Friday, April 23, 2004

More money

This morning’s post brings a report from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). Which may sound deadly dull, but it involves money, at any rate for UK-based writers, so if you are among such, pay attention.

The ALCS has been going for nearly thirty years, apparently, and its function is to collect monies which are due to writers from such activities as photocopying, library lending, TV syndication, and the like.

I have had dealings with the ALCS from two directions: as a representative of those who use copyright work, and as one who creates copyrighted material.

As you would expect, the ALCS operates by sampling the use of material. So, for instance, some ten years ago it was the turn of the University of Bath to be sampled. It was my thankless task to make sure that, for a period of two weeks, every piece of copyright material that was photocopied in the entire University was identified and recorded. This involved putting appropriate record sheets alongside every photocopier in the place, and then ‘persuading’ those who turned up and wanted to run off a copy of a chapter or an article to record all the details in writing. As you can imagine, this did not make me popular, but we managed to produce some respectable records in the end.

Since I am also the author of some material of the kind which does get photocopied occasionally, I registered with the ALCS some years ago. And earlier this year I got a cheque for £104.50. Which is not a lot, but it’s a damn sight better than nothing. And it derives, presumably, from one academic book and a handful of articles. Those who do more non-fiction than I can expect to do much better.

In short, the ALCS, from a writer’s point of view, is a Good Thing. If you think you might benefit, and have not already signed up, you can do so at the ALCS web site.

Here are a few figures to encourage you. Last year, some 30,371 writers were paid a total of £11.026m. Chief beneficiaries, as you might expect, were education writers, because their stuff gets copied by students looking for a handy source to plagiarise. The ALCS is, by the way, holding considerable sums in reserve because it has no means of finding the writers to whom the money belongs. You may be one of them.

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