In some kind of testament to the enduring power of intellectual property and copyright, the UK’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) finally caught up with me last year, with a bunch of royalties owed me from way back. Then after a further delay, payment at last arrived, and now, a summary statement of the whole transaction. Only, I have no idea what it’s for.
This royalty statement could apply to over 20 years’ worth of cumulative royalties. Unfortunately, without a clear breakdown of what titles it’s for, it’s a guessing game as to what I’m getting paid for (or perhaps not getting paid for). The statement does break down the receipts into the nature of the payments – most of which are for miscellaneous books photocopying fees from the UK, the EU and internationally. The biggest single item in value terms is the miscellaneous Copyright Licensing Agency monies from the UK, which accounts for slightly under half of the total.
Then there’s the small item of the Member’s Commission. As per the ALCS website, “ALCS charges a commission on all money it pays out to its Members. This commission is kept to a minimum at all times and is used to run the company. The current commission rate for Members is 9.75%.”
I wouldn’t like to be the one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if it’s one that comes galloping up after over 20 years. But basically the ALCS is getting just under 10 percent of my money. Seems like a nice business to have. After all, for a remotely successful author, just under 10 percent of their income could add up to a very sizeable chunk indeed.
I have no idea how this compares to the rates in other jurisdictions. But I’d really like to know. Because with up to 10 percent of every active writer’s income potentially up for grabs, the ALCS and its ilk suddenly look like a very significant and well-financed party to the whole copyright and IP debate. Thoughts, anyone?