The Emerging Paradigm of Electronic Rights

The licensing of electronic rights is growing steadily and dare we say, will soon eclipse print rights. Web use, smart phones, tablets; there are so many ways to display and absorb content that the traditional may soon become ancillary.

Rights-managed licensing for electronic rights is unclear and varies greatly from source to source. Trevillion Images has been kind enough to share insight into how they view and are adapting to this paradigm shift.

Trevillion has an area of specialty around images for books and book covers and in RM licensing.  How have you seen digital rights usage evolve over the past 5 years?

Originally, most ebooks were published as 2nd rights – e.g. an additional format to any previous printed edition.

In 2012, we are seeing a very small number of ‘Standalones’: Standalones are ebooks that are published independent of any printed editions. The publishing of Standalones allow minimum risk and investment for the publisher!

Because we work with so many countries, we have been able to see first-hand how the ebook market has evolved over the past few years.

Overall, the US is still at the forefront of the ebook market, with Publishers now nearly always producing an ebook as a secondary format to the printed edition. UK publishers are close behind, but many of their European counterparts are still not producing ebooks at all. Consumers cannot afford ebook readers in the poorer countries. So the take up by both consumers and publishers in some of these countries is very slow.

How are you working with your clients to adapt to this change in the marketplace, and how the audience consumes media?

We are changing our license structure for clients. When they license an ebook they don’t know in advance exactly how many downloads they will achieve. So we are basing our licenses and fees on combined print runs/downloads to overcome this.

We are also being very flexible and amenable to our clients in the Art Departments. They do not always know, themselves, when a printed edition is being launch as an ebook (this is often handled by Digital Departments who don’t tell the Art Dept). As a consequence, they do not arrange these further rights with us. And we have to be very understanding in these circumstances.

We’re also being flexible about license terms and original license expiry dates; most ebooks are published after the printed edition license has expired.

Art Departments do not use or have access to much research about how audiences consume media. Readers’ audiences are too varied, and books and publishers are also too varied for any reliable research to exist at this stage. So this is not our focus either. Our focus is purely client-focused and our clients are the Art Departments.

Rights have to be redefined, and the value of digital rights is catching up to and, in some cases, overtaking print rights.  How are clients responding to this evolution?

As far as we are concerned, digital rights are not overtaking printed editions.  And this is also the viewpoint of most of our clients (people in the Art Departments, not Digital Departments). So we are only ‘redefining rights’ with reference to working to combined print/unit runs, and flexible license terms as mentioned above.

Clearly the traditional way of licensing with press run limits does not apply here – so how are you defining rights?

We are changing our license structure for clients. When they license an ebook they don’t know in advance exactly how many downloads they will achieve. So we are basing our licenses and fees on combined print runs/downloads to overcome this.

What about relicensing? Many books may go into reprint digitally only, and do not need print rights?

We get 2nd format/2nd rights requests for both printed and digital new formats. But clients do seem to be using ebooks as their 2nd rights format more often now.


Creatively, is there a difference in the types of imagery you see used digitally, as opposed to print?

Because ebooks are licensed in most cases as a second format to the printed edition, the cover art used for ebooks is the same that has been used on the original printed book.

There has been some discussion about the way that cover art may change for ebook editions, because the size of the cover displayed online is a much smaller scale than a printed book cover.  So simpler images may be required in the future. But [there are] no changes at present.

Image quality is still essential for most of our clients. Some ebooks use ’embedded’ covers (displayed online, and also reproduced on the first internal page). In these instances, the size of the cover will be similar in size to that of a standard full-page book cover.

Trevillion Images is one of the leading lights in creative stock photography today. Their rights-protected images for book cover photography are used globally (they work with over 70 countries, from Australia to Russia), and are part of the current trend of  ‘ebook’ publishing. As an agent and supplier of imagery, Trevillion stays true to photography in its purest as much as possible. Trevillion will continue to supply its amazing images whatever format books are published in – print or digital.

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  • Irene Bentley says:

    I am intrigued by the photo by Susan Fox on the cover of a book I’m reading named The Writing Circle by Corinne Demas. It features a headless woman holding an open book with green leaves displayed on the open pages.
    Please explain why the green leaves?
    What is the connection with the story?
    Love to know.
    All the best…