Memorandum from the Authors' Licensing
& Collecting Society (ALCS)
The ALCS is a company limited by guarantee,
having been established in 1977 to undertake collective rights
management on behalf of authors in the United Kingdom. In that
capacity the ALCS:
negotiates collective licences on
behalf of authors for the copying of their works in print and
photocopied form, electronically and in broadcast media;
collects and distributes fees to
(a) the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA)
which was set up jointly by the ALCS and the Publishers Licensing
Society (PLS) to survey and collect photocopying fees from schools,
colleges, universities, government and the business communities
(including, for example, the pharmaceutical companies and the
(b) reciprocal arrangements with international
collection or reprographic rights agencies; and
(c) individual contract with organisations
such as the BBC educates and encourages awareness of authors'
rights in all sectors.
The ALCS currently distributes (see the attached
annual report and Newsletter) almost £12 million to some
30,000 writers of whom over 6,000 are formally registered as academic
authors, either of journals or monographs.
Some academic authors have increasingly expressed
concern about the pressure of assignment to publishers of all
rights in their works, including moral rights in some cases. Reed
Elsevier, for example, insist on all rights contracts whilst stating
in writing that [they are] "strong advocates, both in the
UK and at the international level, for full and effective protection
of intellectual property rights" (Source: Directors' Profiles,
Publishers' Lending Society Ltd Annual Open Meeting, Overseas
House, London, 29 November 2001). We believe that this kind of
statement can be misleading to users of copyright material who
might expect that "effective protection" relates to
preserving the interests of academics and of original research
for the whole community, when it relates to the financial interest
On behalf of authors, the ALCS is also committed
to supporting the extension of access to writers' works as broadly
as possible and into new media, alongside a clear recognition
of the copyright issues which must be addressed and the authors'
moral as well as intellectual property rights.
The ALCS therefore considers that it is extremely
important that authors' rights are considered as a crucial, integral
part of the Science and Technology Committee's current enquiry
into scientific publications, and welcomes this opportunity to
make the following initial response to the points on which the
Committee is seeking written evidence.
Addressing point 1 on "the impact of publishers'
current policies on the teaching and research communities they
Academic authors publish for a number of reasonsto
achieve peer review of their work, to achieve as wide as possible
access and to secure recognition of their ideas and/or research
both for career development and in financial terms. The impact
on university and special library collections of the current pricing
policy can often be to curtail access (where high pricing impacts
on library purchasing budgets) and the other benefits to authors
which would follow from that access. This loss of benefit is particularly
ironic for academic authors who are often persuaded to assign
all rights in the exploitation of their work to the publishers
on the grounds that this is the only viable means of achieving
their (the authors') goals. This pressured assignment (called
an "all rights" contract) is of growing concern to writers
and the organisations which represent them.
We believe that the practice of high pricing
for academic journals and monographs is related to, and in some
senses supported by, the insistence on assignment of all rights.
Assignment of this kind also leaves pricing
and re-distribution, including syndication and mass syndication
of all kinds, in the sole hands of the publisher. Where authors
retain control over their rights, they have been shown to exercise
them in a different wayby allowing their work to be re-sold,
or syndicated, perhaps at a low cost in academic communities which
cannot afford high prices, and by being more variable and responsive
to changes and requests. As academic practices stand now, and
by assigning all rights as a condition of publication, authors
lose their voice in the matter of pricing or distribution of their
Additionally, by assignment of all rights, authors
also lose any financial return for the mass photocopying or electronic
distribution of their material which is instead received by the
publishers. As creators, authors provide the "currency"
in which publishers trade and the basis for national and international
research and economic development. They should by right receive
a return on the assets which they have created.
A further and very significant matter of concern
to authors is the protection of the moral rights in their work,
and the potential loss of that protection in a publishing environment
in which all rights are encouraged to be assigned. Academic authors
are concerned about the potential for original research to be
manipulated or used out of context, particularly in electronic
media. If authors have no power to determine where and how their
work is used, there are potential problems for both individual
users and the community at large.
Addressing point 2 on "what action should
Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to
promote a competitive market in scientific publications?"
We propose that:
government should play a positive
role in ensuring that academic institutions meet with publishers
and bodies representing academic authors, such as The Society
of Authors and ALCS, to discuss the various ways in which better
access can be gained and a more equable sharing of the benefits
government makes moral rights inalienable,
as is the case in many parts of the European Union;
government recognises and condemns
the pressure on authors to assign rights; and
sets up a Rights Ombudsman or similar
formal position to which authors may appeal where this occurs.