PLS Annual Rights & Licensing Forum 2018: Ten takeaways

Here are some of the most important messages from the day at a Stationers’ Hall packed full in record numbers. Audio-recordings of the main presentations are at the foot of this page.


1 PLS achieved second-highest revenues for publishers in 2017-18

Chief executive Sarah Faulder told the Forum that PLS recorded distributable revenues of £36.1m in 2017-18—a 9.6% increase on 2016-17, and the second highest amount in its history. As she noted, that money goes straight to publishers’ bottom lines, and so could actually be worth as much as ten times more to recipients. “It’s a remarkable achievement, and for that we have to thank the Copyright Licensing Agency and NLA Media Access,” she said.


2 There is a new working group for schools licences

While collective licensing “appears to be in rude health”, negotiations of new licensing contracts remain tough—in the public sector in particular. To help smooth the way, PLS has recently formed a new working group for schools with the support of the Publishers Association, educational publishers and CLA. It will ensure effective consultation as CLA prepares to negotiate the renewal of schools licences over the next couple of years.


3 Access to Research could soon be universal in public libraries

As PLS extends its service offering to publishers beyond collective licensing, it will be seeking greater take-up of Access to Research, the initiative providing free access to more than 15 million academic articles and journals in public libraries. The target is an increase in libraries’ use of the service from the current 85% to 100%, which would bring it within reach of even more users. “The feedback from the libraries is that the service is hugely valued by those who know about it,” said Sarah Faulder.


4 Take-up of PLS Permissions is increasing

PLS Permissions won the award for Innovation of the Year at the Stationers’ Company’s Innovation Excellence Awards in 2017, and use of it is rising among publishers, Sarah Faulder said. “I’d encourage those of you not already signed up to do so—it doesn’t cost you anything.” You can learn more about PLS Permissions here.


5 PLS has a new look

The launch of PLS Permissions spurred PLS on to launch a new identity: a “fresh and forward-looking brand that reflects our aspirations of being trusted, accountable and transparent,” said Faulder. A simple but effective change of name, from Society to Services, helps to illustrate that PLS now offers publishers much more than collective licensing.


6 Copyright faces constant threats

Publishers and trade bodies need to stay on the alert against any threats to copyright legislation, Sarah Faulder suggested. The recent rejection by the European Parliament of the draft Digital Single Market Copyright Directive is a reminder that copyright protection should never be taken for granted. “We have to be really vigilant about what’s coming down the line,” she said. “A robust, strong copyright framework is critical to publishing and everything that PLS does and can do to support publishers.”


7 PLS can help with rights management

As PLS adds to its services, it is exploring ways to help with the crucial field of rights management. Good rights strategies and processes can increase income and protect copyright, and PLS is now developing materials, training and workshops to help publishers get them in place. “Having a good rights practice is crucial to upholding value,” said Faulder.


8 PLS will miss Mark Bide

Sarah Faulder used the Forum to thank PLS’ hard-working board members, and paid tribute to outgoing Mark Bide, chair since 2013 and connected to PLS since the mid-1990s. He has been instrumental in many of PLS’ recent innovations, and has ensured close relationships with other organisations including CLA and ALCS. “He really has been an exemplary chairman… he’s worked very hard with the board to ensure everyone is heard and that everyone moves forward together wherever we can.”


9 CLA achieved best-ever revenues

In a round-up of the last year at the CLA, chief executive Mat Pfleger said it had achieved record revenues of £82.3m. The main driver had been corporate licensing—the result of an expanded sales team who have achieved 7,500 business licenses. International licensing has been strong too, and licenses have recently been renewed with the NHS in England and Wales and central government. He also discussed progress on CLA’s Digital Content Store, which has delivered more than 3.5 million downloads since launching.


10 NLA Media Access’ magazine revenues are up too

Commercial director Neil O’Brien said NLA Media Access had increased its revenues from magazine royalties over the last year too—by 5% to £6.3m. NLA has recently launched initiatives including Agent for Publishers, through which it brokers deals with content aggregators; and eClips Web Specialist, which provides access to content lying beyond publishers’ paywalls.


PLS in numbers in 2017-18


£36.1m           Distributable to publishers


9.6%               Year-on-year increase in the distributable total


3,850              Publishers signed up with PLS—a 6.4% year-on-year-increase


£12.8m           Income from education licensing, the largest single source


£6m                International Income—a 33% year-on-year increase


98%                Of publishers satisfied with PLS’ service in the latest survey



Click here  for Sarah Faulder 'The PLS Year in Focus'
Click here  for Mat Pfleger, CLA Chief Executive
Click here  for Neil O'Brien, NLA media access Commercial Director 


Click here for 'Copyright and the Five Es: Views from the experts'

Click here for 'PLS Permissions: The value to rights holders and requestors'

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