Collective des Oeuvres Audiovisuelles) represents film producers and other audiovisual producers in this regard. In some countries special film producers' rights management organizations have been established for cable retransmission and in some cases private copying remuneration.

      This is not an exhaustive summary, but gives a general picture of rights management organizations. Towards this background one can draw the conclusion that only right owners of musical works have organized the administration of their rights on a worldwide basis. For the purposes of multimedia and other type of digital rights clearance, the management of all different types of works needs special attention.

3. Methods of Rights Management

      Management of copyrights through collective administration organizations has hitherto taken the form of "blanket licensing" or "repertoire licensing." This method of rights clearance has been the most functioning in mass uses. The participating right owners authorize the organization to administer their rights, normally with uniform tariffs and conditions.

      Some RROs (reproduction rights organizations), members of IFRRO, have established rights clearance centers. In such services more individual methods of rights clearance can be applied. These services mayl function in conjunction with repertoire licensing, and thus be complementary. Examples of uses where individual clearance of rights is necessary include course-packs for students (paper or digital collections containing extracts of a certain number of well-identified works) and document delivery services. In such cases right owners normally want to decide themselves the terms and conditions, including the price to be paid.

      The most developed method of rights clearance is a service available online, for automated rights identification and clearance. To take the above example of student course-packs, an online service makes it possible for professors or copy-shops to get the necessary licenses any time, by browsing available licenses including tariffs. This enables a virtual compilation of the course-pack content and its licensing online.

      In certain cases rights owners have established services through which the uses can also acquire the content in conjunction with the license. Photographs and texts are examples of digitized content delivered online.

      The examples of online licensing, with or without content, are the most interesting in respect of functioning ECMS systems.

4. Examples of Electronic Copyright Management Systems

      There is a number of working electronic copyright management systems in operation today, even though the field is still fairly new. The examples below include only systems that bring together the works of several rights owners.

      Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) in the United States offers an electronic copyright-management system available on the World Wide Web that allows right owners to set their prices, establish acceptable uses, and view their accounts directly. On the other side, the service is offered for universities interested in clearing photocopied course-packs and electronic course content, and for general photocopying permission. CCC also offers online licensing of specific titles for reuse and republication of text and non-text portions of printed works, whether on paper or electronically.

      CCC has an interface with the UK Copyright Licensing Agency's Rapid Clearance Service (CLARKS) and the Australian Copyright Agency Limited's Copyright Xpress, some of them off line. All these organizations are members of IFRRO.

      Together with the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) CCC has developed a service called MIRA (the Media Image Resource Alliance). It is an online digital-stock agency. Users can browse, download, and clear rights to use professional-quality images. The entire licensing function and access to content is done automatically online via an electronic copyright-management system. Photographers and other right owners, such as museums, provide images directly to Mira, and set prices and conditions for use.

      Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) in the United Kingdom has developed an electronic copyright-management system solution for online syndication of newspaper and other articles. Combining rights management with online delivery, the system allows users to search the database called ByLine and download articles for republications, with authority from the author of the material. The system is automated and articles are individually priced.

Current National Initiatives of Multimedia Rights Clearances

      In multimedia, different categories of copyright protected works are used. Creation types and corresponding right owners can be classified, for instance, as follows:


  • composers, lyricists and arrangers
  • music publishers
  • performing artists
  • phonogram producers


  • visual and graphic artists
  • photographers


  • writers
  • journalists
  • translators
  • publishers of books, magazines, journals, periodicals and newspapers


  • script, screen and dialogue writer and dramatists
  • directors
  • other film authors, such as scene designers, costume designers, directors of photography and editors
  • actors
  • film producers
  • broadcasters


  • computer software programmers and publishers
  • database developers and publishers
  • video-game developers and publishers
  • online learning systems developers

This classification is not official, nor exhaustive, but it is given to show the great variety of creation types that can be used in multimedia. It also shows the dimension of co-ordination needed for functioning rights clearance for multimedia.

Rights management organizations in many countries have established coalitions in order to facilitate the process of obtaining the innumerable licenses required for the production of multimedia. These coalitions have emerged from national needs, and they have different roles and functions, such as:

- providing information on where right owners can be contacted, leaving the issue of right clearance to the individual owner of rights;


- functioning as an intermediary vis-a-vis the user, leaving the right clearance to separate participating rights management organizations; and

- issuing licenses on behalf of all participating right owners.

One of the very first countries to start to examine the effects of multimedia was Japan. Already during the first half of 1990's Committee reports on copyright in multimedia and rights clearing mechanisms were published. The Japanese Government helped to launch a very interesting project called J-CIS (Japan Copyright Information Service). This service would provide information on copyright material of all types and allow users to contact the current right owner easily to obtain necessary permissions. Certain conditions of use may also be decided by the right owner. This service is tentatively to be operational year 2000 as an online service. (See WIPO document ACMC/1/2 by Ms. Mikiko Sawanishi, the First session of the WIPO Advisory Committee on Management of Copyright and related Rights in Global Information Networks, December 1998.)

Multimedia has gained much focus also in other Asian countries. In 1994, the Malaysian Government and private parties launched an initiative to build the Malaysian Multimedia Supercorridor, to promote national multimedia industry and to provide infrastructure to support it. As part of this project, multimedia rights clearance will be necessary.

The Republic of Korea is in the planning stage of building a comprehensive copyright information system for services based on an information superhighway. The new copyright information system will provide for efficient use of national resources. The system could fulfill its role as an efficient linkage with other information networks (Professor Lee, Won-Gyu's article "A design for a new copyright information system in Korea" for WIPO National Seminar on the Use of Information Technology in Exercise and Collective Management of Copyright, March 1999).

In Europe, new coalitions for multimedia rights information and/or clearance have been established in many countries. They group together existing rights management organizations. Such services have been established in Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Some of these coalitions provide information on copyright owners, some issue also licenses. A substantive report on "Multimedia Rights Clearance Systems" has been compiled for IFRRO, last updated October 1998 and a survey of user needs in respect of digital rights clearance will be published by IFRRO's New Technologies Committee in October. The Canadian Government is currently examining the issue of multimedia rights clearance.

5. VERDI (Very Extensive Rights Data Information)

    In 1998, certain European coalitions for multimedia rights clearance decided to initiate co-operation in order to build a European wide online rights information and licensing network. The VERDI project is based on existing services in six Member States of the European Union. The VERDI participants group together, each in their own country, several different groups of right owners. This enables them to deliver information and grant licenses for multimedia purposes.

    The VERDI Partners are:

    • CMMV (Germany) representing eleven copyright organization, incl. GEMA
    • KOPIOSTO (Finland) representing 44 Member organizations
    • MCCI (Ireland) representing several copyright organization, incl. IMRO, and content owners
    • Oficina Multimedia (Spain), SGAE (multipurpose) and VEGAP (visual art)
    • SESAM (France) representing five copyright organizations, incl. SACEM
    • SIAE (Italy) a multipurpose copyright organization.

    VERDI is based on a balanced approach to different licensing options for multimedia purposes. If the participating right owners wish to grant the licenses themselves, the service provides for contact information. A licensing service enabling participating right owners to set individual tariffs and conditions for use is part of the service. The service will also allow content to be delivered in conjunction with the license. Thus the VERDI network will function on three levels: information, license and content.

    An important part of the VERDI project is an analysis covering all eighteen European Economic Area countries. This analysis will clarify who the right owners are, where they can be contacted, and whether they are interested in participating in a multimedia rights clearance system. The results will be ready during 1999.

    Global Rights Information and Licensing Network

    To achieve a functioning global rights information and clearance network co-ordination is needed. Time seems to be ripe to initiate a dialogue between existing national or regional rights clearance services.

    In every country, rights clearance needs to serve national purposes and benefit local rights owners. In every country, however, content producers need also foreign repertoire, and an easy rights clearance process would greatly enhance copyright compliance. There are very few countries where right owners are in a position to control the use of their works outside their own country.

    Co-ordination is needed in planning the necessary interfaces between current rights clearance systems. In those countries where there are no current clearance mechanisms, a "model" system could enhance and simplify the implementation. Cost savings can be foreseen through co-ordinated action. For many, especially developing countries WIPO's co-ordination might greatly speed up the process and enable them to benefit from new virtual trading of copyrights on equal footing with developed countries.

    Building a technical infrastructure is a necessary prerequisite. Simultaneously, awareness of digital rights clearance and benefits thereof to different groups of right owners should be initiated. All interested countries should be included to secure a global system.

    History has shown in many developed countries that it has taken several decades for different groups of right owners to organize effective management of their rights. Great efforts are taken by WIPO and many representatives of rights owners to help the initial establishment of rights clearance in developing countries. This process would be greatly enhanced if the introduction of new technology would be facilitated through technical and educational co-ordination by WIPO.

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