Licence to Thrill

I love my job. But it is my job. I write for money. Copyright and its enforcement makes it possible for me to earn a living as an author and, hopefully, not die penniless like Sir Walter Scott.

Because I blogged earlier about the PLR, it’s only fair that I should also mention the sterling work done by the ALCS, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, which collects royalties from institutional photocopying of magazine articles, broadcasts of scripts, and sundry other bits and bobs, including monies from any foreign library schemes that have signed a deal with the UK. So if you take one of my books out of a library in the Netherlands, or Germany, or God knows where else, the ALCS collects the money accruing and passes it on to me.

I actually earn twice as much from the ALCS as I do from British library loans, largely thanks to the meticulous care of teachers and lecturers all over the world. On my ALCS statement this February, for example, I see that someone in Australia has been teaching lessons with the aid of photocopies from my children’s book Chinese Life. Bits of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis and articles from Newtype USA and NEO are turning up in lectures all around the world, and when they are photocopied, I often get a modest stipend.

Meanwhile, for the first time, authors in Britain are receiving royalties through the ALCS from the Irish Public Lending Right scheme. So if you took one of  my books out of an Irish library last year, you were inadvertently contributing towards the GuinnessI shall be drinking tonight in your honour. Which will keep me alive for another day of ranting and spite, for your entertainment in another book.

However, if you stole one of my books this year,  no love. PLR, the ALCS and bodies like them are fighting constantly to defend authors’ interests in an indifferent world. They’re doing a great job, and their existence is something I greatly appreciate, particularly when bookshops themselves are dwindling. As a sometime historian, I am all too aware that authors today have a better deal than authors at any time previously in history, and that modern media, including the oft-derided Internet, is one of the prime factors that make this so. However, it also means that we must contend with the self-entitlement issues of thieves who can apparently afford a laptop computer, but not the book they read on it.