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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Have you joined ALCS and DACS?

This short note is all about copyright, by no means a boring subject, and definitely one that professional journalists should be interested in – so please read on. You might well learn something to your advantage.

As their names indicate, ALCS (the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society) and DACS (the Design & Artists’ Collecting Society) are collecting societies. That is, they collect money for their members, typically for licensed use of their material in things like educational photocopying, broadcasting, incidental use in television programmes and the Internet, and so on. No individual has the skill and ability to trace and ensure payment for all of these, but that’s what collecting societies do on behalf of their members.

Put simply, ALCS looks after licensing payments for written work, whereas DACS seeks and distributes payments for illustrations, including photographs. However, each works in a different way.

ALCS explains itself as “a not-for-profit organisation with around 90,000 members, open to all types of writer and owned by its members. The money collected is for ‘secondary uses’ which typically bring in small amounts of money that are difficult for writers to monitor individually, so the most effective way to gather them is collectively. It takes tireless investigation, as well as experience and expertise. But nowadays, with the help of bespoke IT systems, ALCS can collect money from all over the world through agreements with over 55 different societies in more than 40 countries.” Typically, ALCS looks backwards for a relatively short time, perhaps a few years, and makes appropriate payments to identified members. Each small amount collected is destined for a specific writer.

Much, perhaps most of the money collected by DACS is in global amounts, each for a large number of licensed copies not individually identified, for which the ALCS system won’t work. Moreover, DACS says that any picture ever painted or any photo ever taken is in principle just as likely to be copied and to generate a fee as any other. So DACS’ “Payback” system is based on the number of pictures published EVER by each member in qualifying media (for example, publication in books with ISBN number or periodicals with ISSNs).

ALCS has a membership fee (currently £36) paid by deduction from royalties due. But members of the CIoJ, a sponsoring organisation of ALCS, are automatically members and just need to register. DACS has no membership fee and all registered qualifying members receive a minimum payment (currently £25) each year, just for joining. Maximum annual payments from DACS for individual members can exceed £4,000 a year.

When these schemes began, individual members of supporting organisations like the CIoJ did not have to register individually, though it was always advisable. However, the latest regulations mean that YOU MUST REGISTER to ensure that you receive the payments due to you. They could easily be enough to cover much more than your annual CIoJ subscription. Registration is relatively simple and can readily be accomplished via the ALCS and DACS websites ( and Don’t forget to mention your CIoJ membership.

Ken Brookes
CIoJ Copyright Representative