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Five Questions with Roy Kaufman, Managing Director, New Ventures, Copyright Clearance Center

Five Questions with Roy Kaufman, Managing Director, New Ventures, Copyright Clearance Center by Copyright Alliance

January 4, 2018

This week we would like you to meet Roy Kaufman, Managing Director, New Ventures, Copyright Clearance Center

1. Explain what your organization does and your role within the organization.

Our vision at CCC is to create global licensing and content solutions that make copyright work.  We are a not-for-profit organization, and operate a number of businesses for the benefit of copyright rightsholders and users.

On the licensing side, our primary focus is text and, as the Reproduction Rights Organization for the United States (see www.ifrro.org for lists of such RROs around the world), we issue collective and individual copyright licenses worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year to thousands of businesses, academic institutions and government agencies; we then return that money to the copyright holders who participate in our licenses and authorize the “reuse” of their text materials by those licensees.  We are also involved in licensing other media.

We also offer a variety of workflow services and software products that help both rightsholders and users manage rights and content.  We also own a systems integrator called Ixxus, which we acquired to help entities develop and organize their content — whether proprietary or third-party — to make it more useful.  The customers of Ixxus can be anything from a publisher, to a clothing manufacturer, to a pharmaceutical company.

As Managing Director of New Ventures, my role is an odd one, in that I am responsible for public policy, government relations, and business development.  While I have not met many people who have the same job mix, I enjoy it.  On any given day, I may be commenting upon the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy, followed by a conversation with a state secretary of education about how to help her state get quality, third-party content into the classroom.  As an author of several books and with backgrounds in law, the arts and publishing, I feel personally invested in these conversations.

2. What is your (and your organization’s) interest in copyright law? How does your organization and/or its constituents rely on copyright law to support their livelihoods?

CCC is a product of the 1976 Copyright Act, and the Congressional deliberations that led up to it about how to address the then-current disruptive technology known as the photocopy machine.  Congress foresaw a need to make it easier for users to clear copyrights in one place, and both copyright rightsholders and users were making plain to Congress that they were interested in working together to carry out that mandate. And so we were born.

We were formed by a coalition of authors, publishers and users.  For the authors and publishers, royalties provide money to support future creation and dissemination, or to simply pay the bills.  For our users, we make it easy for them to get what rights and content they need, when they need it and in a compliant manner. I should note that many users who think about the issue are interested in being copyright-compliant because they themselves create ideas, inventions and other creations that are protected by the intellectual property laws and they appreciate the value of the golden rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”).

3. If there was one thing that you wished the public understood about copyright, what would it be?

People understand it is wrong to steal physical objects, and they would be unhappy if someone else took their things without permission and/or payment.  Somehow, that does not translate to going online and not taking others’ copyrighted works without permission.  As a result, people not only take content themselves, but also often miss the fact that the tech companies who build businesses on this widespread culture of taking others’ creations without permission are actually redistributing wealth from creators and their agents (including their publishers) to wealthy venture capitalists who care little about the works that are taken.  The continued creation of cultural and useful works needs to be sustainable.

4. What is your organization’s biggest copyright-related challenge?

Our organization loves a big, meaty copyright-related challenge.  That is why we exist.  What we learned more than a decade ago was that, for our users, copyright challenges cannot always be separated from content challenges, and content can be even messier than rights.  We thus strive to provide rights at the point of content, content at the point of rights, and structures and systems for organizations to get the content they need when they need it, and to derive the most value from the content they have.  In other words, our biggest copyright-related challenge is content management.

5. If there was one aspect of copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?

There is law, and there is business.  Frankly, I care more about the latter, which of course is supported by the former, so I still need to worry about that, too.  In my mind, the best way to support both isn’t so much a change in the copyright law, but a digitally transformed Copyright Office.  Copyright registration, recordation, and information is disseminated electronically today at best in a manner we refer to as “paper under glass.”  In other words, we are looking at print processes and workflows that have migrated online.  If documents from the Copyright Office, and especially those relating to copyright ownership, were ingested in an appropriate digital format, tagged, and accessible by API, the government would save money and the CO’s customers would get a better experience.  From there, we could build robust registries of not just ownership, but also licensing information, so that the records could not merely reflect a few key points, but could actually drive commerce for the benefit of everyone.  The CO has been in the process of achieving this goal for a number of years now, and its recent announcements in this regard are encouraging; we at CCC hope to help the CO in whatever way we can.