Wednesday 15 January 2014

Another review gets active: this time it's for collecting societies

The following media release has just come thudding through this blogger's e-letterbox, in regular and pdf formats. At first he thought it was another of those infernal surveys, but when he got beyond the initial questions he obtained a better appreciation of its substance.
Review of Copyright Collecting Societies launched

• Is there music playing in your local pub or restaurant?

• Is an article you wrote being photocopied for college students?

• Do you need to get blanket clearance to reproduce text and images for your company website?

Collecting societies: your
help is needed ...
These are just some of the issues dealt with by the 12 UK copyright collecting societies that are subject to an independent review launched today [the Newspaper Licensing Agency has been listed as one of the 12, though readers will recall that this organisation is now the cheery, user-friendly (or is it pig-with-lipstick?) NLA media access]. The societies exist to enable people who want to use copyright material to pay for a licence, distributing that money to those who have created the work that is being re-used. Walter Merricks CBE who is conducting the review is asking for the views about how the system is working.

The societies are private bodies but should they be more transparent and accountable? Two years ago the societies decided to be more open and to put in place codes of conduct detailing how they operate. The Government has also set out standards and is taking powers to ensure societies have adopted satisfactory codes and to discipline societies where necessary.

Now the societies – through the British Copyright Council -- have asked Walter Merricks, the former financial ombudsman [and the man who now investigates complaints into how ombudsmen carry out their duties: how does one get jobs like that ...?], to carry out an independent review of how their codes are working [this seems to have happened last August, according to the 1709 Blog's CopyKat].

Walter Merricks said:
“The creative industries and the rights they generate form a significant contribution to the UK economy, and the internet has changed many of the business models that used to make copyright protection simpler [Gosh, we never knew that, did we?] In the digital age the work of the societies is more complex and it is vital that they are seen to operate to the highest standards.

There are many different rights interests involved from individual artists and writers to huge music labels and book publishers, and among licensees there are small high street businesses, schools and colleges as well as massive corporations and government departments. So it’s not surprising that people have different views on how well things are working [Different views? Another surprise].

I’ll be looking to see whether the codes form a self-regulatory framework in which not only rights holders and licensees, but also the public, the government, and other copyright bodies, can have justifiable confidence.

To help my Review I want to hear from anyone with experience of or views about the collective management of rights and how well the societies’ codes are working [If it wasn't such a cliche, the words "be careful what you wish for" would float effortlessly between these parentheses ...]
More seriously, the Review's website cannot be accessed at, although the media release states that it can.  You have to go to, which isn't very far away -- but a miss is as good as a mile when you're on the internet.


john r walker said...

The Design and Artists collection Society operates a number of tax-like secondary licensing schemes, in fact about %90 of DACS income is from secondary licensing . This organisation has not had a annual general meeting in ten years, its board is essentially self appointed and its complaints process is done in house. And its annual Fin statements are very brief- Anything goes in that world.

Tania Spriggens said...

John, as you can see from pg 12 of our 2012 Annual Review (available on our website), DACS derives 39% of its income from collective (or secondary) licensing, not 90%.

Our full accounts are also available for viewing on our website:

As set out in our Code of Conduct (here: you can find information about how DACS is currently undertaking a governance review. Our members are currently considering proposals to reinstate Annual General Meetings.

You’ll also be reassured to know that we have signed up to the Ombudsman Service, so anyone dissatisfied with the treatment of their complaint can go to this independent service.

Thanks for your feedback,
Tania Spriggens,
Director of Communications, DACS

john r walker said...

It is good that you have decided to improve your transparency.

Are you really saying that %71 of DACS income derives from right holders that have freely chosen to assign management of their individual rights to DACS?

And does DACS still collect resale royalty rights for people who are not signed up members of DACS?

john r walker said...

Tania, my objection to compulsory ARR is conscientious, I am no 'libertarian' nor am I any of the other varieties of neo- 'X'.

Tania Spriggens said...

Dear John
The Artist's Resale Right is not a copyright licensing scheme. The royalty rates are set in the legislation (therefore cannot be negotiated) and it is an inalienable right for artists and their heirs. DACS does collect resale royalties for artists who are not members, as the Right is managed in the UK through compulsory collective management. On average, just 4% of the artists/heirs receiving resale royalties from DACS in 2013 were not members. Feel free to come back to me if you have any further questions.

Thanks, Tania.

john r walker said...

Tania Does %71 of DACS total income derive from right holders that have freely chosen to assign management of their individual rights to DACS?

How much of DACS total income come from 'levies' where DACS collects payments, without the need for right-holder consent/authority in the first place.

john r walker said...

Sorry we have been a bit busy.

To save you the trouble of replying to my questions-
a quick perusal of DACS annual return shows that just %11.6 of DACS total income comes from actual copyright licensing. The bigest single slice at %51.9, comes from the art resale levy - something that ( as you correctly say) is not a copyright, or a individual right, rather it is a right of self appointed groups.
And the rest of DACS income apears to come from things like Payback which are ,as best as I understand, variations on'compulsory' licensing schemes.

What was the UK Government tendering process that granted DACS such extraordinary 'rights'?

The tender docs for the Australian ARR scheme gave the Minister power to sack the administrators of the scheme if they failed key KPI's and also required the administrators of our scheme to do detailed quarterly returns to the minister and so on- overall the tender process was a strict and properly run affair, how was the process run in the UK?