Copyright Clearance Center, Not a Scam

February 9th, 2009 by Chris

When you start officially registering various forms of intellectual property, be they copyrights or trademarks, you’ll get a lot of junk mail. Not unlike the junk mail anyone who registers a domain name gets where some unscrupulous companies try to confuse you into thinking that you owe them money to renew your domain membership, you have to look for the fine print they’re force to put on saying that they’re not your current registrar and renewing with them transfers the domain to them.

Over the past year I have been doing a lot with intellectual property, officially registering both trademarks and copyrights, and I’ve gotten quite a bit of junk mail telling me I needed to send these third party companies checks to protect my trademarks or copyrights.

It was this situation that caused me to discard various letters from The Copyright Clearance Center ( asking me for my tax ID and various other information. Many of their letters I did not even open.

Now it is the season of tax forms, and all the 1099s from our various payees (though less than it used to be as my business is incorporated and you do not need to send a 1099 to corporations) are coming, and I received one the other day and opened it and it was from The Copyright Clearance Center. I immediately started looking for the fine print, something indicating it was not genuine, but it was genuine (or they had committed federal fraud), and apparently they had tried to pay me $2100 during the year.

So, I looked closer at them. Apparently many nations have standardized laws for the use of copyrighted materials, much like exists for radio stations and songs, where the station does not have to negotiate a set rate for each individual song with each individual copyright holder, but rather a standard fee is used. When the rights holder is in another country a centralized authority collects the fees and sends them for distribution to a domestic copyright clearance center, such as the one mentioned previous. I don’t necessarily like people being able to use my content without my permission, but it is legal through the laws of their country and they are, in the end, paying me. They could have just not paid me at all and I likely would have never known.

In my case apparently various Australian (or the same one repeatedly) school districts used some of my content. The information they had on the actual use was sketchy, being triple hearsay from across the world, but the money is real.

The Copyright Clearance Center in addition to handling these foreign repatriations, mainly functions as a clearing house for domestic based requires for the use of copyrighted content. You can register with them and provide and price your content for use and anyone can then come, pay the fee, and use it. Apparently there is a demand for my content, and I think I’ll set up an account to see if any money can be made. Sure, I could just wait until people contact me, negotiate with them, see about getting paid that way. But their setup is standardized, I get the impression many people go directly to them, and it adds legitimacy (which, lets admit, is often lacking on the Internet). If you’re a large business or content buyer (the type to actually provide a good deal of money) you’re probably more likely to go to such a central location to find content than to try to deal with small individual rights holders.

In the end, I see this as a good way to create another passive income stream for my business, and I already know it works, I have 2100 reasons to think so.

3 Responses to “Copyright Clearance Center, Not a Scam”

  1. Tim  Says:

    You’re talking about offline use? Online would cause duplicate content issues…

  2. Chris  Says:

    Yes, offline, in my case use in printed course packs for students.

  3. Stephanie Fierman  Says:

    Online content would only create duplicate content issues if it (the content) also existed in offline form, correct? Examples of this would be content on, say, or I have two blogs: if the content there only exists on the Internet – and it’s licensed for use – there’s no chance that it may also be licensed from another original source (because there is no other orig source). I can see how things could get sticky, though, since a site like republishes content present in the offline world but also creates supplemental content only available on the Web (and some party would have to draw a distinction between the content types so a licensor wouldn’t have the problem you are indicating)

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