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Nine things we learned at the PLS Open Meeting
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Posted by IPG
Some of our takeaways from the Publishers Licensing Society’s annual gathering on Thursday (6 July)

1 PLS has paid publishers more than £30m in the last year

Chief executive Sarah Faulder said publishers had received £32.9m from PLS’ collective licensing in 2016-17, the bulk of it drawn from the education and business sectors. It was distributed among 3,620 publishers signed up to PLS, though many other companies are not yet registered. To sign up for free, click here.

2 Copyright law is stabilizing

After some detailed attention to copyright legislation at both UK and EU levels in recent years, there are signs that reviews and consultations are behind us for now, Faulder said. “We’ve made the point [to government] that the current copyright framework does not need another review… we feel our laws our now well balanced and fit for the digital age."

3 The permissions process is being revolutionized

PLS used the meeting to launch PLS Permissions, a new suite of services to make the laborious processes of permissions much simpler for rights holders and requestors alike. New tools include PermissionsDirect, for publishers who want to control their requests direct; PermissionsAssist, for those who want to outsource the job; and PermissionsRequest for requestors. They are driven by PLSclear, the award-winning new streamlining system. Click here for more about all the services. “In PLS Permissions we have a high-quality, pioneering service that has the potential to be a game-changer in this important area of publishing,” said PLS’ chief operating officer Tom West.

4 Technology has transformed access to books…

A panel session at the meeting showed how technology has made books much more accessible to those with visual, physical or cognitive disabilities. Adjustable ebooks, reading apps, text-to-voice software, instant braille display and other innovations all mean that books can be brought to these readers quicker and easier than ever before. As the DAISY Consortium’s chief executive Richard Orme put it: “Books that are born digital are born accessible.”

5 … But there is more work to do

Not all books are fully accessible yet. To continue the revolution, publishers should master the use of epub to allow for easy format conversion, set out strong accessibility policies and strategies and understand the relevant technology and legislation. To help, the DAISY Consortium has set up Inclusive Publishing, a new hub of advice and resources. Explore it and register for updates here.

6 Arts Council England backs literature…

The keynote of the Open Meeting came from Arts Council England’s chief executive Darren Henley, who said he was pushing literature and literacy towards the heart of the Council’s work. That was demonstrated by increased support for BookTrust and libraries in ACE’s latest funding round. “Of all the cultural forums in our society, literature is the first we encounter,” he said. “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.”

7 … And independent publishers in particular

ACE’s new funding portfolio also includes extra support for independent publishers, and literary specialists based outside of London in particular. Hanley said publishers like Comma Press, Nine Arches Press and Peepal Tree Press were giving voice to writers that would not otherwise be heard. “We want to seek to broaden the support of independent publishers over the next few years.”

8 Edward Said is most copied

A breakout session on collective licensing featuring James Bennett of the Copyright Licensing Agency revealed that Edward Said’s Orientialism is the single most ‘copied’ text under CLA rules, with more than 40 stated usages per year in British higher education alone. It is sadly not an IPG member publication—it’s now a bestseller for Penguin—but in every other sense it is a triumph of independent thinking.

9 All publishers could learn something from the Meeting

PLS would welcome even more publishers to the Open Meeting in future—and not just staff working in rights and permissions, vital though they are. Editors, sales and finance managers, directors and more could all learn things to their advantage. As an additional inducement, the event's venue at Gray's Inn offers some of the nicest canapes and Pimm's around—very welcome as the ambient temperature reached 90 degrees on Thursday.

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