In this sixth of my series of articles on how to maximise your income as an illustrator, author, photographer, narrator, translator etc. I will focus on how writers of books, magazines, journals and scripts can make claims for money due for secondary use of their work through the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).
I will start by apologising in advance to all visual artists as this article relates mainly to authors of the written word. I am sorry. I can, however, tell you that you can claim the same through your respective organisation such as through the Designers and Artists Collecting Society (DACS), and I will also refer you to my articles on Public Lending Rights (PLR) and how to claim. In the meantime, by reading this article you will have a better idea of what to look for and what to ask your collecting organisation to learn how to claim the equivalent, and also have something to share with your author workmates and friends that will not only help their income but have a value that is much more than anything financial.
To be completely clear about who this article is for, if you’ve ever written, or contributed to anything, that was later published or broadcast, you can join ACLS and register all your works to claim payments for secondary use of your work. So that includes fiction and non-fiction writers, translators, adaptors, scriptwriters, magazine and journal article writers, and editors in all genres. Also as Copyright lasts for 70 years after the originator’s death, you can also join ALCS as a beneficiary of an estate to claim royalties for secondary use of works too.
I should also mention here that ALCS is mainly aimed at providing for UK residents, however, if you live overseas you can still join, but it might be more convenient for you to join your local collecting society. ALCS has reciprocal agreements with over 55 collecting societies around the world, and they can transfer your money to them if they’ve collected payments for you.
As you might have gathered from the opening paragraph, ALCS allows you to register not only books but also any contributions you have made to magazines, journals and scripts. So you don’t just need a full list of all your books’ International Standard Book Number(s) (ISBN)s, you will also need the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) for any magazine or journal your work has been published in too. That’s not all, you will need much more information about your work such as publisher, number of visual contributions (if any), estimated word count for articles and publication year. For scripts you will need different information such as title or series, episode title or number, channel it was aired on, type of work, length of programme in minutes, original transmission date, year of production, your contribution, production companies, and countries of production.
ALCS collects two main types of income for everyone who writes or contributes to books, magazines and journals. The first, and biggest of the two, is licences issued by the Copyright Licencing Agency (CLA), which offers licensing options for businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies for copying or scanning works, and licences issued by the Publishers’ Licencing Service (PLS) to licence reproduction rights on behalf of its member organisations. For script writers ALCS also collects several types of income including re-transmission of works broadcast on TV and radio, educational recording and private copying (In most European countries, a levy is charged on the sale of recording and copying equipment. This is usually referred to as a private copying levy and is intended to compensate rights owners for the reuse of their works).
The second is from the overseas Public Lending Rights (PLR) from countries the UK has reciprocal agreements with, which you can find more details of in my very long article on how to claim PLR in as many places as possible. Basically in a nutshell for UK and Irish authors and illustrators etc. to claim payments from PLR systems operating in a number of other European countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Austria, you need to register your works with ALCS who administer the reciprocal PLR agreements with other countries.
Within the European Union (EU), the 1992 Directive on Lending and Rental Right established a copyright framework for the recognition of authors’ lending rights by Member States, which was another good reason to stay in but hey what do I know?!? Basically this gives authors and other rights holders an exclusive right to license or prohibit the lending of their works by libraries. However, EU Member States can differ from an exclusive right, provided that they remunerate rights holders for the loan of their works. EU Member States are also allowed to exclude the lending of authors’ works from specific categories of library and can give priority to their national cultural objectives when establishing their scheme, which basically means EU Member States cannot discriminate on grounds of nationality, however, can play the state support for culture card etc. I am not going to discuss or argue with any of the rules, nor am I interested in who does what and why etc. here as my only aim at the moment is to share with you how to claim. The rest we can talk about in the pub after over a drink or three as it will take forever!
As mentioned earlier, ALCS has reciprocal agreements with over 55 collecting societies around the world, collecting payments for their members for secondary use of their works and for overseas PLR.
That’s all the basics covered so let’s get on and make a claim, it’s what we are here for after all.
Where to start ? Well as always if you don’t have an ALCS account yet then that is the best place to start! Go to the ALCS website https://www.alcs.co.uk/, and once you land on the home page, under the section headed “Not a Member?” click on the “Register Here” button in the middle of the page and follow the instructions to register. As you are registering be sure to join the ALCS mailing list, yes their mailing list, and yes we are actively asking someone to send us stuff rather than asking them to unsubscribe us. Why? Because ALCS will keep you updated on when to ensure your register of works is updated and
submitted and any new developments that you might have to complete a different claim form for, be it other countries’ PLR schemes or any other forms of secondary use of your works, such as photocopying, scanning and digital reuse etc. If you are not in it you will not win it!
Once you are all done you will most probably get an email with a link to set your password and you are done with the first step. You now have an ALCS account!
Now let’s all go back to the ALCS website, https://www.alcs.co.uk/, as it is time to login to your account and start registering your work. You should now be on the “My Works” page with a big red “View All and Add More Works” button looking straight at you in the middle of the page. What are you waiting for? Click it.
This takes you to the “My Works” page ….. but we have just come from there?, yes I know but that was just the landing page showing your most recently added works and this one shows you all your registered works and has a big green “Add New Work” button at the top which you need to click on to, surprisingly, to add your works.
I might have mentioned before that I highly recommend you start thinking about creating a log / register of all your published work and where all your work has been/is being used because you are going to need it, especially now.
We are now on the page that I call the Arc de Triomphe roundabout page because when you first look at it you think there is too much going on and there is no way I can work out what to do, where to go, or how to survive! It looks busy and potentially stressful with so many different options to take to leave the page depending on where you need to go. It’s actually not that bad and if you ever watch the traffic from the top of the Arc de Triomphe you will see that in what seems to be total chaos somehow it actually works.
From the busy screenshot above you will see that you have to select first what type of publication the item of your work you wish to add has been published in, either a book, a magazine or journal, or a script. Once you have selected then it’s time to add in details such title, ISBN / ISSN, publisher etc. filling in the fields on the left hand side of the page, ensuring you complete all fields marked with an asterisk otherwise you will not be able to add the work to your account.
Once done you then need to select from the drop-down menus, roughly in the middle of the page, which type of contributor you are and your writing name. Other than that, don’t forget to tick the box to declare you own the copyright for your contribution and the box declaring you own the copyright for your visual contribution(s), if any, including the number of visual contributions. For everyone registering visual contributions remember to count each image as one, so if you have the same image in a book five times that’s five images not one. All of this information you should hold in your log / register of all your works, I did say you would need one and you’d find it very useful.
Once all that is completed then click the big red “Save to My Account” button and start the process again until you have entered in every published item of your work from books to magazines etc.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, the one biggest bit of advice I can give you now is each time you add an item of work to your ALCS account, or any other collecting organisation claim, is to make a column in your log / register to show that you have added it to your ALCS account or else you will find yourself each year trying to work out or remember what you have already registered and what still needs to be added. If you don’t you will regret it for the rest of your life! …. Well it’s not that bad but you will get annoyed that you didn’t, which is bad enough.
ALCS have actually produced a YouTube tutorial guide on how to add work to your account, covering books, magazines, journals and scripts, which is much better than anything I can write, which you can see by clicking on the following link https://youtu.be/KnCTcxQZ8qY I know I could have mentioned this earlier but what can I say, I like the sound of my own voice!
As you might have gathered from all the above, to be able to claim anything through ALCS you need to own the copyright to your works. So when you are negotiating a contract etc. hang on to your copyright as it will benefit you for years to come. Also note that publishers can’t claim through ALCS, nor can they claim for PLR etc. so to me it is a bit mean not to allow illustrators, authors etc. to keep the copyright of their work, even if they sign a clause in the contract stating that they get no royalties from book sales. Where your copyright is already owned by the publisher, for example, then why not try to negotiate the copyright reverting back to you, even if it comes void of any financial gain from the publisher, at least it will allow you to claim for PLR, and other similar schemes that they can’t claim.
If you’re unsure if you own the copyright to any of your published works then check your contract or with your publisher etc. as it should be in there somewhere.
If as an author you are also registering visual contributions and are a member of the Designers and Artists Collecting Society (DACS) or the Picture Industry Collecting Society for Effective Licensing (PICSEL) payback schemes, you cannot also make a visual contribution claim through ALCS, and you will need to decide which organisation you wish to receive payments from.
As part of the process of verifying your submissions / claims etc. you might be required to provide supporting evidence, such as copies of contracts or other commissioning documents, or for evidence of visual contributions things like screenshots of images in books with total number of images in each screenshot etc. To date I have been subject to an audit check which I am quite happy about as it gives me a lot of confidence in the system, which I was able to satisfy quite nicely by providing a PDF copy of the log of all my work. I told you it would be a good idea to have one.
I have, well my husband who is also my PA has taken on the task, been registering works and making claims through various collecting societies for some time now and have been shamelessly squeezing that lemon for every last drop. It has made a noticeable difference to my income and I hope it can do the same for you too.
There is no doubt that registering all your works, one by one, with ALCS, or any of the other of the collecting societies can be as interesting as watching ink dry! (see what I did there writers?!?). The main difficulty is the amount of time it takes to do it all. It’s not difficult it’s just laborious and dull work. Registration is free it’s only going to cost you precious time away from doing what you love doing, writing and being creative. As I have said many times before, you make your own luck in this life so let’s do this.
I have finally managed to convince my husband to offer this service to others. If you are interested then you can email him (email@example.com) and he’ll be happy to talk to you about finding the right setup that would work for you both to initially get a register started of all your books, if you don’t already have one that is, and then getting them registered to your ALCS account. Naturally he would also be more than happy to share his thoughts and experience with anyone to help in anyway, so if you do have more questions or are having an issue with something then please do drop him a line and he would gladly help you as much as he can.
Tina Macnaughton freelance illustrator – March 2020.