Case Study: European Case Clearing House (ECCH)
based on an interview with Antoinette Mills, Web Site Development Manager

The business problem
The history
ECCH acts as an aggregator and distributor of business and management case studies written by partner business schools and authors around the world. Its customers are business schools and universities (many of these schools may also be content providers) and companies, who make these cases available to their students as course materials. Some of ECCH’s largest electronic customers include London Business School, University of Oxford SAÏD Business School, INSEAD, Cranfield University and University College Dublin.

ECCH started looking at DRM solutions in 2001. Customers were starting to request electronic access to the materials ECCH provides. However, the business schools supplying the materials were concerned by the greater potential for widespread copyright abuse with electronic content, so they wanted the content to be DRM encrypted.

“…the customers wanted electronic delivery, but the content providers were worried by the potential for copyright abuse…”

Antoinette Mills, Website Development Manager, ECCH

The DRM Solution
The first steps
In 2001 DRM technologies were new, so when ECCH selected the BSG DotEncrypt solution there was some hesitation on the part of the content providers as to whether it would securely protect the content. However, ECCH demonstrated the solution to the content providers, and the consensus was that the product was easy to set-up, user-friendly, and that the plug-in that end-users would need to download to read the encrypted files at their end was small in size. ECCH also worked closely with its customers to provide support for any student problems and set up a dedicated help line to deal with problems and queries.

ECCH and BSG DotEncrypt

“The DotEncrypt solution was flexible enough to support ECCH’s business model, while also cheap enough to be affordable for a not-for-profit organisation.”

Antoinette Mills, Website Development Manager, ECCH

ECCH found the BSG solution in mid-2001. It also spoke to other DRM providers, such as Sealed Media, but they were looking for a solution which was both flexible and cost effective (as ECCH is a non-profit organisation), and the BSG solution was found to be the most suitable. The solution was felt to provide good value for money and BSG remained in close dialogue with ECCH over how the solution could support ECCH’s business model, which it did not want to change. Based on these discussions, BSG supplied ECCH with a customised version of the DotEncrypt software that would support its business model. ECCH went live with the customised BSG solution in February 2002. In March 2003, ECCH was able to extend its service to the North American market.

Implementation, process and issues
The implementation
The implementation process was relatively straightforward as ECCH had very clearly defined aims and in BSG they found a company that was willing to listen to what they wanted from the solution.

One challenge was in introducing the system to the business schools as customers and convincing them that the solution would be easy to use for students. This was eventually not a big barrier, as the end-users wanted the materials to be delivered electronically. ECCH simply had to learn to explain the solution in the right way.

The main challenge, however, was in finding a solution that would protect ECCH’s content. The business schools, as content providers, needed to be sure that ECCH were confident about the security of the solution before they would commit to electronic delivery. ECCH ran presentations and tests on the solution, and the content providers came away happy.

From a technical perspective there were few difficulties. BSG handled the technical side of the implementation, and now provide on-going technical support, liaising with ECCH on a regular basis.
Secure Electronic Delivery at ECCH today ECCH uses DRM across all of its content, but in two different ways:

  1. To encrypt a master file is then sent to a business school customer to be printed out for distribution to students. Many business schools prefer to distribute print copies of materials to students. When the customer receives the file they are authorised to print out one master copy and then reproduce the master a specified number of times inhouse. The DRM solution allows ECCH to predetermine how many copies the recipient will be able to print. This is called the e-master service. ECCH was already offering this service in print beforehand, by posting a master copy of an item and authorising reproduction of the master a specified number of times in-house.

  2. Schools often request access to ECCH materials for all students on a course. ECCH takes the student details and sets up individual student accounts for online access. The DRM solution allows ECCH to set up a username and password access system to the materials. Each student on the course is given a username and password which they will need to access the materials. There is a balance to be struck between protecting intellectual property rights and maintaining ease of access. Content providers want to know the content is protected to a certain degree, while the end users want a user-friendly system which does not place too many restrictions on them. The BSG DotEncrypt solution provided this. In November 2003, ECCH launched the Concessionary Pricing Programme (CPP), which offers an 80% reduction for eligible organisations in developing countries such as Tanzania and India. ECCH can afford to do this because it can deliver electronically. In some developing countries copyright infringement is a major problem and the DRM solution helps to limit any abuse. However, while the DRM solution can place a limit on the number of electronic versions distributed, it cannot always control the number of copies made, particularly as a photocopier can be used. Fundamentally, ECCH has to rely on an element of trust between itself and its customers. At the moment, CPP is a two year pilot project.

ECCH needs to provide support to its customers to resolve any difficulties students might have accessing encrypted materials. Version 3.3 of the solution, which ECCH is now using, also comes with in-built help facilities, which is a massive improvement, and means that many customer queries can be resolved at the user end as the programme will provide the user with information on how to solve the problem. Any major technical problems are handled by BSG.

ECCH has also developed its own troubleshooting question list. In some cases the problem might not be with the solution, it might be an oversight on the users part. For example, the user might not be connected to the internet, or might not have Adobe Acrobat installed. In some institutions students might not have permission to install a plug-in as new software often requires the authorisation of a network administrator, for example. For big clients, ECCH usually installs the plug-in across the network to avoid these kinds of issues.

“Maintenance on a technical level has been very smooth, with BSG providing the necessary support. ECCH provides ongoing support to help students overcome any usage problems through a dedicated telephone helpline.”

Antoinette Mills, Website Development Manager, ECCH

Return on Investment
ECCH is a not-for-profit organisation, so ROI was not a major issue, but the solution had to be economically viable for ECCH and it worked closely with BSG in designing the solution to make sure that it stayed within a certain price range.

The customer perception is that electronic delivery is cheaper than print because there are no printing or physical transportation costs, but ECCH claims that investment in the infrastructure makes it on a par with print. Customers do save on shipping costs, which they would have paid under a print model, as they no longer need to print and distribute copies of a file by post to students.

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