Six ways PLS has helped publishers in the last year

The PLS Annual Open Meeting in July gave publishers the chance to hear directly how PLS’ work had benefited the industry in 2016-17


1 Paid out more than £32m

PLS distributed £32.9m to registered publishers in 2016-17, said PLS chief executive Sarah Faulder at the Open Meeting. Of that, £13.3m was drawn from licensing in the education sector and the same sum from business, with the rest from central and local government, the NHS, international markets and document delivery. While the majority of rights holders are now signed to PLS, others are not — but PLS is tracing more and more of them each year.


2 Championed copyright

PLS continued its campaigning for a robust copyright framework in 2016-17— a particularly crucial year given the impact of the Brexit vote on legislation at UK and European levels. PLS is confident that their message of rigorous protection for publishers has been heard loud and clear, with the Intellectual Property Office indicating that several years of consultations and reviews are now behind us. As European law transitions to the UK post-Brexit, PLS remains vigilant over copyright. “We’ve made the point that the current copyright framework does not need another review… we feel our laws are now well balanced and fit for the digital age,” said Sarah Faulder.

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Faulder  “Our copyright laws are now well balanced and fit for the digital age.”


3 Revolutionised the permissions process

The Open Meeting hosted the official launch of PLS Permissions, a new and award winning range of services designed to make life around permissions easier for rights holders and requestors alike. PLS chief operating officer Tom West outlined its three elements: PermissionsDirect, for publishers who want to handle their requests themselves; PermissionsAssist, for those who want to outsource the job to PLS; and PermissionsRequest for those seeking permission. They are all powered by PLSclear, the innovative tool that makes searching for and granting permissions much quicker and easier, and PLS are proud that PLS Permissions recently won the Best Technology Application and Innovator of the Year accolades at this year’s Stationers’ Innovation Excellence Awards.

For publishers and others, the key benefits of PLS Permissions are:

  • A major steamlining of permissions administration
  • A better customer service to those, including authors and other publishers, who want to use content
  • A potential increase in revenue from fees charged to requestors.

“Permissions can often be seen as a low priority distraction from publishers’ main business... a long and frustrating process,” said Tom West. “In PLS Permissions we have a high-quality, pioneering service that has the potential to be a game-changer in this important area.” Click here to find out more about PLS Permissions, and contact us if you would like to learn more.

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West “PLS Permissions… has the potential to be a game-changer”


4 Broadened access to journals

Sarah Faulder told the Open Meeting that PLS’ Access to Research, the initiative providing free access to some 15 million academic articles, is now “part of the furniture” in public library services. PLS are continuing to add to this important resource for students and researchers as publishers transition to open access.


5 Strengthened ties across licensing

PLS continues to work in harmony with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and NLA Media Access promoting publishers’ content and rights and maximising the revenue we can pay out. PLS is forging a closer working relationship with the new members of the CLA, that is the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) and the Picture Industry Collecting Society for Effective Licensing  (PICSEL). CLA managing director Mat Pfleger told our Open Meeting that it distributed a record £65.5m to PLS, ALCS and international partners in 2016-17; while NLA’s Commercial Director Neil O’Brien reported that his organisation had distributed £36m to publishers in 2016.


6 Improved transparency

Sarah Faulder also  reported that PLS had published its first Annual Transparency Report in 2016-17. It fulfils our obligations to regulations governing Collective Management Organisations and, even more importantly, improves the way PLS is managed and governed. You can read our report here.


 PLS in numbers 2016-17


£32.9m    Distributed to publishers


43%           Increase in the annual distribution total since 2007-8


3,620     Publishers now signed up with PLS


400             New publishers traced and paid by PLS in 2016-17


50m       Number of titles now available to search on PLSclear


Access all areas—Digital technology helping readers with impairments

A session at the Open Meeting revealed how publishers have made books more widely available than ever before — and provided some handy tips for those who want to continue the accessibility revolution

Digital technology has transformed the way people with visual, physical or cognitive impairments enjoy books—but publishers can do even more to help make them accessible for all.

Those were the key messages at a fascinating panel session at PLS’ Open Meeting. PLS chairman Mark Bide kicked things off by reminding publishers just how far they have come—from a decade ago when less than 5% of published material was available to the blind and visually impaired, to now, when, through the ready availability of adaptable interfaces for ebooks, large print and braille books and audio have sent that proportion soaring. As he put it: “Technology has changed almost everything in our favour.”

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Bide “Technology has changed almost everything in our favour”


The vision now is for all published material to be made available to everyone who wants to read it, regardless of their impairments, and at the same time and the same price as conventional hardbacks or paperbacks. It may involve more expense for publishers—but it opens up more revenue opportunities too.

So how best to start improving the accessibility of your ebooks? The Open Meeting’s session shared some top tips from the Publishers Association’s director for publisher relations Emma House and the DAISY Consortium’s CEO Richard Orme.


1 Be aware of your obligations

Disability regulations, the Equality Act and the Marrakesh Treaty all set out what publishers must do to make their books accessible. The PA has a useful summary here.


2 Set out accessibility strategies and policies

Publishers’ attitudes to accessibility have changed hugely in the last few years, and many now have statements and strategies on the subject. “Diversity is high on the agenda… and accessibility is a key part of that,” said Emma House. “We’re seeing some fantastic policies to make sure books are as accessible as possible.” A good way to get started is by adopting the standards set by the charter of the Accessible Books Consortium.


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House: Diversity is high on the agenda


3 Put someone in charge

Publishers should assign responsibility for accessibility strategies, Emma House told the Open Meeting — and it should be someone high up in the business.


4 Think digital

“Books that are born digital are born accessible,” said Richard Orme. By allowing users to change fonts, text size or colours, ebooks have unlocked reading to many people, and text-to-voice or text-to-braille software opens them up even more. To enable all these features, publishers should look to the flexible epub3 format for their ebooks.

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Orme “Books that are born digital are born accessible.”


5 Explore audio

As Richard Orme explained, digital downloads bring books quickly and easily into the homes of many blind and visually impaired people now. “It’s been wonderful to see the explosion of audio publishing in the UK lately.” More collaboration with those working in audio will help to continue the boom; the Audiobook Publishers Association is a good place to begin.


6 Get help

Publishers can draw on lots of useful resources collected by the DAISY Consortium’s Inclusive Publishing project. Tools to check for accessibility, EPUB specifications and advice about reading apps are among the resources that are available for free. Explore the Inclusive Publishing Hub and register for updates here.


7 Celebrate success

While more work remains to be done, publishers should be proud of how they have opened up their books to more people, said Emma House. “We’ve come a long way and should celebrate the steps we’ve been taking.”


Collective Licensing – Challenges and Innovations

A parallel session at the Open Meeting saw James Bennett, Head of Rights and Licensing at the CLA, explain how educational institutions, businesses and public sector organisations in are benefiting from recent developments in CLA products and services.


1     The Digital Content Store – streamlining workflow for Higher Education Institutions

The DCS is a workflow tool and repository on which HEIs can store digital copies created under licence, rather than having to maintain and report on their own individual repositories.

HEIs with an annual licence can get access to the DCS for no additional charge. One of its great advantages is that is removes the need for HEIs to report on the use of the licence, while automating much of the checking process required.

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Bennett “The Digital Content Store has many advantages for HEIs”

2 Access to high-quality scanned materials for HEI coursepacks

HEIs have access to high quality OCR-scanned extracts for coursepacks thanks to content supply arrangements with the British Library. The Enhanced Higher Education Supply Service (EHESS) provides an outsourced scanning service where HEIs own a copy of the work, and a copyright-fee paid service where they need to purchase the content.


3 SEPS allows ‘second extract’ access

Faced with the need to copy more than the 10% or one chapter of a work covered by the blanket licence, HEIs can take advantage of the Second Extract Permissions Service (SEPS). The Services allows users to copy an additional 10% or a second chapter, whichever is greater, for a fee set by the publisher.


4 More support for vocational courses

A new pilot scheme in Scotland recognises the increasingly vocational nature of some FE colleges’ curricula. A two-year trial licence has been developed to meet the particular needs of this sector.


5 NHS and public bodies benefiting from License Plus

An innovative content + rights package, ‘Licence Plus’ is already used by the NHS in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, offering prepaid DRM-free content from the British Library’s On Demand Service, integrated with the CLA licence.

The initiative also permits sharing of digital copies with employees of other CLA-licensed organisations as part of a collaborative project.


6 More rights for businesses – website republishing

Corporate licensees have in the last few months been given the opportunity to republish news and current affairs articles on their website under their CLA licence.

The new agreement allows for the republishing of up to five articles in any one year.


7 Media Monitoring Organisations moving to ‘all you can eat’ licensing

The introduction in 2016 of ‘all you can eat’ pricing for web monitoring has proved extremely popular with MMOs with the number of Licensed MMOs doubling in the last 12 months. The ‘MMO Licence for Website Monitoring’ enables licensees to index, distribute and store for 30 days links to millions of web pages from more than 3,500 sites.

James Bennett concluded by explaining CLA’s plans to apply for Extended Collective Licensing authorisation from the UK government, outlining the benefits of ECL for licensees and for the ongoing collective licensing framework and encouraging publishers to support the application process.



Arts Council England ‘committed to publishing’


Publishers are vital to the cultural life of the country, Arts Council England’s chief executive Darren Henley told the Open Meeting.


He used his keynote session to outline ACE’s five key objectives: to drive excellence, extend access, increase business resilience, promote diversity and create artistic audiences and practitioners of the future. They have all informed ACE’s latest National Portfolio funding, which will provide support to some 831 different bodies over the next four years. Of those, 183 will be receiving funding for the first time, and more money is going beyond London than ever before.


There are plenty of publishers among the recipients, including literary independents such as Comma Press, Nine Arches Press and Peepal Tree Press. BookTrust has been a big beneficiary too, and funding is also being directed to library projects around the country and authors via time-to-write grants.

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Henley “The richness and brilliance of our literary tradition is unparalleled.”

Publishers like Peepal Tree have a very welcome approach to diversity, though much more remains to be done if writers and book buyers are to be truly representative of the country as a whole, Henley told PLS’ Open Meeting. ACE’s support will help with that, and its funding represents a heartfelt commitment to literature and literacy. “Of all the cultural forums in our society, literature is the first we encounter,” he pointed out. “The richness and brilliance of our literary tradition is unparalleled, and in the next four years we are going to look at how to make it more sustainable, robust and diverse.”