Creative Commons

I imagine some of you receive commission for your work, as do I, but I am also a member of ALCS (The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society ) as most academic writers tend to be because we get more from people using parts of our work for citation, people (students, researchers, etc) making photocopies and other use of our written work than sales commissions. It is not only about the tiny drip of money but also about telling us just how 'alive' our work is. Use of extracts also apply to works of fiction, poetry and other creative work such as musicians and photographers.

I have just received the November ALCS News in which writer and campaigner Katharine Quarmby makes a forceful argument that Creative Commons licences strip creators of rights and damage their ability to earn a living from their work.

Her main argument is:

'I decided to investigate Creative Commons licences. They stem from the ‘copyleft’ principle, which was invented by the American Richard Stallman and his Free Software Foundation, in the mid-1980s, as a method of making software available for free use. Since then the idea has been extended to other creative communities, such as audio, visual, education, video and all forms of textual works. It’s clear the rise of digital technology has produced a general belief among younger consumers that all content that can be digitised should be free. My contention is that distribution may have become easier, but if you want experienced content providers to carry on working, you should pay them for it, or at the very least respect their Intellectual Property.'

I must say that it leaves me between a rock and a hard place because as a rule I believe free use should be the leading principle. However, I have been misquoted, plagiarised and experienced other breeches of copyright that do not encourage me to publish on an open market, rather more to stay in the world of peer reviewed and subscribed publications. Only a very tiny percentage of writers make more than proverbial crumbs from their written work and each crumb lost reduces their will to go on. My view is that unless people write specifically for open, protection-free media then Creative Commons are only a step away from intellectual theft.

ALCS is the UK organisation dealing with authors' licencing and collecting of copyright fees, other countries have their own organisations and I encourage you to look at their sites, contact them or do whatever is necessary to form your own well informed opinion. Many of you may support Creative Commons and that is entirely your right to choose to publish that way. Some of us will not. I also ask all of you to consider the implications for other writers, since if you are one of the writers who is doing quite nicely, the other 99 out of the 100 you belong to are not. Because their work does not sell as well does not mean that their work is not being used, indeed it may be exactly the reason they are not selling and getting due returns.

I'm a member of ALCS and like Brian would urge writers to join. As a member of The Soc of Authors my membership of ALCS is a benefit. The explosion of free books on Kindle etc is seriously damaging an income that was already low for most writers and the closure of many libraries in the UK with the threat of re-arrangement of PLR is adding to worries. The general feeling 'out there' appears to be why buy a book when I can get it for free? Why? Because getting the book out there in the first place has cost money and the author needs paying for their work. My yearly cheques from ALCS and PLR barely add up to 4 figures when combined, but their arrival in February is much anticipated.