Before You Sign | Money from unexpected sources

18 January 2018 Before

If you haven't joined the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), we strongly recommend you do so. Membership is free for SoA members, and if you keep ALCS informed of all your publications (books, articles, broadcasts, etc.) then ALCS will ensure you receive the money you're entitled to when someone copies or uses your work.

In some sectors, like educational writing, members regularly tell us that they earn more via ALCS than they do by way of royalty income.

Discussions about ‘collective licensing’ can seem scarily technical, but we strongly believe that it is a good thing. It enables, for example, the blanket licensing of extracts from published works to the education, business and public sectors, in return for fees which are then distributed amongst rights holders.

Without collective licensing, there is a strong danger that users would find rights-clearing on a case-by-case basis is impossible and would argue that therefore ‘copyright is not fit for purpose’ and that (non-paying) exceptions to copyright are the solution.

On the contrary, the evidence – ALCS has been operating for 40 years now - makes clear that collective licensing works well for users, and is of real benefit to rights holders (to date, ALCS has paid more than £450m to authors).

ALCS (along with a handful of other collecting societies) has a mandate to license extracts from books, magazines and journals to the education, business and public sectors.

Those collecting societies recently applied to change from an opt-in system to an opt-out system, one where all rights holders are included even if they're not members. (In practical terms, this is what happens already.)

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is currently holding a consultation about the proposal. The SoA fully supports the proposal but have used it as an opportunity to ask the collecting societies involved to make best efforts to improve the ease of registration and search.

When signing a publishing contract, you are advised to have a clause confirming that you retain the right to collectively licensed income and PLR even if the contract takes away other rights, like copyright.