This week is an exciting week for writers, because those who are registered for ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society) will be receiving their March 2017 payouts.
Statements became available to writers online about ten days ago and, funnily enough, when writers are offered free money, most of us log into our accounts to find out how much we are getting. (In previous years we have managed to crash their system, such is our eagerness to see whether we can afford a celebratory drink, or a celebratory meal.)
If you don’t really understand what ALCS does, where it gets its money from, or how it gets its money, then a quick glance at the statements might have you scratching your head. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to get in touch with ALCS and ask them some of those questions, in the hope that it might help you.
My thanks go to Jade Zienkiewicz and her colleague De’Anne Jean-Jacques at ALCS for their time in answering these queries. Please note, this is quite a long post because of their detailed answers. Here goes …
Q1. Why do ALCS payments vary from year to year?
This was the main question I found writers were asking on social media, and I can understand why. My own payment this year was a sixth of what I received last year, despite having had more articles and stories published (and registered with them). So how does this happen?
The amount of money you receive from us can fluctuate from year to year. This depends on a combination of factors, including the type(s) of work you produce, what sources of income we’ve received within a given timescale, and the way your work is used.
Depending on the type of work you do, fluctuations can occur for any of the following reasons:
- Payment fluctuations in books royalties:
Payments for copying and scanning books come from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), which licenses educational establishments, public bodies and commercial businesses to copy extracts of your work. The CLA carries out regular data collections and audits of institutions to see which works are being copied. It does this among a representative selection of organisations within a given sector (for example, schools) on a continually rotating basis. The data collections capture an ongoing representative sample of works being copied. The CLA applies licence fees to them, and fluctuations can occur as the samples being monitored change over a period of time.
Payments come from different licence groups (such as business licences, or further education licences) at different times throughout the year, and this determines whether you receive a payment in the September or March distribution – so some fluctuations are simply down to timing.
- Payment fluctuations in articles royalties:
You need to claim for articles royalties each year, and payments are made in March. The types of publication being copied determine the funds available to be claimed. So year-to-year payment fluctuations for your journal and magazine articles depend on the types of publication you’ve written for, as well as the number of articles you claim for each year.
Q2. Some statements only show payments for a couple of years. Why is this?
My personal statement shows payments for articles for 2013 and 2015, but nothing for 2014, and several others had similar queries on their statements, which is why I raised this question.
For written contributions to journals/magazines we generally only pay out on an article once – so if you told us in 2015 about the articles you’d had published in 2014, then you’d be paid for those articles in the March 2016 distribution. Next year, we wouldn’t pay you for the use of the same articles so that’s why no payment for 2014 published articles in the March 2017 distribution.
HOWEVER, there are occasions where we receive additional money that we know may have been for the copying of earlier works, so in this case we added an additional ’top up’ payment to the accounts of members who had previously submitted information about articles they wrote in 2013.
Q3. The ALCS website says that we can only register work published up to three years ago. Does this mean that work registered with you that is more than three years old is no longer included in distribution calculations?
Yes that is correct. Basically we only pay members once for each article, but there is a 3 year window to make sure you get paid for that article.
Q4. Many members update you with details of their published work via your website. Some of these works still show as ‘pending’ on our accounts, to which your website says that this is probably because they were published in 2016 and, therefore, not valid for inclusion in the March 2017 distribution (but will be included in the 2018 distribution). To clarify then, does this mean the money being distributed in March 2017 is for work published up to and including the 31st December 2015?
Yes, that’s right. The current ‘three year window’ is January 2014 to the end of 2016: payments for articles published in 2014, 2015, 2016 will be paid to members in March 2018.
We can’t process journals in the year that they are published because there isn’t enough time to assess, process and distribute the royalties generated for the works, but we certainly wouldn’t discourage you submitting journals for the current year, so if you want to tell us about work for this year, please do, you will just be paid for it later.
There are some faqs on our website here that you might find helpful for further queries.
Q5. What do the following codes on our statements mean: CLAEU, CLAUK and CLAOS?
CLAEU – means European reproduction/income.
CLAUK – means United Kingdom reproduction/income – for copying in Schools, Universities, Colleges, Businesses, Government Departments or NHS.
CLAOS – this is for copying in countries outside of the EU. We will be running a guide in this edition of ALCS News (due out on 22 March) that will run a table of sources explaining this, but it hasn’t changed much from last year’s one, so feel free to take a look if you are publishing before it goes out: http://www.alcs.co.uk/ALCS-News/2016/February-2016/2016-March-Distribution
Q6. Some members have commented that when they log onto their accounts (via the Members’ Section of the website), not everything they’ve registered with you appears, especially if it’s details of work they’ve submitted by completing a paper form and sent by post. Should our account list everything, or just the works we notify you of via the website?
All works sent to us will eventually make their way onto our database no matter how they were received, however they may take a while to appear if updates have been sent by post or email rather than using the members’ area of the website. We receive thousands of updates from members each week and whilst we try to keep on top of keeping members’ accounts up to date, we do have to prioritise making sure that members’ receive the money they’re owed and that we’re processing the payments that come in. For that reason we do encourage as many members as possible to use our website to help us keep their account up to date.
It’s worth noting too that we’re in the process of updating our website and the new site will offer a more streamlined login process and a better member experience very soon!
Q7, Is there a deadline for advising you of our email addresses, in preparation for the electronic distribution system that will be implemented next year?
There is no deadline currently for this but we’d really like members email addresses asap. Once the new site is live (and it should be in summer this year) we will be sending members an email asking them to login to their online account to access their statement rather than sending it by post, so it’s pretty important we have members’ up to date email addresses.
I hope that’s helped clarify a few points for writers. There are several key points which we should remember here:
- There are many variables that go in to determining how much money is in the ‘distribution pot’ each year. That money is collected by the society throughout the year. Sometimes they receive money for published works after they’ve already distributed payments to writers for those works. If this happens, they add this payment to the next distribution payment to writers.
- The data the ALCS has to work with is limited. As they explain in their FAQ PDF sheet:
The main problem faced by ALCS in distributing royalties collected for journals is that the data we receive only lists the journal titles which have been photocopied and not the individual articles copied. This means that the article writer cannot be identified. The data also does not specify the edition of the journal as the ISSN remains the same each time the journal is published.
- We get paid once for each piece of work. So not only is our annual payment determined by how much money the ALCS manages to collect each year, but it also depends upon how many pieces of work we’ve had published (and notified them of) too.
- As many people commented on social media, the money has to be distributed between an every-growing band of eligible writers (which is a good thing!). But it does mean that the limited pool of money is being spread across a larger distribution of writers.
The best way to ensure you receive everything you are entitled to is to log onto the Members’ Area of the website and update it with every piece of work you’ve had published (that is eligible). It might not be included until next year’s distribution, but at least by registering your piece it will be included when it is eligible.
Enjoy your distribution. Don’t spend it all at once.