Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Methodology
  • If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Methodology

Basic concepts


The methodology employed in this report is based on the identification and analysis of three basic variables that appear in each of the case studies. These variables are as follows:

a) Value

b) Content

c) Rights


Value, content and rights are closely interrelated and it is useful to trace their relationship, as it sets the management framework for any e-content project. However, they need to be kept analytically separate and examined in juxtaposition to each other:

  • The flow of content produces value: eg when a user downloads a digitised sound recording, the user gains value in terms of knowledge and the public sector organisation increases the visibility of its collection and hence its cultural value
  • The flow of content is regulated by the rights existing on it: eg when a work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence, it may be freely exchanged between users provided they make reference to the author of the work (See eg Creative Commons Attribution licence, ‘Legal Code’, Unported, Section 4b http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)     
  • The flows of content and rights do not follow the same path: eg in the case of User Generated Content (UGC) that resides in a repository and is licensed under a Creative Commons licence, the content flows from the repository to the user, whereas the licence (rights) flows from the user that has authored the content to the one that uses it


This methodology features:

  1. A series of steps to be followed in order to trace flows of value, rights and content in any project. These  constitute an analytical framework that may be replicated and employed in any project involving management of rights protected content for the production value
  2. The specific process and rationale of data selection, collection and analysis followed in this project




Gaining best value from the investment that has been made in the production of publicly funded e-content is among the core objectives of all the SCA sponsor organisations. Such value is not necessarily monetary nor of a single type. Different stakeholders have different perceptions of value and the identification of types of value is the first step for achieving any project’s objectives. Each of the projects presented in this report seeks to achieve a set of objectives that are in turn served by values of variable type that flow into and out of the project. The identification of different types of value presupposes an understanding of the stakeholders and the key objectives of each project.




There are various types of content that are circulated within the boundaries of a particular project or could potentially flow across different projects. One way of classifying electronic content is on the basis of its source. Three categorisations are made on that basis (The categorisation is made from the perspective of the organisation that obtains, produces, hosts and makes content available. The difference between UGC and third party content is that the former is in most cases produced by individuals that are non-professionals and hence may require different treatment (eg quality testing, filtering etc) compared to content produced by organisations or professionals):


  1. User-generated content
  2. In-house produced content
  3. Third party content, ie content produced by organisations other than the one hosting it


Each of the aforementioned types of content has different trajectories of flow:

  1. User-generated content tends to flow in a circular form: the content flows from the user to the organisation that  manages the project and then again from the organisation to other users. If the material is repurposed then the circle starts again
  2. In-house produced content flows from the organisation that manages the project to:
    • Intermediaries that will further disseminate the content to other intermediaries or the end-user
    • The end-user
  3. Third party content flows from the third parties to the organisation managing the project and then back to the user. In the case where only hyperlinks to the third party content exist, the content flows directly from the third party to the end-user


Another categorisation of the content may be on the basis of its nature. We thus have:

  • Audiovisual works, text (literary works), musical works and sound recordings
  • Raw data and compilations of data
  • Software
  • Multi-layered works: these consist of works comprising multiple layers of other works (eg a multimedia work containing all the aforementioned categories of works, ie audiovisual works, data, text, software)


A final important distinction is between content and metadata, the former referring to the actual works and the latter to information about them. The differentiation is important both because rights may exist on both types and because there are projects that derive their primary value from the production and use of content and others from the production and use of the metadata.


Permissions and rights


e-Content comprises multiple layers (Eg what appears as a single audio recording may comprise different layers of copyright existing on the literary work, the sound recording and the musical work) and types (Eg Copyrights, trademarks, personal data) of rights that regulate its flow. More specifically, multiple types of rights may exist on a specific work or multiple permissions may be required for its use. For example:

  • Intellectual Property Rights (such as copyrights or trademarks)
  • Permissions to use personal data or information with respect to minors
  • Prior Informed Consent for use of sensitive personal data


It is important to note that though IPRs are the main focus of this research, the management of certain other types of rights and permissions was also mentioned by some of the case studies. These included the management of confidentiality agreements, obtaining prior informed consent and following data protection legislation, which were considered to be equally if not more important risk-management considerations than the management of IPR.


Multiple layers of rights may exist on what appears to the end-user as a single work. An oral history recording may, for instance, consist of multiple underlying literary works, a performance and the actual sound recordings. Each of these works is awarded by the copyright legislation different sets of moral and economic rights.These multiple types and layers of rights may well belong to different rights holders, causing significant frictions in the flows of works that are governed by those rights.


In the same way as content flows within and across projects, rights may also be created and transferred between individuals and organisations. Ownership over the physical or digital carrier of a work does not automatically entail ownership of the Intellectual Property Rights or a licence for the distribution or repurposing of e-content. For example, a museum may own a painting but still may not be able to digitise it. Even when the rights owner provides a digitisation licence, this may allow the making of copies only for preservation purposes and not for dissemination to the general public.


Rights holders are able to manage their rights by providing different types of licences or permissions allowing licensees to perform specific acts, such as redistributing (sharing) or repurposing content.




Identifying different types of value, content and permissions constitutes an important step toward the description of the information blueprint of an organisation, but it lacks the interactive element present in all content-related transactions. It is the flow of value, content and permissions and the relationships between these different streams that provide the complete picture of the operation of the relevant projects.


Focusing on the tracing of flows allows a better understanding of content-related transactions in terms of:

  • The life cycle of flows and
  • The association of flows with each other


Overall, the following basic conditions are usually encountered regarding flows:

  • Flows of value, permissions and content flows are always associated. However, it is not clear whether such associations are beneficial for the objectives of the project or what barriers they face. Flows of permissions and works will inevitably produce some kind of value, but it is important to examine whether such value types are consistent with the project’s objectives and the cost of producing such value
  • Often a project seeks to produce a certain type of value but legal constraints may limit the flows of permissions and hence of works; this may consequently create frictions in the desired flow of value. Such frictions limit or cancel the flow of works. For example, sound recordings may only be used on site, not making use of the available technological options, or digitised recordings may never be made available. As a result, flows of cultural value with respect to specific types of content may be never materialised


A life-cycle approach


Tracing the life-cycle flows of value, content and permissions is instrumental for constructing the blueprint of each of the examined projects.  It involves the following steps:



Identification of project objectives and types of value


Identification of layers and types of content and rights and assessment of their documentation process


Tracing the cycle of flows of works and permissions within a project: the flows of works and rights do not always coincide or may follow multiple paths. For example, a library may acquire a licence from a researcher for all the rights on a sound recording, but might only license listening to the work to the end-user. A work may enter the museum in a physical form and be made available in a digital form of variable quality to different groups of users


Tracing cycle of flows of works and permissions across projects: organisations of the broader public sector often need to be able to use each other’s content. For example, the BBC Century Share project makes the content of other SCA sponsor organisations available to a wider audience than each individual organisation would be able to disseminate it to


Matching flows of works, permissions and value: different types of value are produced as a result of flows of rights and content


Key factors to be taken into consideration


In each of the stages we further examine:



Association of funding with access and use policies: a significant portion of the e-content produced or made available by SCA sponsor organisations is publicly funded through grants that set specific conditions regarding its dissemination and use. Such conditions provide the framework for access and use policies that need to be followed by the funded project. For example, as a result of JISC funding, project developers will be required to make their project outputs freely available to Higher and Further Education (HE/FE) communities for educational and non-commercial uses. In such cases users often also acquire a licence to share and repurpose the content. Such licences grant far more extensive rights to users compared to rights granted by commercial organisations.


Risk management strategies: collections normally held by the SCA sponsor organisations present rather complex issues because of the multiple types of content and rights involved, and subsequently the potential for numerous transactions. An analysis of the respective organisations with regards to these transactions on the basis of flows of rights and content, allows for the design of more effective risk-management strategies. Effective risk-mitigation strategies facilitate better flows of content and contribute to an increase of flows of value. Most risk-mitigation strategies are based on the following mechanism:

  • Identification of potential risks
  • Impact assessment
  • Probability of risks


A balance of inputs/outputs of licences/permissions approach: each project was assessed on the basis of the degree to which it ensured the compatibility of permissions that have been secured from third parties and those which the organisation was furthering allowing access and reuse (the rights’ input is equal or greater than the rights’ output).


Data collection and research design


The above approach was applied to seven projects representative of SCA sponsoring organisations. The studies covered the following organisations’ projects:


  1. University of Portsmouth: Great Britain Historical Geographic Information Systems
  2. University of Southampton: MyExperiment and Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute (OMII)
  3. Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery: BMAGIC project
  4. National Educational Network/Becta: Gallery and Repurpose Create and Share projects
  5. National Library of Health: eLearning Object Repository project
  6. British Library: Archival Sound Recordings project
  7. British Broadcasting Corporation and Strategic Content Alliance: BBC CenturyShare project


For each of the case studies the following process was followed:


  1. Presentation of the analytical scheme outlined in the previous sections was translated into a questionnaire (the questionnaire in its generic forms can be found in the Appendix)  
  2. Circulation of the questionnaire to selected individuals with key positions in each of the projects in advance of the interview
  3. Collation and review of any secondary documentation relating to each project
  4. Interviews with one or more representatives from each project
  5. Exploration of issues relating to the flow of content, rights and value, mapped within and across projects
  6. Compilation of the results into this final report