Intellectual Property Rights and Royalties Management Software

Slope of Enlightenment
UMN Assessment
Doing Well
Time Frame
2 to 5 Years
Last Updated on Sep 10, 2014

At its core, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Royalties Management Software (RMS) market is about providing content companies with the tools needed to know their inventory—what they have a right to sell and where and when—and to track and monetize it. Of course, a land grant institution like the University of Minnesota is in no sense a traditional "content company" that produces and sells content. Chris Ghere, technology strategy manager in the Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC), explains that decisions about licensing at the University are often mission driven, which sets us apart from industry. According to copyright librarian Nancy Sims, rights management in higher education is compelled by distinct needs, and universities are not likely to be served by the software being developed, for instance, to meet the needs of the music industry. Sims speculates that, as it matures, IPR/RMS will become a fractured and specialized market because "the way that people deal with licenses and manage content is correctly different in lots of different fields."

Rights Management (and Right Management Software) at the University of Minnesota
The Producer's Needs
Even within the University, there are distinct cultures and needs around rights management. For instance, the role of the Office of Technology Commercialization is to bridge the gap between research at the University of Minnesota and the marketplace. OTC facilitates "the transfer of University of Minnesota research to licensees for development of new products and services that benefit the public good, foster economic growth and generate revenue to support the University's research and education goals." In this instance, rights management addresses the needs of the producer interested in licensing or commercializing a product or invention.

Consider the role of IPR/RMS in licensing the University of Minnesota's famous Honeycrisp apple: Countries have different licenses and growers, and the University uses a software called InfoEd to log this information. The software simply allows decision-makers to access information; it in no way automates the process. Ghere notes that the lack of investment in software development has resulted in products that are mature (insofar as they've been on the market for a long time) but inadequate; search functions, for instance, don't reflect advances in technology over the past decade.

The User's Needs
In contrast, in instructional contexts, the discussion of rights management is strongly oriented toward the needs of the user. The primary questions are, what can we use and under what circumstances can we use it? Even in those areas where universities are exploring licensing and monetizing content—online educational content is one example—it is often the case that content produced and licensed by universities relies heavily on fair use, or public domain or open-licensed content.

There are currently some products that market themselves as rights management tools for course content, such as SIPX and Ares Rights. At the University of Minnesota, the Digital Course Pack project, a collaboration between the University Libraries, Bookstore, Copyright Permissions Center, and the OIT/Moodle team, is providing solutions for streamlining course content use on campus, providing students with a single point of access to to course-related materials. The DCP is a good example of where rights need to be managed in a University environment, but the DCP software is not itself rights management software. 

Learning Content Management Systems and related tools also involve elements of rights tracking and management. Such systems need to track the rights and licenses of content that is uploaded, in order to make it available appropriately for reuse.

Specialized rights management software also includes systems used by libraries, archives, and museums to track the rights status of materials in their collections, and to manage licensing related to those materials. Enterprise-level solutions focused on the needs of art museums are currently fairly robust, but library- and archive-focused systems are still emerging.