Copyright wrongs

September 22, 2000

Alan Story is misleading readers because of his inability to research his topic sufficiently before putting pen to paper (Letters, THES, September 15). Let me therefore set the record straight.

There is an agreement in place between the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Publishers' Licensing Society (PLS), whereby a publisher that owns or controls 90 per cent or more of the reprographic rights in the literary content of serials will collect 100 per cent of the photocopying fees from the Copyright Licensing Agency scheme. If publishers cannot confirm that they own or control those rights, the ALCS will collect 25 per cent of the fees for onward distribution to authors. This agreement has been in place since April 1 1997. Previously, authors received nothing for the photocopying of journals. The situation is not ideal, but it is at least an improvement over the situation of the early 1990s. Story would not, I hope, contest the fact that 25 per cent of something is better than nothing.

The ALCS is in the midst of its first distribution to authors of journal photocopying fees. As with any system that restricts itself to a sample, there are winners and losers. It was always known that it would be both impractical and expensive to carry out a 100 per cent survey of all copies made, and it was always a case of balancing the size of the sample against the cost of collecting data and the readiness of higher education institutions to assist ALCS in allowing the CLA to collect sufficient data to pay authors. As the society does not yet have full data, we have had to devise a scheme that is initially bound to be rather crude, but, in reply to Story's spurious example, does allow an author to receive monies for an article published in a journal for which the publisher has claimed 100 per cent of the fees.

The ALCS will build on this experience and, with the continued support of its writer members, strive to improve its distribution schemes over the coming years.

Dafydd Wyn Phillips

Chief executive, ALCS

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