Property Digital Rights – A New Revenue Stream in a Digital World
Advances in technology are opening up exciting new frontiers for property owners and managers. Almost two billion people globally use augmented reality (AR) on their mobile phones and nearly 400 million engage in a virtual metaverse reality.
Originally published in EG on June 27, 2023 and co-written with Dominic Collins CEO of Darabase.
As real world and virtual metaverses become mainstream, the properties around us are increasingly being used as the canvas for digital content.
In this new, immersive world, there is much to recommend a coherent, permission-based approach to the display of digital content on, or in connection with, properties.
Property Digital Rights – what are they and why should the property industry take notice?
Property Digital Rights (PDRs) are an emerging asset class, designed to allow property owners to protect, manage and monetise how their properties are used in AR-enabled mobile apps or smart glasses or virtual reality (VR) metaverse worlds. Just as you might grant a third party a licence to use the airspace above a property, or to extract the minerals below it, you can register your property’s digital rights and permit use of the property in immersive environments. At the same time you can select any restrictions or content preferences that should apply to your property to ensure the advertisements or other digital content meet your requirements and preserve the reputation and prestige of your property.
Some argue that immersive advertising, particularly AR advertising in physical locations, and the property digital rights that will control it, are the future of outdoor media. As with traditional screen or billboard-type advertising, property digital rights have the potential to provide a lucrative additional source of revenue for property owners and managers, with no CAPEX and limited OPEX investment.
Property owners already attribute significant asset value to the outdoor media inventory on many of their properties, based on the incremental revenue generated. For example, Landsec’s Piccadilly Lights screen in London has an asset value of over £200m, making it one of Landsec’s most valuable assets, larger than many office and retail properties they own. Immersive advertising represents a unique opportunity for brands to leverage the unique advantages of both digital and outdoor media. As we all spend more time in immersive environments, on mobile for now and in the future with wearable technology, today’s vast advertising spend will shift to immersive AR and VR media.
Legal considerations in the UK
The use of property digital rights in a mixed-reality space is necessarily derivative of the legal and regulatory framework in the physical world. For example, the owners of the iconic Shard building and the intellectual property in it have the primary right to register the Shard and make the property digital rights available, allowing the use of the property, or any part of it, in immersive experiences.
In the physical world, property owners’ rights to allow outdoor media are fettered in numerous ways. Taking the Shard example, individual tenants within the Shard may have rights to restrict advertising or displays in proximity to their spaces. The planning authority restricts the content, placement and nature of physical advertising, and central government applies over-arching regulation. In fact, new legislation is expected to be enacted this year to address light pollution in the City of London which will add further restrictions. Comparable restrictions apply in countries across the globe - for example, Germany recently took steps to ban public screens being active between 10pm and 6am for similar reasons.
In contrast, immersive advertising, using augmented reality content overlaid onto the real world or virtual content in a metaverse, leaves the real world property untouched. The "place-making" and other location-based sensitivities which typically concern a government or local authority and therefore drive most of the restrictive legislation to fall away. As this is a new frontier, tenants' lease contracts also don’t typically impose restrictions. In any event, even once immersive advertising becomes fully established, we can expect such third parties’ concerns to be limited to the extent the advertising creates safety issues (such as overcrowding or distracting content at busy road junctions), or negative or competitive associations with the property. As a result, many of the significant obstacles to value extraction which exist for outdoor media are removed. In the absence of statutory, copyright or contractual restrictions, property owners are free to register their properties and use their property digital rights to permit immersive advertising.
There is another important attraction to registering a property's digital rights. The traditional tools available to a property owner in the face of the unauthorised "use" of their property in an immersive environment are unsatisfactory. The law of trespass, for example, assumes there has been a physical use or placing of items/displays on a property without consent. If the "use" of a property is within a headset, arguably there has been no physical interaction with the property at all. Intellectual property law may offer a remedy in the form of breach of copyright or passing off but clearly, as is often the case, the law is struggling to keep up with technology. A platform for the registration of property digital rights is a welcome first step for many advertisers looking for permitted locations for their content.
We also expect that a new property digital rights registry and its associated marketplace will act as something of a catalyst to establishing a more appropriate regulatory framework in the digital world. Remember that the high degree of accuracy and oversight associated with our physical Land Registry is what underpins the success of the property marketplace and resultant property values.
Darabase – building the permission-based, brand-safe global registry
Darabase was founded in 2019 to create a global property digital rights registry. They allow property companies to register their property digital rights and offer inventory into which immersive advertising can be displayed. They also have a marketplace in which property digital rights can be bought and sold. Property digital rights holders will receive a share of the revenue of immersive advertising, just as a property owner does for traditional billboards and screens. Darabase is headquartered in London, UK and has operations and subsidiaries in the USA, Canada, Australia and the Middle East.
To fit into existing property valuation processes, Darabase's proprietary algorithm uses an outdoor media valuation model and revenue projections from AR and metaverse commercial activity to estimate the potential value a property could earn from immersive advertising and so the asset value of the PDRs. Revenue can then be generated in two ways:
- Publishers and advertisers work with Darabase to activate this new digital inventory. The property itself, through its location or iconic status, brings context and prestige to the advertising content, the publishers provide the audience and the moment the inventory is activated (when the audience is close to and/or looking at the property), and advertisers are secure in the knowledge that they have permission to use the property. The revenue earned is shared between the publishers and the property digital rights holders.
- Property companies can also decide whether to retain their property digital rights or lease some or all of them on the Darabase Marketplace. In doing so, they can realise immediate revenue and property digital rights leaseholders get the opportunity to share in the potential of the immersive inventory.
Property owners can also opt out of third party advertising - either in order to display their own immersive content or to block all content entirely. Should they choose to display their own content, they can use Darabase’s content management solution to simply serve their own immersive promotional campaign to those walking by.
The registry of property digital ownership and property digital rights is the foundation for a global permission-based immersive advertising ecosystem and delivers a valuable new asset for property owners.
A permission-based approach is key to a healthy advertising and marketing industry. Not just because of established legal dangers in proceeding without consent, but also because big brands do not want to take the risks (reputational, financial or otherwise) associated with guerilla marketing methods. In the developing regulatory environment of immersive advertising, registering property digital rights means property owners can clearly indicate their consent and the parameters of such consent; to protect their properties and potentially gain a new revenue stream.