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Copyright Facts and Fees

Please note: The British Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Great Britain cannot be held responsible for the information that follows nor for any advice or content provided by external websites. Members with Copyright issues are advised to seek their own legal advice. The links provided here are for general information only. For the in-depth knowledge needed to pursue Copyright disputes, members need to consult legal specialists.

Copyright principles

As a great deal more written and photographic material is published on websites – especially those associated with print publications – freelance Guild members in particular have raised concerns about Copyright and their position with regard assigning Copyright to publishers and negotiating fees for material used in more than one medium.

This issue has been discussed at length during management Council meetings but the Guild is constrained for reasons of liability from providing individual advice. The following organisations can, however, give individual legal advice to its members:

On the issue of negotiating fees, that is something which must remain a commercial matter between contributors and those they supply. However, there is some interesting reading on this topic here.

Further information on Copyright located by Council members is available using the links at the end of this text. In essence, articles and photographs are automatically protected by Copyright, which means they must not be reproduced without permission. Guild members licence such material to publishers, usually for its first use, in return for an agreed fee. Unless otherwise agreed, there is no right to publish the same material a second time, whether in the same or another medium, such as a website.

Publishers must therefore seek permission to re-use any such material and the originator can give permission (or licence) the material for repeat use for free or in return for a negotiated fee.

Publishers have different policies on this issue. Some choose not to use print-published material on their websites to avoid paying an additional fee; others ask contributors to assign all Copyright to the publisher from the outset, in which case journalists and photographers give up all such rights to the material.

Although it is not essential, journalists who retain Copyright on their material (ie have not assigned rights to a publisher) are advised to mark it with the © symbol, the name of the Copyright owner and the year of publication. Ideally, there should be a contract between the supplier and licensee stating the licensing terms for the material – ie whether First British Serial Rights, First European Serial Rights, etc.

For further reading, Michael Howes, secretary of the Garden Writers’ Guild recommends the publication Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Lionel Bently, which addresses the problems facing freelance creators in the UK media marketplace. It is published by the Creators’ Rights Alliance through the Institute of Employment Rights.

The following website links may also be useful:


Copyright fees

Guild members who write books or have freelance articles published in UK magazines, periodicals and national (but not local or regional) newspapers can claim a share of annual licensing fees (or Royalties) from ALCS, the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society.

The ALCS pays these fees to authors on a proportional basis according to the volume of articles published and claimed for by its members.

To claim a share, Guild members should register by visiting the ALCS website or by writing to: ALCS, The Writers' House, 13 Haydon Street, London EC3N 1DB to ask for an application pack. The one-off, lifetime fee to become a full ALCS member is £25, which is simply deducted from the payments account.

Once registered, annual claims are made by registering details of books or articles published in the UK (date published, approximate word-count and the ISSN number and title of the publication) so that an appropriate share of the fees collected can be allocated. ALCS asks for these details to be uploaded to the member's account via its website but a claim for a large number of articles can be made by submitting the details in a spreadsheet.

ALCS calculates payments according to the number of qualifying articles published in any one year. The deadline for all claims is 30 November each year but missed claims can be made for the preceding three years. Payments are made late February and a second payout is made in August to members who get their claims in early.

Most of the payments come from reproduction fees charged to UK business, education and government organisations by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), which surveys several hundred selected organisations across these sectors to apportion payment statistically among authors.

The CLA deducts an administration charge of 11% and ALCS does the same, charging a 9.5% administration charge. ALCS also distributes sums for articles photocopied in other countries.

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