PRN: It's Not Academic: Writers and ALCS Line Up Against Proposed Government Amendments to Educational Copyright

24/gen/2012 15.06.31 PR Newswire Turismo Contatta l'autore

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It's Not Academic: Writers and ALCS Line Up Against Proposed Government Amendments to Educational Copyright


LONDON, January 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Writers are set to be hit hard by proposed government amendments to the current framework for licensing copyright works in the education sector.

Philip Pullman, Julia Donaldson and Anne Fine are among hundreds of writers who have contacted ALCS to condemn the proposed amendments, which were not included in the recommendations of last year's Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth.

Under the present system, educational establishments receive permission to copy and re-use hundreds of thousands of published works, and thousands of hours of broadcast content, for a moderate annual fee through the licensing schemes operated by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and Educational Recording Agency (ERA) respectively. The fees that authors receive through these schemes via the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) help to support and sustain them in creating new material to enrich education at all levels.

By widening the field for copyright exceptions, the new proposals threaten to seriously reduce or even eradicate this source of income not just for authors of text books but for writers in all disciplines whose work is used in schools and other institutions. Many writers have already said they would be unable to continue to afford to write for the educational sector under the potential new framework.

Writer Philip Pullman said of the proposed changes: "While I agree that schools and other institutions should not be unreasonably charged for the use of books and other published material, or find it unnecessarily difficult to obtain permissions, I maintain that it's essential that the originators of such material should be fairly paid for it."

Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson commented: "These changes would be a blow to many writers who don't make much money from royalties and rely on income from photocopying. As someone who has written a hundred books for schools, I don't regard educational books as being less creative than any others."

Former sociology lecturer, Ken Brown, who began writing text books in response to the poor quality of material previously available, commented: "Should I lose the copyright licensing income from ALCS, I must say that the 50% or more cut in my income would be highly demotivating to me continuing to produce new editions, with subsequent loss of benefits to student learning."

Currently, the annual cost of a CLA licence equates to, on average, a couple of pounds per student (for example £2.42 for a 12 year old) for access to a huge range of resources; whilst the annual cost of an ERA licence is 32p per pupil, or about the cost of a pencil. Not only would the end of such licensing schemes hit the incomes of writers and lead to a decline in the breadth and quality of material available, but they would also require schools and other institutions to engage in complex judgements about the legality of their proposed uses of educational materials, and necessitate
time-consuming clearing of permissions on an individual basis.

In 2011, around 18,500 writers received income from ALCS for educational uses of their work.

Notes for Editors

ALCS collects fees on behalf of the whole spectrum of UK writers: novelists, film & TV script writers, poets and playwrights, freelance journalists, translators and adaptors. All writers are eligible to join ALCS.

Set up in 1977 in the wake of the original campaign for Public Lending Right (led by ALCS Honorary President - Maureen Duffy, Brigid Brophy and Lord Ted Willis among others) the Society collects fees that are difficult, time-consuming or legally impossible for writers and their representatives to claim on an individual basis; money that is nonetheless due to them. Fees collected are distributed to writers twice a year in February and August.  ALCS currently has over 82,000 Members in the UK and worldwide. It has agreements with over 55 countries worldwide and has paid out over £275 million in its 34 year history.

Further details on ALCS can be found at

For further information about the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) please visit

For further information about the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) please visit


Susie Maguire, short story writer

Since 1992, 28 of my stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and on Radio Scotland. My income from writing has been so small that for many years I've been below the tax threshold. When you're living on the margins - as so many writers do - the ancillary payments collected by ALCS are invaluable. If you take away these small sources of remuneration, who's going to write the next 'reading of the year' for the BBC? Who's going to provide the next story used across the world to teach Colloquial English and to encourage those students to aspire to discover their own creativity?

Anne Fine, children's writer and former Children's Laureate

I have produced a host of books, many used routinely in both primary and secondary schools. Monies from ALCS form a significant part of my income. Almost no schools still buy 'class sets', (which would mean royalties for the author). One tatty copy is mostly all that is available, and the photocopier is in constant use for any class work.  If this source of income is removed, I would be in a position where I would have to concentrate on areas of writing in which I felt I would get a fairer return for the hours worked. It will be a particular and ongoing personal and educational loss if writers whose work inspires children feel compelled to absent themselves from the field in order to make a living elsewhere.

Mel Thompson, educational writer

I have been writing educational textbooks and general non-fiction titles for the education market for 25 years, my subject areas being Philosophy, Ethics and Religious Studies. It is clear that, with limited budgets for new books, schools and colleges will continue to need to copy from existing materials. However, this depends upon the supply of good new material, which will be rendered uneconomic to produce unless some reasonable return can be expected. If material is used without any form of economic compensation being paid to authors and publishers, the viability of the market for quality educational material will be threatened.

Michael Raw, geography text book writer

With a high level of expertise in geography, I am one of a small group of authors in my subject area that has made a major contribution to the teaching of geography in schools. I would like to continue to contribute but the proposal to expand the free use of copyright works in educational establishment puts that in jeopardy, greatly reducing the incentive for me to write and create new materials. This benefits no-one: neither students nor teachers and is detrimental to the production of the highest quality materials that are needed in schools.

Michael Vince, ELT writer

I worry not only that my income will be reduced, but that my publisher will be damaged and ultimately the ELT publishing market, which earns a great deal for Britain, will be diminished. If one writes textbooks, allowing them to be copied for nothing is professional suicide.

NIBWEB (Network for Information Book Writers in Britain)

We are an e-mail network, made up of just under 100 writers of educational and other non-fiction material. Between us, we are responsible for a considerable percentage of the children's non-fiction material published in this country. We are deeply concerned that the government is thinking of allowing schools to make photocopies of our work without having to pay a licence fee to do so. Our chief objection is that, for many of us, the money we receive from the CLA for school photocopying is an important part of our income. However, the issue goes deeper than that. Our very livelihood depends on the concept that intellectual property in the form of copyright is worth something both to ourselves and our publishers.

Peter Patilla, primary school educational writer

Schools and teacher training establishments now resort far more readily and often, to copying previously produced texts to support their teaching. I am aware of the wholesale copying of my materials but have been mollified by the knowledge that I gain some remuneration through monies collected via ALCS. If the proposed changes go ahead then it certainly is the death knell for anyone wishing to improve, widen and extend our children's education through creative and imaginative texts.

Philip Steele, Children's book writer

In the last few years the rates of pay have dropped to levels whereby it is barely possible for a write to sustain a living. Small as the payments may be, income from Public Lending Right (currently being reduced year by year) and from photocopying rights as administered by ALCS, provide a lifeline for many of us. If the government put the writers out of work, they are destroying the very bank of expertise and skill that make the UK a world leader in this field.

Richard Gross, Psychology text book writer

I have been writing Psychology textbooks for a range of audiences since 1987. I have been the sole bread-winner for several years now: the knowledge that ALCS income is forthcoming represents a major source of security in a highly unstable and unpredictable financial situation. Quite apart from the financial implications for me and other academic authors, offering published works 'for free' inevitably devalues them (consciously or otherwise) in the eyes of the users of those works.

Clare West, educational writer

I use my copying fees to live on while I work on my next book. If I don't receive them in future, I may not be able to continue my writing career. I can't overstate the importance of good textbooks in teaching. Every educational establishment needs a wide range of well thought out, well executed textbooks. What will happen if educational writers can no longer afford to spend time creating books that schools desperately need?

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