When we talk about journals, licensing of digital content is old hat — the general structure and business practices have been in place since roughly the turn of this century, and by now a lot of societies and a lot of libraries can handle these transactions more or less in their sleep. (Sometimes, with nightmares, but still …)

Many of our clients are realizing that they own other intellectual property in digital form — meeting presentations, patient education content, Board prep material — that are of potential value to a range of institutions. The question is how to visualize the licensing relationship.

We suggest going back to the basics — really, just reminding yourself how these now-familiar journal agreements were built. A nice place to begin is a document from NISO called SERU: Shared Electronic Resources Understanding. In just about 3 of the 5 pages of this document, it outlines the core elements of any IP licensing agreement:

  • The acquisition
  • The acquiring institution and its authorized users
  • Use of materials
  • Inappropriate uses
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Online performance and service provisions
  • Archiving and perpetual access

How do you actually express these critical elements? One source of wording (including wording for lots of business variations on a theme) is a website called LicensingModels.org. This is a consensus resource that grew out of a collaboration among major library vendors. Your lawyer probably won’t think it’s perfect, but it’s a helpful way for publishers to get familiar with the jargon and certainly should be a shortcut for drafting of formal legal documents by the lawyers.

Theory is fine, but how about practice? Last year, our sister publication Doody’s Review Service published a three-part series of feature articles in which medical librarians expressed some clear and helpful opinions about what’s helpful and not helpful in terms of licensing business practices. While not all of your licensing clients will be libraries, it’s very likely that they’ll consult local librarians for advice. You can find these articles here, here, and here.

Need I say that Dan Doody and I will be happy to explain how these principles apply to your organization’s content? Just get in touch, and we’ll take it from there.