About 18 months ago, Roy Kaufman, Wiley’s Legal Director, left us for a new role as Managing Director of New Ventures at the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). Founded in 1978 as a not-for-profit organization, CCC has paid more than $1.3 billion in royalties to rightsholders over the past 10 years. It provides information and licensing solutions to companies of all sizes, as well as academic institutions, law firms, healthcare organizations, and government agencies.
I caught up with Roy recently to find out more about what he’s been doing since joining CCC and to get his views on the challenges and opportunities facing the organization – and scholarly publishing – both now and in the future.
Q. Why did you decide to make the move from working as Legal Director at Wiley to Managing Director, New Ventures for CCC?
A. Wiley was my home for nearly two decades, and as you can imagine, leaving home is not easy. Wiley has a culture of community, which includes an understanding that it needs to work with others to fulfill its mission of advancing knowledge. At Wiley, I had the privilege to work with CCC (which Wiley helped to found), ORCID, and CrossRef. It is hard to work on projects like CrossRef as a lawyer without thinking, “I would like to be more at the center of these types of initiatives.” I was on the CCC Board of Directors for my last five years at Wiley, and whenever the CCC executives presented new products, I thought, “that sounds really fun.” I was right.
Q. What does your position at CCC involve?
A. CCC’s mission involves “making copyright work.” My role as Managing Director of New Ventures is to work on products and services that respond to market inefficiencies and failures, real or perceived. For example, in the UK there was a government copyright review that concluded a market failure around text and data mining, and that an exception might be needed in the copyright law. Using this conclusion as a starting point, CCC started to ask users and publishers about text and data mining: Was it needed? Is there a market failure or inefficiency? What would be needed to correct it? We learned there are willing buyers and willing sellers; that copyright exceptions are not the answer, but that access, lack of license normalization, and lack of content normalization across publishers is a stumbling block. With this information, we began crafting a market-based solution. My job is to help identify issues like this and, with the relevant teams, gather users and rightsholders to see if solutions can be built.
Q. What new ventures have you worked on so far?
A. In addition to our text and data mining pilot, I have been working with image providers and photographers on social media license issues, helped develop an agreement with an online subsidiary rights marketplace that should greatly improve the efficiency of licensing translation rights, and have been working to improve access to informational content (scholarly books, newspapers, magazines) into the K-12 markets as part of the Common Core State Standards.
I have also spent a lot of time looking at how our existing products, especially RightsLink, can better serve our customers. For example, a few months after I joined CCC, the Wellcome Trust and RCUK connected licensing terms to their Gold Road open access (OA) mandates. Through RightsLink, we had already been helping some publishers collect article publication charges (APCs), and helping many others issue licenses and collect fees, but these mandates made us rethink the process. Now that terms and conditions for OA may be set at the article level with consequences for failure, workflows need to be adapted. Once adapted, there are also interesting new opportunities. For example, learned societies can use article-level OA fees or terms to drive new memberships. Before Gold Road, and without agility, this could not happen.
Q. And what’s in the pipeline?
A. Everything above is in the pipeline, even if it is also in the market. Even those products that seem mature require constant improvements to rights, inventory, and/or technology.
Q. Who do you consider to be your main customers/stakeholders?
A. That really depends on the product or service. For most CCC products, the rightsholder is the supplier, and the customer is a librarian, knowledge worker, or compliance officer. For RightsLink, the customer is usually the publisher, but then we serve the publisher’s customers on its behalf. We are an intermediary, and we try our best to stand in the middle as an honest broker listening to both sides and trying to help them meet.
Q. Do you think copyright collecting societies such as CCC will continue to be relevant in the medium to long term future?
A. No entity, least of all CCC, has an inherent right to exist. We will exist and be relevant as long as we provide valuable goods and services, and so long as the laws recognize/acknowledge that creators should be rewarded for their intellectual efforts, either out of general notions of fairness or in the public interest in encouraging future creation. For a collecting society to thrive, it needs to have strong relationships with the rightsholders who provide it with inventory to license, and needs to be close enough to the users to have products which reflect their ever-changing usage needs. Even with all of that, there must be a favorable legal regime that respects the rights of creators. The best products and services will not survive if the laws change by legislation or judicial decision. For example, copyright reform in Canada and proposed copyright reform in Australia and Brazil will make it hard for creators to be compensated for reuse; even commercial reuse and reuse in their primary markets. This requires vigilance by authors and publishers, and a level of understanding by users.
Q. What are the major challenges CCC is facing and how are you helping to address them?
A. The major challenges for CCC are the same as for many organizations: technological innovation, migration of legacy systems, and keeping up with the changing needs of users, librarians, researchers, publishers, and societies. Externally, the commoditization of creative content, and increasing lack of respect for creators, is a fact of life that will always challenge us. Finally, the globalization of licensing creates a host of challenges.
Q. How is Open Access (OA) affecting both CCC’s business in general and your role in particular?
A. OA affects us in many ways. First, submissions to journals have been increasing year after year, well beyond the ability of subscription journals to publish more pages in a time of flat subscription budgets. OA allows more content to be published, which is in and of itself a good thing, as it should advance science, medicine, and humanity. The pressure to publish under certain Creative Commons licenses is likely to have a negative effect on permissions and rights revenues for publishers in the long term and, more immediately, to cause market confusion. “Open access” is moving towards “open licensing” with very little discussion about the consequences. CCC does not believe our role is to tell publishers, authors or funding agencies what to do, but we do see adding actual information to the discussions as part of our mission.
Open access, especially but not exclusively gold road OA, also presents opportunity for CCC, especially to make the author experience around APCs seamless and painless. Open access is a moving target, with ever-changing funder requirements, special arrangements, varying mandates with respect to licensing, price variation by member status, territory, and discipline. Some of these variations need to be managed at the article level. We already manage the APC process for a number of publishers, with a very high collection rate and dedicated customer service for authors. We have no choice but to keep up with the market, and believe we can make it more efficient.
On a personal level, I get to look at what we do, and figure out how to make it better. For example, we know that some society publishers are using APC fee differentials to drive new memberships. Why not tie that into a RightsLink OA implementation to make that smooth? Why not make bespoke terms about reprints or permissions into membership benefits? Can we find other ways to use RightsLink to offer membership to readers when the content resides on third party or aggregator sites? This type of experimentation can be extremely interesting.
Q. What are the biggest challenges facing scholarly publishing at present and how can you/CCC help?
A. The greatest strength of scholarly publishing is its greatest challenge; namely, the content scholarly publishers create helps advance learning, science, and medicine, and is highly valued. If scholarly publishers created entertainment, there would be no push to make their output freely available, even with partial government funding. For example, the film industry enjoys enormous government subsidies, but there is no unfunded mandate to allow citizens free access to the theaters. In the US, at least, we have this odd view that the more beneficial the work is to society, the less appropriate it is to be compensated well for it. Teachers and librarians make less than investment bankers. Median compensation for large for-profit company CEOs is 100 times that of the median salary for non-profit CEOs. We want life-saving research to be published, but think it should be free, as it saves lives. As I said before, CCC is not pro- or anti- any method of publishing — green, gold, blue or platinum OA, selling books, licensing journals, etc. As long as content is valuable, there should be some way to compensate its creators. Funded mandates are part of that answer, and subscriptions will continue to be for some time to come. The challenge for publishers, and where CCC can help, is to find new ways of being compensated for producing beneficial content, while meeting the needs of users and authors under fair terms that are appropriate in the circumstances. There is a lot of debate around scholarly publishing. Most of it is helpful. Some of it is nasty, personal, and vitriolic. Ironically, I believe that everyone has a common goal, which is to ensure continued production, use and broad dissemination of high-quality content. Everything else is about tactics.
Q. And what do you consider your biggest success since joining CCC?
A. That is a hard question, given how many ways one can define success. For me, I judge success very much in terms of what gives me satisfaction. In general, I want to fix things that are broken, and improve efficiency. I have had a number of opportunities to do so, but the thing that stands out is the work we are doing around the Common Core State Standards. You will hear more about this from CCC and me in the near future, but Common Core is a revamping of how students are taught in grades K-12. The goal of the Common Core is to increase student readiness for college and the workplace. Common Core has a number of ways it will seek to achieve this goal, but what many in the scholarly publishing community do not realize is that it will emphasize information over fiction, and there will be an enormous opportunity to bring scholarly works into K-12 classrooms and assessments. Informational texts are required to comprise 70% of what high school students will read, and that will be reflected also in high-stakes assessments. These texts will not, however, be entire works. They will be chapters, articles, and passages that have been incorporated into learning objects and assessments through licensing. In the last four months, I have worked with states, educators, and others who are earnestly trying to improve public school education. Just being part of these discussions is a success.
Q. What’s your vision of the scholarly communications landscape in 5-10 years time and what role will CCC be playing in it?
A. Revolution does not happen overnight, and I do not think that 5-10 years from now things will be so different. Of course, we are now in the middle of a period of constant disruption and innovation, so things being the same essentially means things change.
Print works are sold. Electronic works are licensed. With the shifting of works from bound formats, content will increasingly be sliced and diced. Users, educators, and librarians want to provide only the desired content, in the desired format, when desired. Just as people buy fewer recorded albums and more songs, text will undergo similar atomization. However songs are generally consumed one way; by listening. Scholarly output may be read by humans or computers, sold alone or in bundles with other content, translated or left in original languages. Everyone will be a publisher, editor, and curator. If we can find adaptive licensing systems that we can deploy as the market evolves, scholarly publishing will thrive. CCC can have a big role in that.