The public lending right and what it does

Author:Jim Parker
Position:Coordinator of the PLR International Network
SUMMARY

The public lending right (PLR) is the legal right that allows authors and other right holders to receive payment from government to compensate for the free loan of their books by public and other libraries.

 
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Maureen Duffy, writer and veteran of the authors that led to the right being introduced in the UK in 1979 after a twenty-year struggle, summarizes PLR as follows:

“First and foremost PLR upholds the principle of ‘no use without payment’. This is the basis for the concept of ‘fair remuneration’ which then carries over into photocopying and digital uses. It is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by which we are entitled to receive income from any exploitation of our work. If it is claimed that this interferes with another universal right – to access to knowledge and culture – our answer is that it supports the creation of new work, and we do not ask teachers to work for nothing.”

Currently 33 countries have PLR systems. The lending right has been recognized in European Union law since 1992 and all but four of the countries with PLR systems are in Europe.

Denmark was the first country to establish a PLR system in 1946, followed by Norway in 1947 and Sweden in 1954. But the idea of a PLR actually dates from 1919 when the Nordic Authors’ Association passed a resolution calling on governments to compensate authors for library lending of their books.

New Zealand was the first country outside of Europe to establish a PLR system in 1973, followed by Australia in 1974, and Canada and Israel in 1986.

Around 26 other countries recognize the legal right of authors to license the loan of their works but have not yet established systems to enable authors to receive PLR remuneration. This is often the case in countries with no collective management organization to administer a PLR system, or where book lending by public libraries – the essential component of most PLR systems – has been excluded in legislation from any PLR obligation.

The most recent PLR system to begin operation is in Poland where the first payments to authors for the loan of their books by public libraries were made in 2016.

The legal basis for PLR

Most PLR systems exist in Europe where member states of the European Union are required by law, under the Rental and Lending Right Directive (Directive 2006/115/EC), to provide authors with an exclusive right over the lending out of their works or at least to provide them with remuneration for the lending out of their works.

The Directive (first passed in 1992 and reconstituted in 2006) gives authors and other right holders an exclusive right to authorize or prohibit the lending of their works by libraries. Member states...

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