2021: The Year Ahead for ALCS

20 January 2021

With the UK having left the EU and Covid-19 recovery plans a priority for 2021, the ALCS leadership team identifies the most significant issues for writers and for copyright over the next 12 months.

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive

As I write this the UK remains in its third lockdown and all ALCS staff are working remotely from their homes. 2020 was challenging in so many ways and the economic crisis that has arisen due to Covid-19 has hit the pockets of most writers, so it is nice to be able to pass on some positive news as we approach the end of the ALCS financial year. Having already distributed £12 million to writers in September, we forecast that we will distribute more than twice this in March 2021 and by the year end more than 90,000 of our members will have received one, if not two, payments from ALCS.

The year ahead looks just as challenging, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We hope that a combination of the vaccine roll-out and putting Brexit to rest will lead to something closer to normality towards the latter half of the year and a return to our offices in the London Bridge area of London. Meanwhile, we will use the All Party Writers Group (APWG) in the Houses of Parliament to advocate for more financial support for creators, while overseas we plan to lobby at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the greater protection of authors’ rights.

Last year we saw ALCS sign new or updated agreements with Argentina, Chile and Colombia and these are already producing payments for members. South America will continue to be an area where we look to build up new income streams, particularly in the audiovisual area.

Finally, with all staff working remotely, I hope I can encourage members to continue to make use of the members’ area of our website and to update your details and works. It’s easy to use and registering 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.

Tony Bradman, Chair

Every January I get an email from our wonderful ALCS communications team, asking me for a short piece looking ahead to the coming year. It’s usually quite easy to write such a piece. After all, the work to collect money for the use of your rights goes on all year round. But of course, 2020 was very different. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word ‘unprecedented’ used so often, and as for ‘You’re on mute!’… well, I’d be happy never to hear that phrase again. It’s been tough, it’s been Groundhog Day every day (or so it seems), it’s been worrying, tragic for many, and sometimes it seems as if it will never end.

But it will, and that will be the theme in 2021 – for ALCS as it will be for lots of other companies and organisations. The ALCS team has done a brilliant job of coping with everything 2020 threw at us. We went digital and home-based practically overnight, and everyone has been working even harder than usual on behalf of our members – even more amazing when you think of how hard it is for many people to work from home. The result is that we’ll maintain distributions at their usual high level. That’s even more important than ever as many writers have been hit hard by the crisis, with projects cancelled and incomes falling. Leaving the EU will have an effect as well, although it’s still not clear what exactly that will be in terms of our members and the market in which ALCS operates.

That work will continue as usual this year, even though we still don’t know when the pandemic will end and what the ‘new normal’ is going to be. It looks like we’re going to have be resilient and agile as an organisation, and we’ve shown those qualities before. ALCS has also been run very prudently so we have the staff, skills and resources to deal with the recovery just as well as we did with the crisis. There are various projects and developments we were working on before the crisis that might well come to fruition this year, especially in terms of opening up new markets overseas, so watch this space. We might be back in the office by the middle of the year, or working flexibly, or even still working from home. But we will still be working on your behalf, wherever we are.

I wish you a happy new year – and I hope it’s going to be a wonderful Covid-free one!

 

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive

2020 was certainly a year like no other on the advocacy front! But this new world in which we currently reside did let us assist the APWG, ably chaired by Giles Watling MP, to undertake a second review into authors’ earnings in light of the pandemic. We are currently working with the parliamentarians who took part in the initial evidence-gathering session to launch an update to the original Inquiry: Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow. As you can imagine we have been lobbying the Government regarding the plight of freelancers who are not eligible for the various government financial assistance schemes. Along with this issue we will also be monitoring the Brexit ‘deal’ to see how this may impact on our members’ incomes.

To assist the Government with its goal of ‘levelling up’ across the country, we are delighted to be working on a regional powerhouse initiative in the year ahead with Professor Katy Shaw and Claire Malcolm of New Writing North, engaging with MPs and peers from across the country, and we’ll keep you updated as this progresses through the year. We look forward to several round tables with parliamentarians to discuss the decentralisation and regional representation agenda in the writing industries and how writing can be a sustainable career for those outside of the South East.

Please keep reading ALCS News where we will keep you updated and detail any calls for action! Happy 2021!

 

Richard Combes, Head of Rights and Licensing

After the unprecedented events of the past 12 months, forecasting is a high-risk activity. Nevertheless, we can with a degree of certainty identify some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2021.

Starting with the former, there is the challenge of a domestic economic recovery against the backdrop of residual uncertainties over our future relations with the EU. In the areas of most concern to ALCS, these issues are co-dependent. The Government’s project to ‘build back better’ will be founded in part on the strength of existing economic forces, such as our creative industries which in turn rely on a robust and balanced copyright framework. During the course of this year the EU will complete its adoption of new copyright rules which include a fairer role for large, online players and mechanisms supporting an author’s right to receive fair terms and remuneration. As an EU member state, the UK supported these reforms; as a newly sovereign legislature we now have the opportunity to develop an optimal approach that supports the UK creative sector while preserving the benefits of accessing EU markets.

As for the opportunities closer to home, the past year has seen an accelerated evolution of the ways in which writers’ works are used, from online education to the growing importance of streaming platforms. This year we will be working closely with our partner organisations to ensure that, where appropriate, ALCS is able to respond to these changes and deliver much-needed, supplementary revenue streams for authors.