What Photographers Should Know About ASCRL

Mon 01st Jul, 2019

in Official Statement

What Photographers Should Know About ASCRL

ASCRL collects and distributes foreign reprographic monies to visual artists for their works published in the United Stares (and possibly copied abroad) as well as for foreign rights holders with visual works published in the United States. 

If you are a photographer with works published in the US, you may qualify for funds. It's free to enroll. Once you sign up with ASCRL, you are entitled in each distribution to claim of the share of the monies that are collected for non-tile / non-author specific copied visual works. 


Below are details about ASCRL and how it works. If you have more questions, please contact:

Executive Director, CEO of ASCRL, Eugene Mopsik  em@ascrl.org

Who is ASCRL?

The American Society for Collective Rights Licensing, Inc. (“ASCRL”), is not-for-profit corporation that is located in Washington, D.C. ASCRL was organized under the laws of the District of Columbia, on July 7, 2015. ASCRL’s mission is to collect reprographic fees that originate in foreign countries throughout the world and to distribute them to rights owners for visual work, including illustration, photography, and other artwork.
ASCRL operates under the direction of a Board of Directors, whose volunteer members serve four-year terms, and who are responsible for overseeing the organization’s activities. ASCRL’s current Board is comprised of Directors who have exhibited many decades of commitment to artists’ rights organizations and arts advocacy.
ASCRL also operates under the supervision of, and with the recommendations of an Advisory Board of Directors, who also serve four-year terms. This Advisory Board represents broad cross sections of the visual art and photography industries. The Advisory Board members come from organizations that separately represent constituencies comprised of over 50,000 members. Information about ASCRL Boards may be viewed on the ASCRL website.
ASCRL is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as an exempt organization under Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code. As such, no part of the net earnings of the organization may be subject to the inurement of private individuals. As a 501(c)(6) organization, ASCRL’s financial information is publicly available in accordance with applicable IRS rules. As a 501(c)(6) organization, ASCRL’s mission is to serve the interests of visual art and photography industry constituents that it serves.

ASCRL is a member of the International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organizations (IFRRO), which is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. IFRRO's members constitute essentially all of the reprographic rights organizations and collecting societies that exist throughout the world. ASCRL is the first and the only IFRRO member to collect and administer reprographic funds and to distribute them directly to rights owners who are U.S. citizens and who own copyright in photographic and or other visual artwork.   ASCRL also works for rights owners who are foreign nationals who own copyright in photographic and other visual artwork that has been published in the U.S.

How does ASCRL obtain the funds that it distributes to visual artists and photographers?

As a collective rights society, ASCRL’s mission is to establish agreements (bilateral relationships) with sister “collecting societies” in foreign countries, that collect funds deriving from the lawful use, in those countries, of visual art and photographic works so that the funds can be distributed to visual artists and photographers in the U.S. More can be learned about collecting societies on the ASCRL website, and the website of the IFRRO (www.ifrro.org). ASCRL’s foreign sister societies collect their funds under foreign laws that require that those societies be paid under various foreign legal systems that are notably unlike the systems that function in the U.S.

Where do the funds come from?
These foreign systems include “statutory” systems that mandate permitted uses of visual art and photography, and that set use rates by the government, or according to foreign laws or public bodies. They include “compulsory” systems where permitted use of work is mandated by law but where rates for the use are established through private negotiations among collecting societies. There are semi-voluntary collective systems where both authorizations and rates may be set by a collective as a matter of law (where permitted uses and rates are not mandatory) but where the administration by a collective is mandatory. Some systems require obligatory management, where usage and rates are voluntarily negotiated but where the law requires the rights owner to be represented by a collective if they wish to participate.  In addition to these revenue sources, ASCRL’s sister societies collect funds from levies and taxes that are collected in foreign countries for digital storage devices, photocopier levies, library lending systems, operator and equipment levies, and various other foreign sources.

Does ASCRL license my individual work?
No. In addition to the “involuntary” or “semi-voluntary” systems, in which participation is at least in some way not up to an individual rights owner under the law of the foreign country, some sister societies also collect funds from collective systems that are entirely voluntary, and in which the society negotiates uses and rates on an entirely voluntary basis and where dealings with the society are not mandated by law. However, ASCRL has a strict policy to preserve the rights of individual copyright owners in individual licensing systems in which the individual rights owner can participate. Therefore, ASCRL does not engage in agreements with societies for voluntary collective licensing where collective administration is not required by law, in at least some measure. Additionally, ASCRL does not engage in, nor does it permit its sister societies to engage in, any licensing that is entirely voluntary and that would permit a sister society’s direct licensing of an ASCRL author’s individual work, as that may compete with the ASCRL author’s own direct licensing of their own work. ASCRL members retain their copyrights and may always engage in individual licensing, even when ASCRL is collecting funds from its sister societies.
Why does ASCRL collect foreign funds?

The foreign countries that employ involuntary licensing legal systems correspondingly mandate that a portion of the money that is collected be distributed to visual artists and photographers (and other classes of authors).  They also regulate how those funds must be administered. Many of these systems are not well understood by U.S. authors, who operate in the U.S. under somewhat different intellectual property rules (rules which do not even involve some of the foreign fund sources, such as library lending, or photocopier taxes). Some U.S. rights owners fail to understand that unless they submit an appropriate application for funds through a society such as ASCRL, they will not receive any part of the funds of foreign origin from these particular systems and sources, because they are unaware that they are provided for by foreign systems, through collecting societies. Additionally, before the establishment of ASCRL, there have been limited or no means for photographers and other visual artist rights owners to apply for funds. 

If the funds are from foreign legal systems, why are they being distributed to U.S. authors?
When ASCRL’s foreign sister societies determine that some part of the funds that are collected in their country should properly be distributed to visual artists and photographers in another country, rather than their own, they rely on sister societies, such as ASCRL, to properly distribute the funds to the visual artists and photographers in the other countries. Based on its existing agreements with these foreign societies, ASCRL represents the interests of visual artist and photographer rights owners in the U.S.
In this somewhat complex international context, it is ASCRL’s principal mission, as a not –for-profit tax exempt 501(c)(6) organization to secure and distribute the foreign funds that are distributable to U.S. visual artists and photographers. For this purpose, ASCRL is active throughout the world in establishing bilateral agreements with foreign societies that may have funds distributable for U.S. authors.  It is then ASCRL’s mission to distribute the funds to the visual artists and photographers. 

How does ASCRL distribute money?
ASCRL’s actual distribution of funds takes place under a simple registration and claims system. First, a visual artist or photographer must register with ASCRL and provide an authorization, or mandate, to ASCRL, authorizing ASCRL to administer and distribute the funds for the registrant. The registrant may be a U.S. author, or authorized representative of a U.S. author, or a foreign national copyright owner who has published their work in the U.S. (and whose work may have thus been subsequently used abroad). ASCRL notifies its registrants when a claims period is open, and the visual artists and photographers who have mandates with ASCRL, are then eligible to apply for and to receive funds in the fund pool during a claims period in accordance with ASCRL rules. Registrations and distributions are subject to membership rules.  Each registrant is encouraged to carefully read the rules for registering and submitting claims.
How does ASCRL determine how much money each visual artist and photographer will get?
ASCRL uses a point system to determine how it is to divide up and distribute funds. Points are given to each registrant based on the number of works they have in publication during a claims period, and based on the frequency of publication. After assigning points to each claimant for their publications, according to the information provided by the member in their registration, the fund pool is divided up and each claimant is eligible to receive funds based on the points assigned to them, and the formulations established by the ASCRL Board of Directors, acting with the advice of the Advisory Board that represents broad cross sections of the photography and other visual arts industries. Maximum and minimum fees may be part of the formulation.

How does ASCRL get paid?
ASCRL receives funding from grants and loans from foreign RROs, CMOs, and trade associations to help ASCRL with operations. As a not-for-profit corporation that is required to operate under strict IRS guidelines, ASCRL also receives funds from the distributions provided by its sister societies in order to pay the costs of administering the organization, its bilateral relationships in foreign countries, and for the business office systems and accounting administration that are required to audit and distribute payments, and to account to the sister societies regarding fund distribution. ASCRL administration fees are paid by the foreign collecting societies, who restrict and strictly limit ASCRL fees to reasonable operating fees. 

Does ASCRL give licenses for my work?
ASCRL is not a licensing agency. ASCRL collects, administers, and distributions only the funds that are available through foreign reprographic rights organizations and foreign collective management organizations, and it does not engage in any direct licensing of visual art or photographic works of its members on an individual author, work by work, basis, nor is it ASCRL’s mission to collect money for copyright infringements or illegal uses of work that occur outside the U.S. By joining ASCRL you do not give up your copyright or right to license your work in the U.S., or abroad. ASCRL distributes only the reprographic funds it collects from its foreign sister societies.

American Society for Collective Rights Licensing, Inc.
The Collection and Distribution of Reprographic Funds
For Visual Artists In The United States



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