COVID-19 update: Author income collection

20 May 2020 COVID-19

We’ve received a number of enquiries from authors worried about their income (and maximising their income) from UK and overseas collecting streams in the wake of COVID-19. With libraries, schools and universities closed across the UK and not using materials in the usual way, authors have a right to be concerned about receiving vital income.

Here, we asked the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), Public Lending Right (PLR) and the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACs) to give members an update on whether or not they have been affected, and where collections stand now and in the future.


Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS)

‘A question many ALCS members will have is: how will the outbreak impact on our payments this year? It is too early to be able to give a definitive answer to this, but I want to reassure you that income is still being collected, both from within the UK and overseas and we plan to distribute this money as normal come September and March. It is very much business as usual at ALCS.

‘This week, we received an update from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) on the Schools’ Licence. This is our largest source of income and confirmation that payment had been received by CLA covering all state schools is particularly good news for our textbook writers. We will be able to pay fees due to these members in September 2020.

‘We are in contact with all of our partners and as a clearer picture emerges, we plan to share more information on the impact of COVID-19 on ALCS and our distributions in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, please continue to email, use our website to register and update your works, and most importantly stay safe!’


Public Lending Right (PLR) – Register by 30 June 2020

UK Public Lending Right figures will still be collected and calculated despite the closure of UK public libraries, which are following Government guidelines on COVID-19. And all writers, illustrators, translators and any other stakeholders are encouraged to register their titles as soon as possible. Visit the website here

All registrations received by midnight on 30 June 2020 will be eligible for inclusion in the calculations for the current PLR year, which runs from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. However, as the British Library’s physical sites are temporarily closed and PLR staff are currently working from home, it is taking longer than usual to process registrations. There will therefore be a delay in responses being sent.

PLR payments are normally distributed in February. We are currently working with DCMS to put processes in place to try and maintain this deadline. 

What will the effect of library closures have on PLR 2019-2020?

The current and continuing closure of physical public libraries will effect PLR 2019-2020 borrowing figures and therefore individual PLR statements. PLR is calculated annually on loans from UK public libraries. As the PLR year runs from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020, we expect that the number of loans of print editions of titles will be lower than in previous years. However, as public libraries, supported by initiatives from Arts Council England and CILIP, have greatly increased their digital offer, we expect that potentially ebook, audio book and e-audio book loans will be higher.

Which titles need to be registered?

While all titles need to be registered, with this is mind, PLR encourages all rightsholders to register ebook, audio book and e-audio book editions by the deadline in order for them to be included in the calculations. This is only the second year of ebooks being eligible for PLR so there may be older titles that still need to be registered.

How will the closures affect the 2019-20 PLR Rate Per Loan?

The PLR Rate Per Loan is calculated annually on the basis of actual loans from a sample of UK public libraries, which is then grossed up in accordance with national data on library borrowing figures. If library loans are lower than usual, the Rate Per Loan will be higher. The 2019-20 calculation will reflect this variable.


DACS Payback

DACS’ annual Payback campaign is a great way for visual artists to get their share of royalties for the reuse of their works. This includes reuse through photocopying and scanning of books and magazines, the recording of broadcasts, and some internet use.  

In 2019 tens of thousands of artists received their share of £8.2 million in Payback royalties. Payback is open for royalty claims from around January to April each year. In 2020 DACS introduced a brand new Payback website making the claims process quick and intuitive. Payback royalties are usually paid in the early autumn each year.

You can also claim royalties from DACS via the Public Lending Right (PLR) schemes that are in place in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany.

  • For German PLR, images must be reproduced in books published in Germany, in German language, and held in German public libraries.
  • For Dutch PLR, images must be reproduced in books that have been published in the UK, and then translated into Dutch, and re-published in the Netherlands, and held in public libraries there.

You will usually provide information on German publications in June or July, and provide information on Dutch publications to DACS in November.

We don’t anticipate any of these timings being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but this is subject to change. Please get in touch with DACS closer to the time to confirm claims and distribution schedules.