Automated Content Recognition, or ACR, has become an integral part of the consumption of music and video as we experience them today. As more platforms publish user generated content, effectively monitoring use of copyrighted material has become increasingly difficult. So, how does one choose an ACR vendor that can be relied on?


Guest post by Audible Magic VP of Product Development and Marketing, Jay Friedman on

Automated Content Recognition (ACR) is essential to music and video consumption as we know it today. 

An important aspect for companies distributing content with music and video is the aspect of digital media rights. With the explosion of user generated content, it has become increasingly difficult to monitor and manage the proper use of copyrighted material. 

Platforms distributing user generated content typically come from a purely technological background and can easily overlook important aspects of digital media rights. This oversight can cripple a business either via an infringement lawsuit or shortage of capital, especially since content platforms vary widely from large technology providers to popular apps to yet undeveloped offerings. 

As an example, the European Union recently approved Article 17 requiring companies who host user generated content and have a European presence or customer base to take responsibility to either license works or prevent usage of unlicensed user-uploaded copyrighted material. If a user uploads a piece of content that infringes copyright, the platform is at risk. According to Article 17, platforms must filter users’ uploaded content for copyright materials or have a license for it. 

What’s an online platform to do? Finding a vendor for ACR is a vital business activity for those who are subjected to dealing with digital media rights. This technology puts in place a method for platforms to protect copyrighted content from being improperly used. But with several to choose from, what is the criteria to look for? How does one determine which vendor is appropriate for their business? How can one ensure that the services provided are cost-effective and necessary? Here are six things to look for (or even ask directly) when making a determination. 

What is the pedigree of the technology? 

ACR is a technology service, so it only makes sense to start the hunt for a vendor by exploring the merits of the technology itself. Ask if the vendor holds patents which the ACR is built upon, or if the technology is licensed from another company. The answer will give you a clue if the vendor will be capable of addressing emerging market challenges in stride. A strong R&D department is a great indicator of a vendor that seeks to push the industry forward. 

Does the service scale well? 

Does your company need to monitor the usage of a handful of digital media rights, or do you have to cover just about everything under the sun? Several pop-up ACR vendors have appeared recently to address the former, sometimes licensing technology or developing a service that satisfies one specific task needed. These pop-ups are worth investigating if your needs are truly specific and limited in scope, but take caution to ensure that they’ll be able to handle an increased workload as your service demands grow and – more vitally – the amount of content that needs to be scanned or monitored increases. 

What is the technology’s false positive rate? 

Take heed of the false positive rate, the fine print statistic that cuts through any misleading marketing metrics. If a vendor boasts scalability as a primary value proposition, asking about false positive rate is the follow-up question that will help you find out if service quality was sacrificed in order to achieve scale. A false positive rate of even 0.5% means that for every 1,000 pieces of digital media scanned, five will be mistakenly given an incorrect attribution of ownership. The effect that this has on user experience cannot be understated. A spotty experience easily translates to the loss of users or customers.  

Who are the customers? 

This segues neatly into the next question. The music industry is chalk full of long-standing partner relationships. Top labels are going to work with vendors they trust to protect their catalogs, and will be hard-pressed to change from companies they trust to do the job right.  On the flip side, UGC platforms want to ensure they are in full compliance for rights usage and desire a vendor that understands international nuances – that their vendor has they’re backs.  Entertainment may be “fun” to the everyday citizen that consumes media, but in the business world the emphasis is on the bottom line and sound practices. If you recognize a vendor’s customers as major players, that’s a good indicator that the vendor has an established cadence of trust. 

What will this cost? 

ACR is the technology that the digital media rights ecosystem can’t afford to not have. That said, what good is an ACR vendor if a company can’t afford the service in the first place? Vendors shouldn’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution at a single premium price; rather, cost should reflect the level of service that is being provided. After all, distributors and platforms have varying policies and needs when it comes to identification reporting. Some companies seek basic identification, while others desire advanced reporting and other features. Know what your needs are before you shop, or find a vendor that will help you determine what’s right for you based on your business model and policies. 

Will the vendor find ways to open new revenue streams? 


This question falls outside the normal line of thinking for basic software-focused ACR vendors, which makes it a hardnose test of business smarts. Those who know how the digital media rights landscape works will be able to work collaboratively with you to suggest and enable new revenue streams. Not only should a vendor have a line of questioning to understand your business model and connect the dots, they should be actively engaged in trying to improve your company. This doesn’t fall outside of the realm of what should be expected from a vendor, because savvy ones know that your success ultimately becomes their success. This line of thinking makes an ACR vendor a valuable asset as an advisor. Keep in mind there’s no substitute for management that has been there, done that, and can draw from the industry to help you succeed. 


MORE:  DistroKid Links With Audible Magic To Verify Music Authenticity, Launches DistroLock

Guest Post on 06/13/2019 in Music BusinessMusic TechPublishing & SongwritingStreamingYouTube & Video | Permalink | Comments (0)

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