Archived news: 27 January 2012
Writers are set to be hit hard by proposed government amendments to the current framework for licensing copyright works in the education sector.
Philip Pullman, Julia Donaldson and Anne Fine are among hundreds of writers who have contacted the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) to condemn the proposed amendments, which were not included in the recommendations of last year’s Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth.
Under the present system, educational establishments receive permission to copy and re-use hundreds of thousands of published works, and thousands of hours of broadcast content, for a moderate annual fee through the licensing schemes operated by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and Educational Recording Agency (ERA) respectively. The fees that authors receive through these schemes via the ALCS help to support and sustain them in creating new material to enrich education at all levels.
By widening the field for copyright exceptions, the new proposals threaten to seriously reduce or even eradicate this source of income not just for authors of text books but for writers in all disciplines whose work is used in schools and other institutions. Many writers have already said they would be unable to continue to afford to write for the educational sector under the potential new framework.
Writer Philip Pullman said of the proposed changes:
“While I agree that schools and other institutions should not be unreasonably charged for the use of books and other published material, or find it unnecessarily difficult to obtain permissions, I maintain that it’s essential that the originators of such material should be fairly paid for it”.
Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson commented:
“These changes would be a blow to many writers who don’t make much money from royalties and rely on income from photocopying. As someone who has written a hundred books for schools, I don’t regard educational books as being less creative than any others”.
Former sociology lecturer, Ken Brown who began writing text books in response to the poor quality of material previously available commented:
“Should I lose the copyright licensing income from ALCS, I must say that the 50% or more cut in my income would be highly demotivating to me continuing to produce new editions, with subsequent loss of benefits to student learning”.
Currently, the annual cost of a CLA licence equates to, on average, a couple of pounds per student (for example £2.42 for a 12 year old) for access to a huge range of resources; whilst the annual cost of an ERA licence is 32p per pupil, or about the cost of a pencil. Not only would the end of such licensing schemes hit the incomes of writers and lead to a decline in the breadth and quality of material available, but they would also require schools and other institutions to engage in complex judgements about the legality of their proposed uses of educational materials, and necessitate time-consuming clearing of permissions on an individual basis.
In 2011, around 18,500 writers received income from ALCS for educational uses of their work.