2017: The Year Ahead

Which will be the most pressing issues for writers and copyright over the next 12 months? In keeping with tradition, we ask our ALCS leadership to share their thoughts.


Tony Bradman

Children’s writer and Chair of the ALCS board

This is a big year for me personally – I’m returning to the ALCS board as chair after three years away from it. So I’m currently going through a process of re-engaging with the company and the board, getting to know what’s happening and what we need to look out for. I’m pleased to say that ALCS is just as successful as ever, with 2016-17 looking like a record year, and more money being paid to writers than ever before. There are still plenty of challenges, however. It seems that threats to copyright are like bacteria – however hard we work to defeat them, they adapt and come back. So we need to maintain constant vigilance and challenge them wherever they crop up – hence the need (among other things) for the Fair Contracts campaign and continuing the excellent work of the ALCS team on lobbying, on both the domestic and international fronts. Brexit is the big worry, of course – we have to be ready to deal with whatever comes out of a process that is bound to be disruptive and challenging in all sorts of ways, some of which we probably can’t even imagine yet.

ALCS shares an office with our sister organisation, the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS), and the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), the joint venture ALCS and PLS run together. There are excellent relations between all three organisations, and I see it as a large part of my job to make sure that continues. We have also just welcomed the Educational Recording Agency to the same office and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better. We’re rapidly becoming something of a ‘copyright hub’, and that can only be a good thing.

Last but definitely not least – it’s you, our members, who really know what the challenges of 2017 are going to be. So I’d like to hear more from you!


Owen Atkinson

ALCS Chief Executive Officer

Despite the economic uncertainty brought about by the decision to leave the European Union, we forecast 2016-17 will be one of our most successful years ever. We have received record payments for audiovisual writers from Europe and collected audiovisual fees from 23 countries. Overall this year we will collect and pay out over £32 million to 80,000 writers.

As ALCS enters its 40th year we want to build on this success. This year we are giving members the opportunity to receive fees for the re-use of any images in their publications from the CLA.

We will launch our new website later this year. As well as giving you access to your statements, the new website will give you more control over your information, and will simplify how you can update it.

Finally we also want to give as many members as possible the opportunity to meet with us. This year we plan to hold events in cities around the country. We will be at both the Hay and Edinburgh festivals, and November sees ALCS holding our AGM in Manchester. So if you live in the North West of England we hope to see you there!


Barbara Hayes

ALCS Deputy Chief Executive

A draft Directive from the European Commission on the Single Digital Market is currently working its way through the legislative process in Europe, and the good news here is that it currently includes some articles on authors’ remuneration for the first time. It also contains some wording on educational exceptions. When these are under review, it is always of concern to ALCS and its members, as it is our ability to license your work in educational institutions that enables us to make payments to you. The current wording in the draft Directive is favourable to enabling us to continue our work. However, we’ll be spending much of the first six months of this year trying to maintain this wording within this draft Directive as it is reviewed by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament and will be subject to amends.

Closer to home, the Brexit debate and how we leave the EU will continue to rage for some time ahead, and we will be working with those involved to try to ensure they know what is important for writers to flourish in this new world.

And finally, this year ALCS will be celebrating its 40th birthday. There is a lot to be thankful for regarding the pioneering work of the Writers’ Action Group. It has enabled ALCS to pay out a total of over £450 million to UK writers since 1977, and through its efforts the much-loved Public Lending Right (PLR) was created. We’ll be aiming to collect as much licensing income to pay to our members as possible, create new opportunities to collect such monies and ensure the legislative environment allows writers to make a living from all uses of their works.


Richard Combes

Head of Rights and Licensing at ALCS

During 2017 we can expect to see the emergence of two distinct strands to the ongoing debate around ‘modernising’ copyright. The first will take place at a micro level as policy-makers dissect, discuss and amend the recent package of EU draft legislation, accompanied, no doubt, by a deafening chorus of opinion and advice from the different vested interests gathered on the sidelines. This process is important for ALCS members whose works will continue to be exploited under the terms of European copyright rules, even in a post-Brexit world. Our overall impression of the EU reforms is broadly positive: the support for educational licensing underpins a core element of ALCS collections, while the measures aimed at improving authors’ remuneration, while not perfect, do at least acknowledge an issue thrown into sharp focus by recent earnings surveys.

The second strand of debate is more fundamental, examining the role of copyright in securing a fairer distribution of the significant revenues associated with accessing content online. This year we will hear more about the ‘value gap’, a term coined by the music industry to highlight an issue that is becoming increasingly relevant for creators and producers right across the creative industries.

Maureen Duffy

Author, Honorary President of ALCS and supporter of the International Authors Forum

Although I am sad that so many of our founders are no longer with us to celebrate ALCS’s 40th year, and the amazing £450 million it has collected and paid out to members since its founding, I know their message would be to go on to find new ways to uphold the founding principle of ‘no use without payment’. We began with PLR and photocopying. Now the new threat is digital and we must find systems, as we did in 1977, to identify and process micro payments wherever our work is used. And this applies equally to the increasing amounts of indie authors as the world, and the way of publishing, changes.

Copyright, the Universal Human Right on which our right to be paid for our work rests, is under constant threat from those who believe we should work for nothing because we ‘love it’ or that we have a moral duty to make our work available for free, forgetting that we too have to pay for a roof under which to live and food to fuel creation. Global companies hide behind false doctrines of only being ‘conduits’ and not responsible for what they ‘make available’. New legislation could give ALCS the right to demand or request payment from them on members’ behalf.

There’s a lot to be done and it will be as tough to collect for members as ever, but I think I can just hear our founders cheering us on into the digital future.