Protecting Authors: An Interview with Tony Bradman, ALCS

We chat to the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) chair, Tony Bradman, about the organisation and its ongoing support for the SoA Awards.

For the uninitiated: ALCS ensures that writers receive the money they’re entitled to when someone copies or uses their work. Can you tell us more about how this works?

That’s a big question! There are two parts to it, I suppose – receiving the money and paying it to our members. A large chunk of the money (about two-thirds) comes from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), which ALCS owns with the organisation that represents publishers, the Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS).

The CLA issues licenses to schools, colleges, universities, businesses, and to foreign collecting organisations. ALCS also collects money from foreign collections organisations for copying and scanning of UK writers’ material abroad, and receives payments for TV and film writers for re-use of their work. The money is then paid out in two distributions a year, in March and September. It’s all very well explained here

A big part of ALCS’ work is around rights and licensing and educating the wider public and the government on these issues for writers. What campaign work are ALCS currently involved in?

We work very hard to support writers and protect copyright by campaigning and lobbying for authors to have their rights recognised and respected. To do this, we’re involved in copyright education projects, provide copyright education resources, and carry out work that supports writers to ensure they receive fair payment for the use of their work.

Our lobbying and campaigning work involves everything from press campaigns to gaining media coverage for important topical issues. We also lobby government on policy that affects writers. Our aim is to protect the existing secondary rights of UK writers and secure recognition for their rights in new and developing content areas, such as digital downloads.

We helped establish the All Party Writers Group (APWG) in 2007. We did this to allow MPs and peers from all political sides to take on board opinions from both inside and outside Parliament, and keep government and opposition parties up to date on policy issues.

We also work with the Society of Authors, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Royal Society of Literature to lobby for writers’ interests in this country.

Abroad, we work with the Society of Audiovisual Authors in Europe and the International Authors’ Forum internationally to ensure UK writers’ voices are heard across the world.

As a writer yourself, how did you first get involved with ALCS? (And why?) How are the ALCS Board involved in the running of the organisation?

My first involvement with ALCS was as a member. I made sure I joined early in my career (at the same time as I registered for Public Lending Right [PLR]), so I’ve been receiving payments for a long time. I like to get involved in things, and I became chair of the SoA's Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group, then moved on to being a director at ALCS. I sat on the Board for six years, then stepped down for three years before returning as Chair.

Why is important for writers to sign up to ALCS – or if they’re an SoA member already, take advantage of what ALCS has to offer?

The important thing to remember is that the money ALCS collects already belongs to our members – if you’re a member, it’s your money! But it can only be managed collectively – it's not something individual writers can do for themselves. So ALCS exists to make sure you get what you’re entitled to. Of course, our members are always happy to receive their payments – even if it's only a small amount, it's good to know that your work is being read or watched somewhere. Especially for many hard-working freelance writers, ALCS payments can really make a difference in terms of making a living.

It means a lot that ALCS are supporting the Society of Authors’ Awards and enabling these author-run awards. What are you most excited about on 17 June? What do impact do you think these awards have on authors?

I love to see writers being acknowledged and rewarded. An award can make all the hard work seem a bit more worthwhile, and in practical terms it can give a writer a real career boost. Plus you get to leave the house for a few hours and go to a party! What’s not to like?

About Tony Bradman

Tony Bradman is chair of ALCS and a proud member of the SoA. He has been involved in the world of children’s books for nearly forty years, and has written stories and poetry for all ages. He has also worked with many writers as an editor, has appeared at many literary festivals, and reviews for The Guardian.

Find out more about ALCS at