Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘PLR’

Why I’m Re-standing for the ALCS Board

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th December, 2016

alcs-new-logoTo the general public, ALCS is a meaningless set of initials, but for tens of thousands of writers in Britain (and beyond) who have signed up as members of ALCS the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society is like a fairy godmother who, year in year out, sends one a cheque (or these days usually a bank transfer), derived from secondary royalties from photocopying, retransmission of audio-visual material and other such sources, the bulk of it channeled to ALCS from the Copyright Licensing Agency  (CLA). Anyone who works in universities or the NHS will probably have spotted CLA notices next to their photocopiers. Rather like Public Lending Right (PLR), which pays authors modest sums for loans of their books from a representative sample of public libraries, ALCS works on the basic and important principle that writers should be paid for their work. But ALCS is not just another writers’ organisation; it is a highly professional organisation, which is what it should be, as it has a turnover of more than £30 million a year. Like any reputable company it therefore also has a Board, which in ALCS’s case has a number of Non-Executive Directors who are elected by ALCS members — over 90,000 at present, though only a small proportion of those usually take the trouble to vote in the annual election of Non-Execs. Having come to the end of my three-year term on the Board, I am standing for re-election this month (as one is allowed to do, just once).

ALCS, in common with the creative industries, is facing some critical challenges, no least from the uncertainties generated by Brexit and the digitalisation of so much content. In tandem with CLA, ALCS needs to investigate new revenue streams, but it also needs to keep abreast of legislative changes, at both the international and European level. One of the things I have found most satisfying about being a Board member, given my political experience, has been working with the Executive on some areas of what is effectively lobbying, to help protect writers’ rights. That has meant being one of the ALCS representatives on the steering group of UKWriters, a recently-formed umbrella group that tries to ensure that writers do not lose out in a changing world. As it is, the income of most writers has fallen sharply in recent years, as was demonstrated in a study commissioned by ALCS. I have found it fascinating sitting on the Board itself, learning the dynamics of the company and collaborating with its dedicated staff. So, I would be very grateful for a vote from anyone who is an ALCS member. If you are, you should have received an electronic communication about the election (unless you opted for postal communications only) and voting is open until 23 December.writing


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Why I’m Standing for the ALCS Board

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 3rd January, 2014

alcs-logoThis 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.


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