Protect Your Brand by Instituting Digital Rights Management

By Jack McGannon, CEO of Canto

Chances are the last time you searched for an image on Google you found what you were seeking and shared it on a social media channel without giving a second thought as to whether that image was copyrighted or not.

Copyright infringement is not just a problem for individual Internet users who stream movies and download music illegally, it's also a major threat for companies, and it can adversely affect organizations and their daily operations.

Companies generally underestimate the potential risk copyright problems pose. And more often than not, digital rights management (DRM) is only taken seriously when a claim for damages is on the table from the licensee who is being infringed upon.

Understand the Importance of DRM

DRM is a practice used by a variety of companies including hardware manufacturers, publishers and copyright holders. First-generation DRM focused on the control of copying, while second-generation DRM aims to control executing, viewing, copying, printing and altering works or hardware devices. According to U.S. copyright laws, intellectual products such as pictures, videos, photos, or artistic, literary or academic texts are the intellectual property of the creator, which may be an author, photographer, filmmaker or artist. According to the law, only respective creators may decide whether or not their works may be reproduced or used by others. The ability to control the use of content on the Internet has become increasingly difficult as digitization has made it possible to duplicate content easily.

Using images found on the Internet for website content can be very risky. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a photographer can petition a website or Web page to be taken down if it's using unauthorized or unlicensed works. In one such case, $40,000 was awarded to a photographer in a jury trial because a business used his photos in a media campaign without consent. It was a very costly lesson in DRM that was easily avoidable had the organization instituted a solid DRM policy and enforced it.

One way organizations can avoid copyright infringement, and potential lawsuits and fines, is to use an automated control system that logs license information. However, in order for the automated mechanism to be effective, a system that can process this information must also be implemented. One way this can be accomplished is through the use of a centralized digital asset management (DAM) system that stores licensing and copyright information along with images.

One of the advantages of using a DAM is that users don't have to enter all the information manually. Since most stock images and photos that are purchased from photographers, graphic artists or creative agencies already provide information in their metadata, the DAM can be configured so the license information is imported with the images simultaneously. Automating processes saves time and money, while preventing the inevitable human errors that can occur during manual data entry.

DAM systems can handle myriad tasks including storing files and metadata in a central repository, annotating assets and cataloging assets so they can be more easily retrieved. They are also instrumental in the retrieval and delivery of assets in appropriate file formats, so assets can be used in accordance with license and copyright agreement.

Make DRM Part of the Corporate Culture

The DAM can do most of the heavy lifting to support a DRM policy, as long as it's being enforced company-wide. Some of the most common reasons DRM policies fail are: Information isn't captured - There's no repository or place to capture the data.

Too many moving parts - Complicated and impractical workflows lead to short cuts, especially if licensing information is held in a separate external database requiring extra steps, and time, to hunt for it. Out of sight, out of mind - It's very easy to forget that one may inadvertently infringe on a copyright, putting an organization at risk for fines or a lawsuit. In order to avoid failure of a DRM policy and change how a company deals with copyright-sensitive material, the first step is to change the corporate culture by communicating the policy, the issue of infringement, potential consequences and the importance of policy enforcement.

If employees are well informed about the risk of copyright and license infringement, and can comprehend the reasons for the policy, they will be more likely to adhere to the policy and before long DRM will become a critical component of corporate culture.

CEO Jack McGannon is charged with growing the value of Canto by offering its customers technology solutions that address their business needs. McGannon has more than 15 years of background within the technology world.