Territorial Rights in the Digital Age

Livres Canada Books has published an English-language version of “Territorial rights in the digital age“, a research paper I wrote earlier this year. A French-language version will follow next month.

The report, which Livres Canada Books is offering for C$30, extends work done last year in a companion paper, “Exporting digital books: A guide to best practices“. The rights research, which included a survey of Canadian publishers, was designed to answer several questions, including:

  • What are the downsides of territorial rights?
  • Do territorial rights as currently managed risk limiting sales?
  • Do territorial rights potentially alienate “early adopters” of digital content?

Two things seemed increasingly apparent as I researched the topic and wrote the report. First: the visibility and availability of digital content cuts down on the amount of time available to sell territorial rights.

Tighter windows are driven by consumers, who see digital books published anywhere but are frustrated trying to buy them in territories for which rights have not been cleared. In my view, not being prepared to meet demand is a factor in extra-territorial piracy.

The second: there are a number of markets in which sales of non-native language digital content make “worldwide” sales a promising possibility. It is unlikely that most English-language books would sell well enough in Germany to justify a local agreement, but sales of digital books (either directly or through e-tailers with a presence in a given market) could realize revenue that would otherwise be lost.

On their own, these two ideas give many publishers reason enough to rethink the future of territorial rights. Local knowledge may still trump direct sales, but the barriers are lower in this digital age.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.