2018: The Year Ahead at ALCS

From continuing to safeguard writers' incomes, to lobbying at home, in the EU and at international level, the ALCS leadership team identifies this year's big issues both for writers and for copyright.

Tony Bradman, Chair of the ALCS Board

Happy New Year to you all! Last year was particularly good for ALCS – we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a great series of events and, more importantly, we kept up our record of distributing a very high level of royalties to our members. We’re pretty close to a total figure of £500 million distributed in our 40 years of existence, a sum which has been of significant benefit to our community of writers.

Of course there are threats to writers’ incomes – there always are! Cuts in public funding will continue to have an impact on sales of books in education and other areas. The shift to digital in broadcast media has also changed the TV and film landscape enormously, and we’ll be keeping up with new developments and opportunities there.

This year our aim is to ensure that we build on past successes, and we will certainly be paying out even more to writers during 2018. But we won’t be resting on our laurels – we aim to build on our high standards and provide an even better service to our members. Here’s to an even better year than last!

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive

Happy New Year to all of our members.  As you’ll be aware 2017 was our 40th year of operations and we aim to cap this special anniversary by collecting and distributing more royalties to writers than ever before, starting with our largest ever distribution of £23 million to 80,000 members in March 2018.

Our focus for this year covers lobbying in the UK to make sure the government continues to protect the copyright framework that enables us to collect fees on your behalf, and also growing our operations internationally – so that we can collect royalty payments for you from more countries worldwide. Read more on that from ALCS’s Deputy Chief Executive, Barbara Hayes, below.

This year we will also look to grow our membership, and thanks to the work of our author research team, we aim by the end of the year to reach another milestone by having 100,000 writers as ALCS members.

And finally, now that our new website is up and running I hope that we can encourage more members to use the site and in particular to check that all of your works are registered with us.  It’s easy to use and registering all of your published works helps to ensure that we correctly allocate the fees we collect.  If you don’t have online access to our website, get in touch with our membership team who will be able to assist you.

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive

2018 looks set to be an interesting year!

At home, the Brexit debate rages on. Our challenge here is to get this government to actually listen to the needs of creators. It seems to want to hear from ‘industry’ but creators not so much. Trying to meet with the IP Minister is akin to finding the elusive winning lottery ticket! But we soldier on and find other ways of ensuring the needs of UK creators are heard within this debate and we must be grateful to a number of politicians who champion us at different levels as much as possible and this is where the All Party Writers Group (APWG) comes into its own.

In Europe we are still trying to influence a draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The most important issue for ALCS members is around the educational exception and we continue to lobby the European Commission, Council and Parliament to ensure the wording will continue to enable us to sell licences for the use of your work so we can make payments to you. There are also articles supporting authors’ remuneration that we are championing and trying to strengthen to ensure they benefit all sectors of the writing community.

On the international level, delegates at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) continue to discuss various exceptions including one pertaining to education, and through our membership of the International Authors Forum (IAF) we continue to argue for your rights to be protected.

Following our success lobbying to extend UK Public Lending Right (PLR) to remote e-lending last year, we continue to work on PLR issues through our membership of the PLR International Steering Committee.  We are lobbying the European Commission to put pressure on those European countries who either have not yet  implemented a PLR scheme as required by legislation, or who have implemented unsatisfactory legislation.  We are also talking with WIPO on how best we can bring the benefits of PLR to the notice of delegates around the world to expand upon the 34 countries who have so far implemented PLR legislation. So watch this space!

Richard Combes, Head of Rights and Licensing

This year will see the EU copyright reform programme enter its third act as the governing institutions seek the necessary compromises to adopt the remaining elements of the legislation package designed to promote and support the Digital Single Market.  From a rights perspective, our hope is that the new framework provides not only a supportive regime for our existing licences but also a platform to pursue new opportunities arising from evolving digital technologies and markets.

Continued uncertainty over the terms of Brexit makes it hard to predict with certainty how and when the UK might ultimately adopt these new rules, but what is clear is that the conclusion of the EU process will not silence the wider debate concerning the relevance and utility of copyright in the digital environment. The most valuable contributions to this discussion are backed by reliable evidence and in 2018 ALCS is supporting another independent review of authors’ earnings and working lives to follow the similar research pieces we have commissioned in the past decade. The survey will run in January and February and we urge as many members as possible to take part. Read more on this here.

One piece of EU legislation that will definitely take effect during 2018 is the General Data Protection Regulation which sets out new terms governing the way that companies make use of data they hold relating to individuals. While this will not alter the services ALCS provides, we will be contacting all members this year to explain and confirm their rights under the new rules.

Maureen Duffy, Honorary Chair and co-founder of ALCS

Happy New Year to everyone – but having said that I can’t say that 2018 looks exactly rosy. Some of you may have noticed the discussion about ‘literary fiction’ that has sprung up recently, how publishers aren’t interested in it because they think readers aren’t. So found the Arts Council which has suddenly woken up to the threat to the long tradition of the novel in English if it is to be limited to the various genres that make the money, sex posing as romance, sci-fi, horror, thriller, fantasy and so on, with one eye on a Netflix tie-in.

I can’t help thinking that the loss of so many public libraries, and the ethos and finance that supported them, hasn’t helped, so it’s ironic, that when e-books seem to have passed their peak in popularity,  we should just have achieved PLR to cover them.

And then there’s Brexit. Already we are pointing out to politicians that copyright mustn’t be used as a bargaining chip in trying to get trade deals with countries like the US where copyright is weaker, without the protection of the Berne Convention and EU directives; and where moral rights are very patchy. So we shall keep up our pressure on the government so it understands the huge contribution British books, TV, theatre, film and cultural tourism make to the economy and employment, reminding them that although we do what we do because we must, we need to make a living too.

Finally in this digital world we must find new ways to make sure we are paid for every use of our work. Maybe a private copying levy would be a good place to start?