Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit membership organisation started by writers for the benefit of writers. We’re open to all types of writer, and owned by our members. We collect money that’s due to our members for secondary uses of their work. These might include activities like photocopies, cable retransmission, digital reproduction and educational recording.
These sorts of rights typically bring in small amounts of money that are difficult for writers to monitor individually, so the most effective way to gather them is collectively. It takes tireless investigation, as well as experience and expertise. But nowadays, with the help of our bespoke IT systems, we can collect money from all over the world through agreements with over 55 different societies in more than 40 countries. We then pay this to our members whose works are being used.
We also campaign and lobby on matters important to writers — both at a national and international level — to ensure writers’ rights are both recognised and rewarded. Nobody else in the world does exactly what we do, though we’re often compared to other organisations.
For many members, we’re a mysterious organisation that sends them a payment every so often. Some even find us secretive. Yet for others, the reality of where the money comes from is possibly too detailed. There are even potential members who think we’re a scam — until their first payment arrives. We don’t mind.
We’re open to all types of writers as members. We measure our worth by the amount of money we’ve collected and paid to writers, and the number who join us, as well as by our successes in lobbying and educating about copyright. Today we have over 114,000 members, and since 1977 we have paid over £600 million to writers.
ALCS was set up by writers, for writers. We began in the 1970s, when a group of writers were discussing why they weren’t receiving payment when their books were being used. The ‘Writers Action Group’ set about trying to remedy this, campaigning initially for writers to receive recompense when their works were lent by libraries — payments a different organisation looks after these days.
As a result of the group’s long-running campaign, ALCS was founded in 1977, and has grown to represent writers in all genres, collecting and distributing fees for many different rights. Initially a small affair, with writers volunteering their time to admin and campaigning, ALCS is now run with more of a business focus, and employs staff chosen for their particular skills and experience. What started as an action group is now very much a passionate, professional and highly efficient body working worldwide on many levels.