Why I’m Standing for the ALCS Board
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 3rd January, 2014
This month I’m up for election, not for a political post for once, but to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Authors’ Lending and Collecting Society, ALCS. People who are not writers or journalists, or indeed academics, might not recognise those initials, or indeed confuse them with others, such as the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, ALDC, or ALDE — the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe. But for ALCS members, the organisation is hugely useful, professionally collecting royalties and other copyright fees or other sums accruing from their published output and disbursing them, not only from the UK from some other countries as well, such as the Netherlands. Every March I receive such a payment of several hundred pounds, which may not sound much, but remember that most writers who do not have another full-time salaried job usually live on a pittance. Only a few become J K Rowling. But it is not just as a gesture of gratitude to the hard-working staff of ALCS over the years that I am standing for the Board of Directors. There are several radical developments in the world of publishing, dissemination, reproduction and copyright which require a keen awareness of political moves, both in Britain and at the EU level. I first got involved in writers’ issues through the Writers Action Group, lovingly nurtured by Maureen Duffy and Brigid Brophy; I can still picture their single-spaced typewritten newsletters. Thanks to them, and others like them, we got Public Lending Right (PLR) in this country, which is levied on an estimated total of the times your books are borowed from public libraries, or at least those in the schemes selected list. PLR has essentially been frozen, however, as well as being very modest for the vast majority of writers, which means that it is going down (and the PLR operation is moving from being a stand-alone organisation to being subsumed into the British Library). The ALCS, however, continues to grow and pay out more to more authors each year, thanks to the careful husbandry of its professional staff based at Writers House in London. If I am elected to the Board, I hope my years of experience in related fields, as well as excellent contacts in both Houses of Parliament, as well as in Brussels (where I was based for seven years) may be of some assistance. Unlike most companies, the Board of Directors of ALCS is elected by its membership, an example some other organisations might usefully follow.