Administering and keeping track of rights management is a nightmare for content distributors, especially the studios. It was simple when there were only a few rights to sell and windowing was easy (sales were often made by handshakes), but now the film and television industry is dealing with more than 80 rights for a good number of programs.
Companies with deep pockets often use accounting firms to devise some sort of rights management program, but it doesn't guarantee that they'll succeed. In fact, there are horror stories in which, after spending $10 million or so, content companies had to engage some experts to revise the programs or scrap them altogether and start anew.
In the past, the accounting departments took care of rights management. And still nowadays accounting commissions outside firms to devise software to keep track of various rights before sales contracts go to the legal departments.
At this point, sales, accounting and legal wrangle about various rights definitions with the buyers. It can get so complex that, at times, studios' regional sales offices create their own systems just for their territories.
According to Paul Mardling, VP Strategy at York, England-based Piksel, "The definition of each right is reasonably clear at the high level, however there is far too much complexity and variation on the detailed rights contained in each contract. Much of this is driven by the repackaging of rights to different providers in the same territory for different distribution use cases (e.g., ultraviolet-based streaming versus OTT rights)."
One simple way to contract sales would be for the buyers to send their standard agreements, but this solution is not practical for large distributors and studios.
According to experts, the logical way to create and administer a rights management system would have the following departmental order: Sales, Legal, Business Affairs and, finally, Accounting. In between those departments, large studios would include Shipping, IT and a Specialized Rights unit. In smaller companies, a few people take care of several of those jobs.
As indicated on the chart on page 38, there are six basic windows (Cinematic, Video, Digital, PayTV, Basic Cable and Free TV) and 14 sub-windows. For example, the cinematic window contains three main rights: Theatrical, Public Video and Non-Theatrical. On the other hand, Digital can consist of various rights: SVoD Affiliated and SSVoD OTT, NVoD, FVoD / Catch Up, TVoD, PPV...