Electronic copyright

December 5, 1997

MAURICE LONG, chair of the Publishers Licensing Society, is certainly aware that, under the terms of our old agreement, the society has received 100 per cent of the journal photocopying monies collected by the Copyright Licensing Agency to date (Letters, THES, November 28).

This is a matter of public record, as is the fact that these monies totalled Pounds 2 million last year. If the publishers did not "take all the money" (your correspondent's phrase, not ours), who did?

We are therefore happy to report that Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society and the society have now agreed to change this situation as of October 1998.

According to the new agreement, if a journal cannot show it has amassed sufficient rights from its contributors, then photocopying monies will be shared between publishers (75 per cent) and authors (25 per cent). This is why we urge writers not to sign away their photocopying rights.

Our position on electronic rights is quite different. We are not urging authors to withhold their electronic rights and prevent access to their works, as Maurice Long suggests. Instead, ALCS has offered to act on behalf of authors in the management of electronic rights for journal submissions. Publishers can clear rights with us, and would thus not need to chase all the authors of every article included in electronic projects.

ALCS would not "find it very difficult to forward royalties to authors". Our main task over the past 20 years has been to distribute myriad small amounts of money to thousands of authors. ALCS has 116,000 British authors on its books, and we have already distributed over Pounds 32 million.

Authors and publishers both want to facilitate the use of new technology and reach the widest possible audience, and we see no reason why academic journal authors should be excluded from the substantial revenue stream.

Chris Barlas

Chair Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society

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