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The Four A’s Of Operating In An Article 17 World

1In the wake of the passage of Article 17, and the massive impact it will have on how we consume audio and video, Bob Barbiere explores how Dubset will implement the four As (Access, Attribution, Authorization, and Administration) to tackle copyright as we move forward in a post-Article 17 world.

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Guest post by Bob Barbiere, Chief Strategy Officer and SVP Licensing for Dubset

While Dubset’s MixBANK solution, delivered to market in 2017, was obviously not designed for Article 17, the company’s technology, processes, approach, and results uncannily provide Apple Music, Spotify, and other music services the same rights solution now required under law throughout Europe.

Article 17 will dramatically change the where, when, and how of audio and video consumption. There’s no doubt Article 17 places rights holders and their copyrights at the center of the required solution, and in many cases, rightly so. The buyer-seller marketplace dynamic in audio and video, within UGC (User Generated Content) service, is absolutely broken. Not because supply can’t reach demand (the advent of these UGC sites has enabled that), but because there is no ability for a rights holder to set the market value of their content, either at the point of consumption or transaction. Article 17 will (finally) establish the basis of copyright owners setting the “value” of what their property is worth, facilitating a more robust and fulfilling transaction.

The Four A’s

Dubset has approached copyright, specifically in music, from a Four A’s approach: ACCESS, ATTRIBUTION, AUTHORIZATION, and ADMINISTRATION.

These are, not by coincidence, the very four tenets of Article 17. This gives Dubset a unique set of experience around how UGC is managed in an Article 17 world, the opportunities and challenges it will face, and the ultimate outcome it can expect.

4ACCESS has fostered a world of sharing media that is instantaneous, imaginative, and seamless within our daily lives. The challenge is that often the sharing of media contains something that belongs to someone else. Whether it be a song playing in the background of a cat video or a full concert filmed from an iPhone, consumer ACCESS to content, technology, and ultimately distribution enables a rapid capture-to-share experience of almost any audio or video.

ACCESS is wonderful; however, without rules, limits, or boundaries, very much like the current Wild West Safe Harbor environment today, it will inevitably lead to dysfunctional, uncontrolled, or vacant marketplaces (when viewed from the lens of those who own some or all of the content that ACCESS has made available). Dubset approaches ACCESS challenges in a very conditional manner, forcing standards for both measurement and rules of engagement (transactions). Although challenging for some rights holders at first, these standards have enabled Dubset to successfully gain broad rights holder participation across millions of artists and composers, minimizing disruption and enabling scale.

Whose content is it anyway? Content is typically either original, a copy, or a derivative, many times a combination of those three. Before any potential transaction can even be considered, full identification and ATTRIBUTION must take place. Each author or owner of audio or video within a new piece of audio or video must be accurately identified, commencing engagement. While UGC audio and video sites might do a wonderful job delivering content to consumers, the Safe Harbor approach has now proven unsustainable. Article 17 will completely re-establish the UGC marketplace by placing the identification, ATTRIBUTION and engagement of copyright owners upstream from any potential delivery of the content to the consumer. Early on, Dubset understood the importance of the rights holder being upstream and set them up as such in the sequencing of UGC content management. As such, the company developed identification and ATTRIBUTION engines capable of identifying nearly every instance of an unaltered copyrighted recording appearing within a piece of audio. Once a recording is identified, Dubset quickly links the recording to its proper rights holders, by territory, utilizing its proprietary metadata engine covering over 60 million copyright protected works.  

While ATTRIBUTION is primarily a function of the quality and efficacy of the data, AUTHORIZATION operates in a world of immediacy, driven by accuracy and speed. Traditional licensing structures within audio and video are iterative, slow, and one-off; rarely based on broad industry standards. The problem is that technology has enabled a music and video evolution that operates at a speed not capable of being met by those traditional licensing structures. A successful post-Article 17 world for any service provider requires unlimited sets of simultaneous yes/no decisions across all rights holders. A video cannot go through a two-week AUTHORIZATION process before it gets approved for distribution, the process needs to take seconds.

How does one accomplish such a task? In the world of Dubset, the best example is a one hour DJ set; a very recognizable, relevant, and often UGC located piece of audio that contains, on average, the underlying musical tracks representing 125 artists and composers, who are represented by approximately 50 discreet labels and publishers. Early on, Dubset recognized that not only would traditional licensing structures not work, but completely new rules-based transactional profiles would be necessary to ensure full compliance within seconds. Utilizing a carefully designed set of catalog rules, Dubset enables rights holders to establish track use and distribution parameters in advance of any potential distribution. The result: simultaneous yes or no decisions for 125 artists and composers on any music mix within literally seconds. It’s important to note that much of the focus of Article 17 has been on ATTRIBUTION, yet consumer success is likely to be predicated on the speed and agility of the AUTHORIZATION elements of the solution.

ADMINISTRATION in a world of potentially multiple pieces of copyright within audio or video requires the micro-parsing of media, data, assets, rights, and revenues, each completed and administered with an unnerving combination of speed and accuracy. Further, standards and conditions are a massively important part of successful and scalable ADMINISTRATION, as without either or both, admin will grind to an unceremonious halt.

Upon close review, it appears that one of the real challenges streaming services will face under Article 17 is the requirement for human intervention in instances of challenges to rights and ADMINISTRATION. While excessive human intervention can cripple the path to scale, there are numerous technology sub-stations and processes that can be layered into the ADMINISTRATION process that go a long way in offsetting the inherent iterations taking place between two (or more) humans resolving a conflict. This is an important area of experience Dubset has developed; balancing standards, conditions, and technology in a way that human intervention becomes only the final approach in the resolution workflow process.

While it will take a “minute” before the music and video industries see the full effects of Article 17, we are already seeing exciting new technologies and partnerships appearing that are clearly headed to the solution starting line. The music industry, most notably on the publishing side, has been the poster child for disparate or lack of common standards, which has led it into an era of data intensity it was unprepared for. However, directives such as Article 17 will now force a more collaborative and global approach to addressing and solving some long-overdue transparency, rights, and data efficacy issues, and that’s not a bad thing.

As Chief Strategy Officer and SVP Label and Publisher Licensing for Dubset, Bob Barbiere leads strategic business development along with the negotiation and execution of licensing deals covering thousands of labels and publishers. Deals include Sony, Universal, NMPA, Merlin, SoundCloud, and Kobalt. Prior to Dubset, Bob was SVP Revenue, Strategy, and Marketing at Arbinet (NASDAQ: ARBX).

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