Re: [Videolib] Digital Video Licensing

Mark Richie (
Fri, 13 Apr 2007 00:39:09 -0500

Some thoughts on acquiring VOD content:

Ok. so I'm late to the party on this one. The original post being
3/8/07. But I have some experience with this issue.

We started negotiating VOD agreements with vendors in July 1999 and our
first VOD server went up in December of that year. So for seven years
(including post retirement consulting work) I had some first hand
knowledge of the beginning of digital rights for non-theatrical video.

First - Kudos to Mark Kopp for raising the issue of repurchasing the
same content over and over again. I can't imagine why the textbook
publisher haven't hit on that one yet . . .

I remain puzzled why commentary on this list regarding VOD content is
limited to a license arrangements. Some of our earliest agreements were
"life of disc" or "life of file" purchases. For x dollars we could put
a title on our VOD server and make it available to registered and
password holding users for the life of the file. In most cases the
vendor sold us a disc as the Master and we loaded it into the server.
The content on the server is treated no differently than content in a
box on a shelf. End of story.

But there is another contract factor not discussed in the posts
following Gary kicking off this thread. The VOD contract issue divides
into two branches. For simplicity sake let's call the two branches
Didactic content and Archival. You can plug in whatever taxonomy that
suits your circumstances under these two headings.

Archival content includes any title that is likely to be relevant or
worth preserving beyond five years from its production date. Historic
titles, social issue titles and documentaries fall into this column.

Didactic content covers titles made with the intention of teaching
something or raising awareness about something but with a limited shelf
life. A series of titles on the Civil War produced in 1980 would be
unacceptable as a teaching tool in 2007. Likewise a title on AIDS
prevention produced in 1988 would be dated and ineffective in 2007.

Now we have two distinct needs when it comes to a VOD license. A
limited duration license and something approaching "perpetuity."

I fall back on research done by a grad student at Brigham Young
University about 30 years ago and repeated several times concerning the
useful life span of an educational video title. The study concluded that
the average life span was 5 to 7 years. Shorter for health titles,
longer for literature and history titles. At the end of 7 years
production values alone would render the content "dated" in the eyes of
the students and detract from its usefulness. The studies were not well
stratified for university level productions. But this is what we have to
work with.

So, it is not a big deal if you can only get a five year (or 7 year) VOD
license for "teaching " titles in the collection.
At the end of the term, 80 percent of the titles will no longer be in
demand enough to justify continuing the license. Same if you purchased
"life of file" rights. At the end of the service life of the title, it
would be weeded anyway - thus the life of the file in this case would be
5 to 7 years.

Archival titles require a different RFP for a VOD license agreement.
Something like a rolling purchase agreement may work with some vendors.
Agree to purchase X dollars of new content (any format content) each
year to maintain the continued VOD rights for N number of titles on your

Even for a vendor where you only purchase a few titles each year - if
they will grant a VOD license, you may have to pay something each year
in exchange for the license and five titles to be named in alternate
years. Kind of like a future draft choice.

Or, for that matter, ask for a "life of file" contract for titles that
you want to preserve in the VOD collection. Will you have to pay more
than $79.95? You bet. But if the initial investment is ten times that -
it's worth avoiding future paperwork and the value of the content being
available to your clients.

A word of caution on one year rights. You will be held hostage by the
vendor. More than one state has gone with "statewide" VOD rights for a
bundle of teaching titles - trained teachers how to use the system,
promoted the service only to face a 30 to 50 percent hike in the
contract cost for the following year. Then again the following year
until the service became too costly and had to be dropped.

Just as teachers were beginning to accept the VOD concept, and
discovering the content, the system had to be abandoned. A loss of
thousands of dollars. And unknowable damage to any future attempt to get
a VOD system adopted.

Go for "life of file/disc," or 5-7 year renewable contracts.

Don't let vendors demand fees based on enrollment or numbers of
downloads either.

Don't buy into "box lot" bundles of content, clips, chapters or
segments. Buying a package deal is not "selection."

Ultimately the marketplace will decide which titles you can add to your
VOD system. Some vendors see VOD rights like duplication rights - in
the words on one Company president, "It's like selling air."

Just don't deal with vendors who don't want to, or can't negotiate terms
you can live with. And don't let them blame their pricing or duration
limits on contracts with producers. VOD has been a viable product
format in the industry for seven years. They can write new production
contracts to accommodate VOD rights if they want.

After seven years of living and breathing VOD, following the literature,
consulting for VOD providers, training a couple of thousand teachers ,
arguing with content suppliers, and reading this list; I am even more
convinced that University and Regional Media Centers who wish to go VOD
should buy their own servers and buy or license their own content.

It's not as difficult as the uninitiated might expect. And hardware cost
is the least of the budget issues to be considered.

This is an amazing listserv. The variety of topics covered and the depth
of informed discussion makes this a professional treasure house.

Being a media library manager is a great profession - if you don't
weaken . . .

As always -

Mark Richie
Professional Iconoclast
"We still live in a country where anyone can grow up and become
President, but then that's the chance you take." - Adlai Stevenson,
congressman, statesman, UN ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

VIDEOLIB is intended to encourage the broad and lively discussion of issues relating to the selection, evaluation, acquisition,bibliographic control, preservation, and use of current and evolving video formats in libraries and related institutions. It is hoped that the list will serve as an effective working tool for video librarians, as well as a channel of communication between libraries,educational institutions, and video producers and distributors.