DRM and catalog protection: IDOL’s expertise

Digital Rights Management is essential for protecting artistic works on audio and video platforms. Romain Bollini, Digital Rights Manager at IDOL, explains the challenges of his job and shares his successes.

As a Digital Rights Manager, Romain Bollini works to protect the legitimacy of our labels’ works on across platforms. In this interview he speaks about the details of his role, the concerning upsurge in piracy, and presents some key figures that illuminate the scope of the problem. Previously split between working metadata at Digital Content Operations and digital marketing with Audience Development, Romain is now dedicated full-time to the complex world of rights management, earning some convincing results over the last two years.

In a previous article, Romain explained how he had managed to double the YouTube revenues of Sun Records, by resolving rights conflicts. In this new article, he goes into the details of his day-to-day work, including the current challenges and the specificities of each platform.


The main tasks of a Digital Rights Manager

The Rights Manager has three main tasks. The first is to protect the catalog, using the tools provided by the platforms. Threats include ownership disputes (where third-party distributors have delivered the same – or almost the same – sound recording), third-party claims and scams, which are on the rise!

The second task is to ensure that the IDOL catalog is available on all DSPs. For example, when a streaming platform receives a complaint about copyright infringement, the platform will block the content in question, and the track or reference will no longer be available. Which brings us to the third mission, which is to ensure that the catalog is monetised, and that the rights holders receive the income generated by their catalog.

“In the course of my work, I interact with other distributors, labels and platforms establishing gong term relationships so that conflicts can be resolved quicker. Similarly, my regular contacts at the streaming platforms will help me understand all the processes, so that I can better analyze the situation and provide the most appropriate solution,” explains Romain Bollini.

An example of a scam

“For our partner Rapelite, we were managing the rights to a video of an exclusive freestyle by the rapper Zola, which reached over 25 million views on YouTube. One day, I received a notification that the video had been claimed by a third party. I checked the metadata and realized that the artist’s name wasn’t the right one, which means it was a false claim. I discovered that a pirate had downloaded the audio from the video and distributed it via another distributor in order to monetise it. But I reacted quickly, and we didn’t lose any money from this scam,” says Romain Bollini.

DRM techniques: fingerprint or audio?

When it comes to rights management, there are two types of platforms. Fingerprint platforms use audio recognition technology to monetise content published by ordinary users on platforms such as YouTube, META and Soundcloud. And the audio platforms or DSPs are what we know as the classic streaming platforms: Spotify, Deezer, Apple, etc.

Fingerprint platforms

“YouTube accounts for 60-70% of my daily work,” explains Romain Bollini. “Their management tool is the most advanced, thanks to Content ID technology and their dedicated rights management platform”. In terms of revenue, YouTube is IDOL’s second largest platform.

The main goal – because it is the most valuable for the labels – is the proactive resolution of conflicts, which generates revenue. Conflicts of ownership arise when two (or more) distributors have delivered the same (or almost the same) sound recording. This means that revenues will be blocked until one (or more) distributor withdraws their ownership from the concerned territories.

On fingerprint platforms, IDOL’s default policy is to monetise UGC (User Generated Content) content automatically. However, depending on the strategy adopted by the label, we may decide to block certain third-party content in order to redirect users towards official videos.

Then there’s the question of disputes: this is when a creator uses IDOL music for their video content and decides, despite our demands, to continue monetising it. First of all, we have to check with the label to see whether the user is authorized to keep this money. Romain Bollini points out that “the general lack of knowledge among users about copyright is the cause of many pointless disputes, which we still have to take action on all the same.”

The final key priority is the management of authorisation rights for the label. This is the famous “whitelisting”, which means that we authorize a third party to monetise content that includes protected music or visuals that we distribute. This happens for example, when an artist is interviewed by a festival that would like to use IDOL’s music in the teaser.

Audio platforms

On audio platforms, actions depend on each DSP: they interact differently with users and provide different tools to Digital Rights Managers. There is no consensus on rights management, and each platform has its own process.

One of the main tasks is to protect the catalog against claims of copyright infringement from third parties, or “inbound claims”. In the event that our rights are confirmed, IDOL must then deal directly with the other party in order to restore or maintain the conflicting reference online. DSPs never intervene in a dispute between two entities.

The problem here is that anyone can fill in a copyright infringement claim form, because these forms are freely available, which gives rise to many false claims. “It’s a real jungle we have to deal with,” warns Romain Bollini.

At the same time, we send claims for copyright infringement on references delivered without authorisation by a third party, or “outbound claims”. Labels can report this kind of problems directly to the Digital Rights Manager. The tools provided by the fingerprint platforms also help to detect these concerns. Romain Bollini explains further: “My aim is to detect problems between platforms, and fortunately there is a certain amount of synergy between DSPs. In general, it’s YouTube’s Content ID that enables us to detect a conflict on YouTube, and subsequently to identify that a third-party distributor has provided a duplicate or illegal reference on the other streaming platforms.”

Particularities of the video game sector

Since the gaming community is sacred, YouTube has adapted its rules for the delivery and management of music from video game soundtracks accordingly.

For example, it is not possible to monetise or claim content automatically, everything has to be done manually. It is not possible to monetise a gameplay video (where you see the player commenting on a video game) made by a gamer on YouTube; we can only monetise videos that exclusively contain music.

Video game music is particularly targeted by duplicates and remixes. A lot of this content is unauthorized, and we must remove it because it can compete with the official recordings.

Key figures

In the space of a year, our Digital Rights Manager has resolved more than 400 disputes on YouTube, including a large number of strikes, which are the YouTube equivalent of copyright infringement complaints. “When we receive a strike on a video, it is removed and the channel receives a notification. After three notifications, YouTube can close the channel, so we need to act quickly.”

In one year, IDOL sent out 74 claims to protect the catalog, and received more than double that number on audio platforms, i.e. around one claim every two days. To cope with this workload, Romain and the content team are constantly setting priorities, estimating potential loss and working with other partners to reestablish certified content. Just this year Romain has managed to save tens of thousands of dollars for our labels by dealing with incoming claims.

Feedback and current challenges

Romain Bollini concludes that rights management remains dependent on the tools provided by DSPs. While YouTube provides a great deal of data, the other platforms have not yet developed their own tools. “The role of the Digital Rights Manager will potentially intensify with the growth of AI.”

IDOL has also noticed the emergence of new companies specializing in rights management in the music industry, demonstrating the growing appeal and interest in the sector. “But the public is becoming more informed about how streaming platforms work and the scams are becoming more elaborate, so we need to continue to be vigilant.”

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