2019: The Year Ahead for ALCS

14 January 2019

With lobbying in the UK and internationally at the forefront for 2019, the ALCS leadership team identifies this year’s big issues for writers and for copyright.

Tony Bradman, Chair of the ALCS Board

Happy new year to all 100,000 of you! Passing that landmark at the end of 2018 is among our greatest achievements, and one that gave me particular pleasure. It’s great to know that so many writers are now part of the ALCS family. We also had a record year for income and payments to Members, and the signs are that this year will be even better, thanks to the continued hard work of the executive and staff.

That’s a good thing in itself, but it’s particularly important in times of uncertainty like this. Being a writer always has its challenges, especially if you’re trying to make a living from your work, and as we saw in the results of our earnings survey last year, it’s certainly not getting any easier. There is continual downward pressure on our earnings across all types of writing, and that’s why it’s vital for us to keep finding and paying out secondary rights income. For many writers, payments from ALCS (and Public Lending Right (PLR) too) can make all the difference.

There are some positives. Our income from television and film has been growing strongly in recent years, a reflection of changes in the industry – there are now many more outlets for our work, in television and online especially. To reflect that, we’ve expanded the Board with Directors who have lots of experience in the audiovisual area. I’m also particularly pleased that book sales are on the upturn again – it seems that reports of the death of the physical book were rather premature. But it’s good to know that we can also now register our e-books for PLR too. As a writer of children’s books, I’m pleased to see that education remains a strong source of income for us. The world of schools, colleges and universities is certainly very digital these days, but physical books and photocopying are still large parts of it too.

Lobbying is very important – both here in the UK and in Europe. You can read more about that in what Richard Combes has to say below, but the key word is of course the one that begins with a ‘B’. As I write this, the Brexit debate still rages and nobody really has any idea what is going to happen. But here at ALCS we have made sure that we’re prepared for any eventuality. Meanwhile we continue to fight for writers, to protect copyright and make sure you receive everything you’re entitled to. And that’s what we will carry on doing in 2019 and beyond.

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive

A happy new year to all of our Members. 2018 concluded with record income from Europe – demonstrating the importance and strength of UK repertoire within the EU, and this year will be the first year for which half of the income we collect will have resulted from our overseas licensing activities. We aim to achieve another record in terms of income and our Royalties team is currently making preparations to distribute £24 million to 85,000 of our Members in March.

With Brexit looming ever closer, we need to be vigilant in lobbying to ensure the UK Government continues to protect the copyright framework that enables us to collect fees on your behalf, but also to ensure that the flow of payments from the EU is not affected by Brexit. We continue to look to expand our licensing activities outside of Europe and during 2019 we plan to meet with organisations in South America and Asia to offer support and advice on how secondary royalties can best be collected and paid to writers.

Last year saw our membership reach a milestone by passing 100,000 writers as Members and we also now represent writers in 115 countries. Our Author Research team will continue to seek out writers who are due royalties but who are not yet Members of ALCS.

And finally, I hope we can encourage Members to use the Members’ area of our website and to check that we have all your details and works registered. It’s easy to use, and registering all of your works helps to ensure that we correctly allocate the fees we collect. If you don’t have online access to our website, please get in touch with our membership team who will be able to assist you.

 

Richard Combes, Head of Rights and Licensing

Given the state of the world in January 2019, it feels reckless trying to predict what will happen next week, never mind over the coming 12 months, but here goes.

Before the spring arrives it is likely that the EU will adopt new copyright rules that are, broadly speaking, beneficial to authors and supportive of the work undertaken by bodies like ALCS to secure fair remuneration on their behalf. We will therefore work with partner organisations to urge the Government to implement these new rules within the UK framework at the earliest opportunity. The Government may of course be preoccupied with other issues. Assuming the UK leaves the EU in March, ALCS will have two key areas of focus. Firstly, we will continue to nurture the valued relationships we have with similar organisations around Europe that enable the mutual protection of our respective Members’ works. Secondly, we must engage with the process of developing new UK trade deals to ensure that their terms fully value and recognise the UK copyright framework as the bedrock of our booming creative industries. As well as continuing to support our existing licensing partners in the Copyright Licensing Agency and Educational Recording Agency, we will also work with a new group of audiovisual rights organisations to ensure that writers and other stakeholders receive a fair share of the dividends generated by this rapidly evolving sector.

As ever, much of what ALCS hopes to achieve this year relies upon building partnerships and strengthening relationships which, if nothing else, feels reassuringly at odds with the prevailing mood at the start of 2019.

 

Maureen Duffy, Co-Founder and Honorary President of ALCS

Happy New Year to all our Members. The cheering event to look forward to in 2019 is our celebration of the 40th anniversary of UK writers’ great achievement of PLR in 1979, helped by Labour MPs Jo Richardson and Michael Foot, and of course by ALCS’ first chair, Lord Ted Willis.

Now through the International Authors Forum (IAF) we are hoping to extend PLR worldwide. In the UK we are particularly lucky in the light of Brexit that we are not reliant on an EU Directive to ensure PLR as we have our own Act of Parliament predating the Rental and Lending Directive. This will of course remain in force for EU members but we are beginning what may be a long campaign to extend PLR, through WIPO, to other countries. Already Malawi has incorporated it into their new copyright law. Now Dr Jim Parker, once UK PLR registrar, and now PLR International Co-ordinator, is helping them and other African countries with practical advice on a workable system suited to their local conditions.

That is good news. Meanwhile Brexit rumbles messily on with its associated questions of how new trade deals may threaten us with attempts to modify UK copyright law. And we shall no longer benefit from EU directives which could give us stronger protection for our work and new possible sources of income from internet platforms’ use of it. And we shall also lose access to EU funding of creative work like that underpinning the film Colette. Meanwhile we shall try to maintain and strengthen our links with other European Collective Management Organisations through IAF, especially in France, Italy and Sweden, hoping to add Germany in the coming year.