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Advice - General / Rights and why they are important / Collecting societies pay for copying

Writers and photographers are entitled to extra money from companies and organisations that make "secondary use" of their work, for example photocopying. To be sure of receiving this, and other payments for such "secondary uses" UK freelances need to register with ALCS (for book and magazine writers) and/or DACS (for photographers, illustrators, and artists).

All journalists are encouraged to sign up to these services, and keep them updated on what you have published. If your work has appeared in books, you may find money already waiting for you to claim. See the links below.

How these payments generally work is that libraries, press offices and others who do bulk copying pay a licence fee to a collecting society. This arranges a survey of a sample of licensees - users of the works - to work out statistically how to distribute it. ALCS and DACS are working to extend these schemes to cover more digital secondary uses.

Efforts also continue to deliver the share of this money due to newspapers' contributors.

These "collecting societies" also distribute money collected for secondary uses in other countries - including, for example, Public Lending Right (see link below) from Germany and the Netherlands.

DACS assumes a licence to collect and distributes certain payments to photographers, illustrators and cartoonists who are NUJ members, unless they opt out. Any NUJ member who wants to opt out should contact DACS.


In order to claim for work that appeared in a magazine or "journal" you need to give its International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). This uniquely identifies a "serial" - the librarian's jargon for a newspaper, magazine or journal. An ISSN is an eight-digit number in the form 0000-0000. (Annoyingly, the ALCS website wants you to enter it without the hyphen.) It "should be displayed in a prominent position on every issue". An online edition may have a separate ISSN to a print edition, and editions in different territories should have different ISSNs.

In the UK ISSNs are managed by the British Library and there is an international ISSN lookup tool: see the links below. It's probably easier to update your own records of where your work has appeared as you go.


In order to claim for work that appeared in a book you need to give its International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This uniquely identifies an edition of a book. The preferred form is a 13-digit number; older editions may quote only a 10-digit number. These may or may not be broken up with hyphens. (Note that the final "digit" of an ISBN-10 may be an X.)

UK publishers and self-publishers buy ISBNs from the Nielsen ISBN store; there are many lookup tools, such as - see the links below.

A search tells us that the first edition of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (London: Hogarth Press 1929) now has ISBN 9780631177265. Note that each later edition of this work has a different ISBN.


You may see mention of an International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) - a new-ish standard for unique identifiers for authors (or illustrators or photographers...) You do not, yet, need to give this to claim payments from a collecting society. We believe these identifiers are being assigned automatically behind the scenes. For UK authors, the British Library offers a "portal" to add and update ISNI entries - see the link below.

What’s an ‘extended collective licence’ then?

In October 2014 UK law was changed to make provision for "extended collective licensing". This would be like the licences offered to libraries and so on, as described above - but "extended" so that the collecting society can licence copying of works by people who are not its members.

Collecting societies must apply to government for permission to issue such licences, demonstrating that they have consulted with authors and/or performers affected, that they have procedures for tracking us down to pay us money, and so on. As of August 2021 one such application had been lodged - and then withdrawn.

More advice and links...
* About ISBNs and ISSNs From the British Library -
* ISSN search
* The Nielsen ISBN store buy one or more UK ISBNs here
* An ISBN lookup tool from
* ISNI portal you need to create an account on
* Uploaded 07/12/2222: if you have a printout, check the current version at
* Rates for the Job good, bad and ugly
* Join the NUJ to get individual advice & representation

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.