• MJ

Never Stop Learning: AAP-RPAC Meeting


Last week was a flurry of travel up and down the East Coast to meet with clients, do some prospecting, and take some time away from the daily grind in the office to work on the business from another location. On Monday of last week, I took the train up to NYC for the American Association of Publisher's Rights and Permissions Advisory Committee annual meeting.

This meeting is one that I have not missed in many years, mostly because it is something so unique to my (and Gryphon's) particular segment of the publishing industry. It's primarily a learning day, with five presentation sessions on various topics revolving around copyright, permissions, and publishing. Although I usually leave the meeting feeling a little boggled by all of the information thrown at me, I also head back to the office with the knowledge that I'm not alone in this sometimes-lonely rights world. There are others like me, struggling with the same issues on behalf of their houses or for clients. As a result, I am jazzed to put my new-found knowledge to work for my clients.

What follows are some of my topline impressions of this year's meeting.

The day began with a brilliantly concise review of "copyright basics" by my colleague from the GWU Master's in Publishing Program, Eric Slater, Esq. Even though I know what he is going to present, there is always some piece of information that feels new to me, and leaves me scrambling to take notes and review again later. Even in copyright law, there's something new to learn!

Next, we dove into the fundamentals of privacy with panelists from Penguin Random House and McGraw-Hill Education. This session could have easily gone on all morning, but it was good to have at least a high-level overoverview of basic privacy laws including COPPA and FERPA (which primarily focus on privacy of children in both school-based programs and online websites). I was at least marginally aware of COPPA from previous jobs, but the main takeaway was that, when it comes to children and "personally identifiable information" ("PII"), the standards are much much higher than when dealing with adults. So even though Mr. Zuckerberg over at Facebook is hopeful to remove age limits on users (currently over 13 only), this discussion led me to believe that it will be a very long time before Facebook (or other similar online media) will have enough safeguards in place to protect the privacy of children.

One of my favorite sessions of the day is the legislative update where, over the course of just an hour and a half, the VP of Legal and Governmental Affairs for the AAP delivers a high-level review of current issues and cases to watch in copyright. Despite the snail's pace in Washington when it comes to updating copyright law for the present day (i.e., digital/online rights), the last 3 years have proven to be the most active in some time. Last year, (2014) alone contained twelve (12!!) hearings on various aspects of Copyright Law with several focusing on particular issues in Title 17 alone (among them: notice and takedown; copyright protection and managment systems; and music licensing). It will probably take me another few weeks to fully digest it all, and I doubt I'd be able to discuss them as animatedly as Mr. Adler did. In future posts, however, I will digest a few of the hot-button cases for you.

After a networking luncheon that felt more like speed dating for permissions professionals, we dove into a panel discussion focused on how trade and educational publishers are dealing with the changing publishing landscape. While trade publishers have different motivations than educational publishers when it comes to licensing content, and everyone wishes there was an easier way to keep up with changing technologies, and that everyone agreed on how to deal with undefined intellectual property rights. In the end, everyone agreed that good communication is key between licensees and licensors to ensure the needs of both sides. That may sound like an obvious statement, but communication of proper terms is something that every licensor or publisher deals with, and with such rapidly-changing technology, it is nigh impossible to make a particular call on reuse of material that remains consistent from one date to the next. Thus, it's important for licensees to clearly define what their needs are to the licensors so that appropriate terms may be defined for that job.

I'm already looking forward to RPAC 2016 and the next set of updates and discussions. In the meantime, I will be working for my clients to simplify the complicated world of rights and permissions in the digital age. It's work that's never completely done!


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