“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir
If you’re new to camp whether an owner, director or embarking on a new program it can be tempting to license content from someone else, rather than trying to create new content from whole-cloth. While licensing content can come with great perks like outcomes research driven programming, proven content or an association with nationally or locally recognized programs, there are important things to consider before moving forward:
Cost and Return on Investment (ROI): Often pre-approved, research-backed content that comes from recognized programs can be expensive or come with restrictive terms. When you are creating licensing agreements for successful content you have a lot of control over the terms of the license and the cost. Unless you are associated with a large organization, it can be difficult to negotiate favorable terms. You could end up paying too much or risk giving up too much control over your program in return for a negligible increase in camp enjoyment from you campers. When considering licensing content, you should think about the value that new content will provide. Will it improve camper experience? Will it draw more campers to your program? Can you tell sponsors and parents that this content will substantially improve your camp or educational experience? These are all important questions to ask before licensing new content.
Ownership: As mentioned above, content creators set the terms for licensing their content which often includes ownership over not only the current content, but any derivative of the content. This means that if you build off of the licensed content you cannot take ownership of that modified program and you will have to cease running your modified program if you terminate the license. Often people reach out for content because they do not have time to create their own at the time, but plan to in the future. If this is you, it can make it difficult for you to ever create your own content, unless it is substantially different from the content you’ve licensed. This can really impede growth in your program in the future.
Reliance on Third Parties: Another concern when licensing content is that it makes you very reliant on another party for the success of your program. Initially, this might be quite beneficial, but could cause problems if the content creator decides not to license content to you anymore. If they do not renew the agreement you have to license content, you may be stuck with no content and (as mentioned above) no way to create content unless it is substantially different. While camp is a pretty friendly affair, you can have disagreements with your partners and you don’t want to be left with few options because of a disagreement over a content license.
Competition: Often when you license content you give the content creator access to your business methods, partners, and potentially campers. While camp is generally collaborative, you do give your content creator the unique opportunity to access more personal information about your business. It is a remote possibility that the content creator will attempt to run a rival camp, but it is still worth considering.
An attorney who specializes in business law or intellectual property can help you to sort out these concerns and draft a suitable licensing agreement that works well for you. Many attorneys offer their services pro bono for nonprofits and many law schools have clinics that serve smaller businesses if the cost of an attorney is prohibitive. While the legal concerns with licensing content can seem overwhelming it is good to consult a professional before making a decision of this magnitude.
If you have (non-legal, the AskTheCampGuy cannot provide legal advice) questions about licensing content, reach out to the AskTheCampGuy and he’ll be happy to discuss his experiences with you.