PLS Permissions: turning a headache into a revenue stream

News - Publishing Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sarah Faulder reflects on the streamlining of the permissions process enabled by PLS Permissions, the Publishers Licensing Society's award-winning service


Congratulations on winning Innovator of the Year at the 2017 Stationers Innovation Excellence Awards. Why do you think the PLS offering, PLS Permissions, stood out?
Sarah Faulder: Thank you. I think our offering stood out because it provides a streamlined solution to an everyday challenge for the entire community of publishers and authors. The efficiencies made possible by PLS Permissions are already transforming an area of business that has all too often been seen as complex, admin heavy and low value, into a profitable revenue stream for publishers. It supports authors, enhances the reputation of publishers and generally encourages respect for their copyright.

The Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) has the advantage of over 30 years experience of working with publishers, and PLS Permissions builds on our existing relationship with the industry. We were able to draw on this to shape and test our offering to ensure we developed a product that met a genuine market need, as yet unfilled.

Second, to quote the judges' citation, PLS Permissions is 'a clever evolution of rights management into a field suggested by the Hargreaves Report'. If good IP and rights management is fundamental to promoting growth in the digital economy, as the report identified, then making available the appropriate tools to do this to publishers is equally vital.

How did PLS' ways of working help enable the conception, development and deployment of an innovative new product?
Sarah Faulder: At the core of our approach was a desire to offer an online product that was easy to use, robust, quick, and intuitive; and that, importantly, eliminated as far as possible the inefficient aspects of traditional permissions processing.

Our online account management system, PLSe, which we developed some years ago, already fulfils these goals in our collective licensing business, and so we were looking to apply a similar approach to permissions. We worked closely with publishers, rights experts from the publishing industry and our software partner to design, build, trial and improve our software tool, PLSclear, which now powers an entire suite of permissions services, and which enables publishers to choose whichever one is most appropriate to their needs. So you can choose the service most suited to your needs, whether you are a member of editorial staff seeking permissions - PLS PermissionsRequest; a publisher who wishes to manage your own permissions - PermissionsDirect; or whether instead you wish to delegate your permissions management entirely to PLS - PermissionsAssist.

What practical advice would you give a publisher seeking to develop a new digital service?
Sarah Faulder: Most of it would be standard best practice: make sure you have a strong business case to begin with, know your market, and set clear critical success factors. Ensure that the project team has the right blend of skills and knowledge and that they believe in the vision. Set realistic timeframes. Work with developers with a proven track record and ensure that they really understand your business. Stay focused on the core deliverables. Above all, listen to your customers.

What's next for PLS?

Sarah Faulder: Our immediate focus is on promoting the service - to make sure that all publishers hear about the significant benefits that we believe PLS Permissions can bring to their businesses.

From a development perspective we have a number of enhancements in the pipeline which we will be bringing online in the coming months.

In the medium term, just as PLS Permissions built on the platform provided by our PLSe system, so this service lays the foundations for further offerings. As ever, future development will be dictated by market need and in close consultation with our publishers to ensure that we continue to develop the services that they want us to provide and which complement their core business.

Sarah Faulder is chief executive of the Publishers Licensing Society.

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