Written evidence submitted by the Authors
Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) (arts 231)
The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society
Limited ("ALCS") is the UK collecting society for writers.
Established in 1977 and wholly owned and governed by the writers
it represents (of whom there are currently almost 80,000), ALCS
is a not-for-profit, non-union organisation. Since its foundation,
ALCS has paid writers over £250 million in fees and today
it continues to identify and develop new sources of income for
2.1 Writers and the economy. Government
figures place the contribution of the Creative Industries to the
overall economy at around 6%, identifying a sector that has continued
to perform despite the economic downturn. This sector is heavily
dependent on the significant contribution made by the publishing
industry, which in turn relies on the talent and creativity of
Independent research on writers' earnings
suggests that the level of rewards available in this sector already
present a real threat to the sustainability of quality content
creation in this core area of the Creative Industries:
Typical income for a professional writer
is one third below the national average wage.
The earnings of a typical writer are
deteriorating in real terms.
60% of people who saw themselves as "professional
writers" required a second source of income.
Typical earnings of professional writers
from the 25-34 age-group are just £5k p.a.
Less than 15% of authors surveyed have
received payments for online uses of their works.
2.2 The "secondary rights" market.
ALCS exists to ensure that writers receive a fair level of return
when their works are used in situations in which it would impossible
or impractical to issue licences on an individual basis. An example
of this is the collection of fees derived from licences granting
the right to copy extracts from hundreds of thousands of books
in schools, colleges and universities. This kind of secondary
rights income from the legitimate use and re-use of copyrighted
material can and does subsidise the creation of new and innovative
creative works, thereby contributing to the sustained availability
of high quality published material.
2.3 The importance of PLR. The PLR system
provides another example of a pragmatic means for balancing the
need for public access to copyright-protected worksin this
case to books in public librariesagainst the rights of
authors to receive a fair return in exchange for ceding their
right to license on an individual basis. This mediated balance
offers demonstrable public benefits, particularly in the current
economic climate. The most recent lending figures
suggest that, readersespecially childrenattach great
value to the free availability of books in public libraries. Although
the sums involved are relatively modesteach loan attracts
a 6p paymentPLR forms an important part of secondary rights
income; many writers whose works are no longer in commercial circulation
rely on the payments they receive from PLR as a form of pension.
In recent years the PLR fund has been cut by
10% in real terms. The announcement in the recent Government Spending
Review of further cuts of 15%, allied to a cap on the administration
budget at the current level, inevitably means that writers will
see lower returns for the free availability of their books in
3. WHAT ARTS
3.1 ALCS was founded out of a campaign by
writers to establish a Public Lending Right system in the UK.
When the scheme was established as a Government agency in Stockton-on-Tees,
ALCS took on the separate role of collecting fees due to UK writers
from overseas PLR schemes. Since the adoption of the EC Rental
and Lending Directive the number of European PLR schemes has continued
to grow. Currently ALCS has agreements in place or pending with
ten such schemes around Europe and we continue to support the
development of new schemes through PLR International and the European
Writers' Council. To date ALCS has distributed £8 million
in overseas PLR fees amongst thousands of UK writers.
3.2 Over the years ALCS has maintained a
close association with the UK PLR operation, sitting as an observer
on the PLR Advisory Council prior to its recent abolition and
working with the Registrar to devise enhancements to the scheme
to recognise the evolution of library services, such as the lending
of ebooks. This work came to fruition earlier this year with the
implementation of powers in the Digital Economy Act (2010) to
expand PLR to cover books in "non-print" formats.
3.3 Against the background of calls for
savings in the public sector, ALCS has been working closely with
PLR to identify areas where the two organisations can share services
and functions, to save cost and improve efficiencies. ALCS and
PLR have developed an action plan covering a number of areas where
their respective operations can be integrated to avoid duplication
of effort, whilst continuing to provide a high level of service
to writers. These plans foresee a four-year partnership that is
designed to help offset the impact of the freeze on the PLR administration
budget announced as part of the recent Spending Review.
4. THE IMPACT
THE UK FILM COUNCIL
AND THE MUSEUMS,
4.1 As part of its review of arm's-length
bodies the Government has announced plans to dismantle the present
UK PLR structure and transfer its functions to another public-funded
body. For many years the PLR office in Stockton-on Tees has provided
a high level of service at low cost. ALCS is concerned at the
impact that this restructuring will have on the already stretched
PLR operation. It seems inevitable that such a move would have
cost implications which in turn may further diminish the fund
available to remunerate writers.
Moving the PLR operation into another public
body also calls into question the plans that ALCS and the present
PLR office have been working on aimed at achieving saving and
efficiencies, while maintaining the current levels of service
to writers that each organisation provides.
4.2 For the above reasons the plans to transfer
the PLR operation to another public body seem to be at
odds with the over-arching aim of the public bodies review, namely
to cut costs and increase efficiency.
5. WHAT IMPACT
5.1 We are also alarmed at the effect the
cuts to the Arts Council funding will have on the derisory 1.6%
of the budget which currently goes to literature. In particular
we are concerned about the effect on small independent presses
in the UK which currently provide the bulk of publishing for poetry
and literary translation in the region of 150 titles published
by some eight presses for a cost of only £500,000.
5.2 We understand that from 2012 even this
is not assured since it is proposed that the small presses that
are core funded compete annually for specific projects, which
may not include even the publication of named titles thus threatening
the future of publishing for poetry and literary translation since
the presses will lose not only staff but essential visibility
and certainty with distributors, reader-consumers, illustrators
with a knock on effect on all those currently involved.
5.3 The proposed cut of 6.9% in 2011-12
for all funded organisations will further undermine the already
minimal literature budget and will inevitably have serious implication
for front line services. The uncertainty facing small presses
thereafter, applying afresh for funding for the period 2012-15,
poses a very real threat to their ability to sustain themselves.
The combined effect of these cuts is to endanger the existence
of the 27 small independent regularly funded organisations that
are the life-blood of literature in this country.
191 Authors' earnings from copyright and non-copyright
sources: A survey of 25,000 British and German writers. Research
by the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management,
Bournemouth University (December 2007) Back
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Survey 2009 Back