I was at the Publishers Licensing Society (now Publishers' Licensing Services) for two years before I decided to take a career break last September to start a masters at LSE.
By the time I left, I knew a lot about collective licensing and permissions, and a fair bit about copyright. None of which, I thought, would be particularly useful for my masters in media and communications policy. The world of collective licensing is one that few get the chance to delve into and, whilst its intricacies can be interesting for us on the inside, I wasn't going to miss having to explain what I do at parties.
Many of PLS' members are academic publishers, so I had already caught sight of a few familiar names on the reading list. I'd also worked closely with CLA, so I knew how they collected data from Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), analysed it, and from their results were able to remunerate publishers and authors fairly for the use of their work. I left PLS in the knowledge that, even if I lost touch with my former colleagues, they would always have Higher Education scanning data from my studies.
The student experience didn't feature in our copyright landscape at PLS, so I didn't expect to encounter collective licensing at university. Imagine my surprise when I opened the reading list for my first course on Moodle and I recognised a system I'd become so familar with - the Digital Content Store (DCS)! I'd worked with CLA to present the DCS to academic publishers, explaining how it would revolutionise the way coursepacks are put together. But I had never been on the user's end. In the demonstrations, colleagues from CLA would always point to the top right-hand corner and say: "this is where the institution's logo would go" - and here it was, a bright red 'LSE'. I have to say, I felt a bit silly at how excited I was to be experiencing a product I had seen in development in its natural habitat.
I was particularly struck by how convenient it was for me as a student: all the bibliographic details are compiled on the front copyright page, making it easy for me to reference the work in my assessments, and having access to chapters and articles online and all in one place means I can read the content I need at any time. I saw how the student fits into the HE licensing and copyright ecosystem as the final node of the DCS, a system which makes it easier for academics to request extracts, for librarians to compile and keep track of the diverse and numerous copies they have to make each year, and for students like myself to have easy access to the essential content they need.
So as it turns out, collective licensing is present in every aspect of Higher Education, whether it's a daily concern or working away behind the scenes. Understanding how it fits into the academic environment has truly given me a newfound appreciation for our librarians and all the work they do. Knowing the creators of the books and articles I'm reading are being remunerated makes the ease of access all the more valuable. Going back to university after working at PLS has allowed me to understand that my role as a student is a collaborative one, in which I can give back to academic at the same time as gaining so much.
About the Author
Evie Ioannidi worked at PLS as Publisher Relations Executive. She is currently studying for an MSc in Media and Communications Governance at LSE. Her dissertation will focus on regulation of communications technologies for the creation of the smart city.