Digital Signage: Getting Permission To Use Content

Digital Signage Content Series: Part 3

By Frank Kenna

In my last post I addressed the first three items from my list of five things to look for when sourcing digital signage (DS):

1. What are you trying to communicate?
2. What is the source?
3. Is the information accurate?
4. Can you get permission to use it?
5. How does one get it into a format compatible with his DS system?

Today I’m going to address #4.  Here’s the scenario:  you’re looking for content for your DS system, and you find some great stuff after searching the Internet. You found it on a site that you trust.  Just one problem; you don’t have permission to use it.  Your options are to get the needed permission, or just go ahead and use it anyway.

Many people use the second option and get away with it.  After all, what are the odds that the creators of that content are going to walk into your facility and see it?  It’s like downloading bootleg music; many people do it and most get away with it.  However, if your DS content is Internet accessible, be aware that some content producers are out there policing their copyrights.  There was a landmark case a few years back where a woman posted a YouTube video of her son riding a plastic tricycle in the kitchen. In the background a song by Prince was playing on the radio.  Although the woman had only posted the video for the amusement of her close relatives, the music publisher’s computers identified the song and notified YouTube that she was using it illegally.

Regardless, maybe you have an ethical problem with not getting permission (I do). Or you have your digital signage in many locations where the “wrong” people might see it. Or you have a legal department that insists everything be done correctly.  If that’s the case, there ARE ways of getting the permissions needed.

While they may require a little extra time or money, it can be well worth it for peace of mind (not to mention avoiding legal problems). Here are three techniques:

“Contact Us”
If you found the information on a branded news site, then it’ll be fairly easy to find a point of contact on the “Contact Us” page.  Look for someone from the editorial or legal departments. Once you make contact, it’s fairly easy to get a quick yes or no.  The answer will often depend on what your purpose is.  For example, if you’re asking to use it in a safety promotion at your workplace, you might get a “yes.”  Conversely, if you’re going to use it in a sweepstakes promotion at your 15 locations, you’ll probably get a “no.”  That’s because organizations are much less willing to let you use their content for anything having to do with you making money.

Contact “Him or Her”
If you found the content on someone’s personal site, you can try to contact that person. This is usually harder since many are one-man operations.  And even if the person does call you back, s/he will probably not know how to grant you legal permission, or may have an inflated sense of how much it’s worth.  All in all, probably not worth your time.

Go Shopping
Then there are the websites that sell content.  These are the easiest to deal with, as they’re set up for online commerce and immediate purchase with a credit card.  And here’s a tip:  if you’re buying photos, or audio or video clips, buy the lowest resolution that you need.  These sites tend to sell resolutions for both print and web, and the versions for web can be as much as half the cost of the high resolutions needed for print. (And those huge resolutions would just clog up your site anyway!)  Then of course, you can buy made-for-DS content that’ll work right out of the box from companies like us.

So there are some strategies for sourcing content. Next time I’ll tackle #5 on my list, getting content into the right format for you rdigital signage system.

Frank Kenna

October 3, 2011

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