Magazine article Information Today

Re-Licensing: A New Publishing Reality?

Magazine article Information Today

Re-Licensing: A New Publishing Reality?

Article excerpt

Personally, I don't watch reality programs on television. Frankly, the concept makes me uncomfortable. It feels too much like some dire end-of-civilization predictions coming true. I can almost hear Orwell, Wells, and Huxley all rising from their coffins and sneering skeletally, "Told you so." But really, think about it, a bunch of couch potatoes watching other human beings struggling with environments deliberately chosen for the pain and peril they would impose on these self-elected lab rats. Talk about your "fall of Rome" decadence. Next comes a thumbs up/thumbs down icon on the digital television screen.

There's even a show on one of the sleazier networks that confines a set of hunks with a set of babes on an island to see how long it takes them to break their fidelity to distant mates. I never got close enough to the description of this classic to find out if the "winner" was the most faithful or the least. But really-it takes both fun and profit to motivate adultery these days! What are our morals-or our libidos-- coming to? On the other hand, one must-- grudgingly-tip one's hat to the programming executives behind the show. After millennia of human existence, they've developed a brand-new form of pandering. They should be eligible for a lifetime achievement award from the Pimps of America Society.

Several reality shows use the term "survivor" in their promotions. It's kind of sad how often the harsh set of terms Roget would classify with the term "survival" and its variants turns up connected to "reality." What a happier world it would be if Boolean phrase searches pulled up more hits when combining "reality" with words like "relish," "enjoy," "delight," or "yummy."

And that brings us to this column's topic: publishing realities and survivors. The reality of the Tasini decision continues to sink in as publishers forward lists of tomorrow's removals to database aggregators and aggregators forward the kill files to the search services. No longer can individual searchers feel confident about the thoroughness of their full-text searches. How long before clients share the skepticism and reflect it in a diminished reliance on searchers? No longer can librarians who license full-text collections assure their patrons of the comprehensiveness of sources. How long before the librarians resist renewing at the same subscriber rates for diminished content delivery?

Are there any solutions to the problems created by Tasini? Perhaps. There may even be some new opportunities opening up. Copyright has not collapsed after all. It has merely moved to new hands. If the database aggregators would contact the newly established copyright owners for the freelance material, they might regain access to the material. If the aggregators mounted a clever campaign to freelancers, they might even gain more than the material they already had. In fact, they may even get access to other material written by the freelancers that originally appeared in publications for which they didn't have contracts with the publishers. Such an assertive content-acquisition policy might not appeal to aggregators that cling to good relations with the publishing community. In that case, publisher-pleasing aggregators that had cleared the electronic rights for freelancer material might re-license it back to the original publishers for use on publisher Web sites.

Relationships between the publisher and the freelancer might be somewhat strained after a lawsuit, but the aggregator could appear as a benign third party. The publisher would not have to deal with the problem of chasing the freelancer down or negotiating directly. In turn, the aggregator could promote its relationships with publishers to freelancers as a particularly advantageous one-one of a publisher partner advocating the importance of the freelancers' material and serving, in a way, as an author agent.

In fact, the issue of agency raises some interesting possibilities. …

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