Licensing intellectual property - a tale of two journeys

I thought I would do a comparison of two "journeys" in trying to get licensing of intellectual property.

1. The bar codes used by duplimate bridge card dealing machines so I could make promotional cards for a bridge club.

  • I searched for their web site, and emailed the published tech support contact asking about licensing
  • Within minutes I got a reply, advising €0.10 per pack and giving me the email address to contact
  • I emailed that email address asking how it works, and actually got a one page licence agreement back, which tells me what wording to put on the Ace of Spades, to send 4 sample packs, and a licence number to use, and where to send the money.
For extra bonus points, this is a Swedish company and they conversed in English (apart from spelling licence wrongly for English English), and this all happened on a Sunday afternoon! Also, no set-up fee, and no minimum number of decks. So simple.

2. The Stargate glyphs and Alteran characters to make my Stargate themed cards...

  • I searched and found the MGM media licensing web site, which has an email address to ask questions about licensing. I checked it was really MGM. I emailed.
  • I emailed again 5 days later
  • I emailed again 2 days later (got an out of office reply for that day)
  • I emailed again a day later
  • A day later I emailed the web master asking if the email address was right
  • I waited a week, nothing still
  • I went to the site and filled in the registration page
  • I waited a couple more days, and eventually got a confirmation of registration
  • I submitted a request on line - it is mainly for using stills/clips, but what I want to use is gate glyphs and Alteran characters which come from stills from the show, so maybe this is sensible, not sure. I filled in all the details carefully explaining the use I wanted.
  • I waited 3 more days, and emailed asking how long this takes normally
  • Another day later and I got an email saying I need to talk to consumer products and giving me their email.
  • I emailed Tricia in consumer products.
  • After 3 days of no reply, I emailed again.
  • After 3 more days, I emailed again
  • Finally I managed to exchange a few emails on the same day (evening as US time) and they confirmed $5,000 advance royalties. They asked me for sample images, yay!
  • I emailed images
  • I emailed again a day later
  • I emailed again three days later
  • I finally got a reply saying they could give me a licence and they sent an application which I returned
  • I emailed again three days later
  • I emailed again another six days later
  • I even left a voicemail
  • I finally get an email saying this is not how they normally work and I should contact a UK agent, which I emailed yesterday...
I think I have all the delays right in that list, but we are now 7 weeks to the day since I first emailed MGM. They routinely ignore emails for days or weeks. They could have said - go to this UK agent on day 1. They almost seem to be trying to put me off. At the end of the day if you make it hard to licence your IP then people will just sell unlicensed stuff and you have to faff with cease and desist and enforcement and suing and crap - why mess people around?

Now I start with a UK agent, I'll let you know how it goes. Hope people find this stuff interesting :-)

P.S. I hate using "journey" like this, as we are not going anywhere (literally, and in the case of MGM, metaphorically, so far) but I could not think of anything better. Maybe "story" would have been better?

P.P.S. Two emails and a tweet to the UK company, and no replies at all. I may have to try a call!


  1. I've been convinced that the media industry just Don't Get It for years. They release TV shows / films / etc. in region A months before releasing in region B (if they bother to release in region B at all). They usually add region coding so you (shouldn't be able to) play legally purchased region A content in region B, then complain that people in region B are illegally copying the content.

    Media company A releases stuff on streaming / broadcast service B (who charges £oodles for access to a large library of stuff rather than just charging a small amount for access to just company A's show). Media company C releases stuff on service D, Media company E releases stuff on service F. Media companies then complain that people are illegally copying content rather than paying large subscription fees to multiple services to access 1 or 2 shows on each.

    Media companies release content for purchase with 15 minutes of unskippable adverts at the start that play every time you try to watch it. They also add a load of unskippable bumpf telling you its very naughty to illegally copy movies (which you obviously haven't done since only legal copies have that junk on them). Media companies then complain that people are illegally copying content with that junk stripped off.

    The media industry is basically locked into a cycle of producing products and then trying to convince consumers that it is what they want, rather than the products they produce being driven by what the consumers actually want. And frankly, I don't think it works very well in an era where people can often illegally copy content with less hassle than legitimately purchasing it due to the DRM and suchlike that is added to all the legal content.

    (*disclaimer: I do generally purchase stuff legally wherever possible; but I can't say I blame people who have given up jumping through the hoops the media industry set up)

  2. Could always just sell them anyways and let the right person come to you to collect the royalties.
    Bit risky but least you would know the right person!

  3. Its almost as if they don't want your money.

  4. Even worse than the uncapped indemnities I predicted. Those are rights owners for you.


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