On-line rights - a minefield?

NHNZ logo and model of kea (a native New Zealand alpine parrot) in reception at the NHNZ Offices, Dunedin, New Zealand

It seems to be that we are caught in an ever decreasing spiral, broadcasters want more rights for less budget.

Case in point; producers now nearly always have to clear for internet or on-line rights, but with no concomitant increase in budget to cover this.

Gone are the days when all rights all media meant exactly that, and beware if you have to go back to the footage supplier to increase the rights - they will charge you - and hopefully not like a wounded bull.

And why?

Where's the profit for the broadcasters in on-line rights, none to date. Or are they just securing their future as the notion of sitting down to watch television for the evening disappears. Probably.

Two recent trials from BBC2 and Channel 4 saw hundred of thousands of punters downloading TV content online, a report in Broadcast (26 May 2006 p 13) revealed that there is a real demand for TV content over the internet. Curiously people are happy to pay per episode to view episodes of whatever on computer screens, whilst they sit uncomfortably at desks. When the same episode can be viewed for free on larger tv screens where the sofa is far more comfortable ... maybe I just don’t get it.

So where does that leave producers and where does it leave stock footage libraries?

Many libraries refuse to grant on-line rights, I'm not sure why, that seems to me to be cutting off a nose to spite your face, or revenue stream to spite your bottom line. Is it because things on the internet are too easily open to illegal copying and other fraudulent exploitation and that libraries are fearful of being ripped off? Possibly, but in my view that is going to happen in any case. We too at NHNZ Images, have had our fair share of illegal copies of clips widely available on the YouTube and similar [and, incidentally where we find it we ask nicely that it be removed].

And it is something of a weird situation when often those same libraries have low-resolution clips available on their websites for browsing.

It leaves producers where they have always been, wary - caveat emptor.At NHNZ Images we regard on-line rights as just another mechanism for people to watch our footage, we don't worry too much about how the message is delivered to the audience, rather we tend to think about the size of that audience, when it comes to selling footage to producers.