ALCS and PLS provide innovative rights identification service for Wellcome Library digitisation project

The Wellcome Library has embarked on a major programme to digitise its collection of key books relating to the history of modern genetics and make them available online for research purposes. The collection comprises approximately 1,700 books published between 1850 and 1990 from 53 different countries.

Because the majority of the titles are in copyright and often out of print, identifying and tracing rights holders to seek permission to use this content presents a major challenge. The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) have contributed to the development of ARROW, an EC-funded project for linking rights data and facilitating diligent search for copyright owners for the purpose of seeking usage permissions.

ALCS and PLS have entered into a collaborative arrangement with the Wellcome Library to provide a 'rights identification service' using ARROW. The system will deploy their respective works databases and networks of international rights-holders to provide a rights identification search and contact service for the authors and publishers of the books that are in copyright.

The Wellcome Trust will use ARROW to search for the relevant copyright owners. This pilot project will provide the first major test for the ARROW system and will enable ALCS and PLS to develop its individual and shared rights identification systems for published works.

At a time when UK and EC policymakers are developing measures to enable access to 'orphan works', this pilot project will also help to better define the processes involved in performing 'due diligence' searches for rights-holders.

Dr Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, explains: "As a library that supports the understanding of medicine in culture, providing access to key scientific texts for historians is of paramount importance to our mission. By working with rights-holders and their representatives, we hope to create a robust and sustainable model that meets the needs of researchers, authors and publishers."

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive of ALCS, adds: "We look forward to working with the Wellcome Library to assist them in the process of tracing authors while at the same time developing transparent and supportable systems by which works may be defined as 'orphan'."

Sarah Faulder, Chief Executive of PLS, says: "This exciting project bears out the need for an expeditious means of searching for rights-holders. We are therefore delighted that the Wellcome Library has chosen to deploy ARROW and we look forward to supporting this project."

Notes for editors

About the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit membership organisation, run by writers, for writers. ALCS collects secondary royalties on behalf of nearly 85 000 writers across the UK and abroad and pays them directly to members. It also campaigns and lobbies on issues of importance to writers at both a national and an international level, to ensure that writers' rights are both recognised and rewarded.

About the Publishers Licensing Society

The Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) represents the interests of publishers in the collective licensing of photocopying and digital copying. Together with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society, PLS owns and directs the Copyright Licensing Agency and works in partnership with the Design and Artists Copyright Society. PLS is owned by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, the Professional Publishers Association, and the Publishers Association.


ARROW (Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works towards Europeana) is a European Commission-funded project developed by a consortium of European national libraries, publishers and collective management organisations, also representing writers through their main European associations and national organisations. The paper 'ARROW - a service in development to assist diligent search' is available to download from the PLS website.

Its aim is to develop a 'diligent search' process for libraries undertaking mass digitisation projects using existing data sources. ARROW will enable libraries and other users to obtain information on who are the pertinent rightholders, which are the relevant rights concerned, who owns and administers them, and how and where they can seek permission to digitise and/or make available the work to user groups.

About the Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library is one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history and provides access to a growing collection of contemporary biomedical information resources relating to consumer health, popular science, biomedical ethics and the public understanding of science. The Library is situated within Wellcome Collection, a free visitor destination for the incurably curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The Wellcome Library is part of the Wellcome Trust.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charity dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities; its breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. The Trust is independent of both political and commercial interests.