frequently asked questions


What is Public Lending Right (PLR)?

How long has it existed?

How many countries recognise PLR?

What is the legal basis for PLR?

How do these approaches work?

How are payments to authors calculated and who qualifies?

What does the EU Lending Right Directive say?

How has the Directive been implemented by EU States?

What is the PLR situation in the new EU Member States?

Where can I get more information about PLR?

How can I update information on this site?

Can I be sent updates regarding PLR international developments?

 

 

What is Public Lending Right (PLR)?

Public Lending Right is the right of authors to receive payment for free public use of their works in libraries.

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How long has it existed?

PLR has been around since the 1940s. The first country to establish a PLR system was Denmark in 1946, followed by Norway in 1947 and Sweden in 1954. The UK system was set up by the PLR Act of 1979.

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How many countries recognise PLR?

At least 41 countries recognise lending rights in their legislation; but PLR systems exist in only 28 of these.  (Systems exist where payments are being made, or where there is PLR legislation and funding has been provided.) 24 of these are in Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.  Additionally (in 2007) the governments of Cyprus and Hungary are taking active steps to implement PLR schemes. 

Elsewhere there are working PLR systems in Australia, Canada, Israel and New Zealand. Copyright legislation in Mauritius and Kazakhstan provides for lending rights but no PLR system is yet in operation. In Japan a government advisory committee recommended in 2003 that discussions take place between author and library organisations towards the introduction of PLR, but this has not yet resulted in proposals for a PLR system.

There are no PLR systems in the United States, South America, Asia or Africa.

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What is the legal basis for PLR?

The 28 national PLR systems fall broadly into 3 categories:  (a) copyright-based; (b) PLR as a separate remuneration right recognised in law; (c) PLR as part of State support for culture. Some countries incorporate a combination of all three approaches.

Within the European Union, the 1992 Directive on Lending and Rental Right established a copyright framework for the recognition of authors’ lending rights by Member States.

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How do these approaches work?

The copyright-based approach can be found, for example, in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Latvia, where lending is seen as a form of copyright exploitation of authors’ works.  Authors have the right to license the lending of their works by libraries.  Arrangements for licensing and distribution of fees are undertaken by collecting societies on behalf of rightsholders. In Austria and Germany authors’ organisations negotiate with the federal and provincial governments; in the Netherlands negotiations are directly with the libraries.

PLR as a right to remuneration outside copyright exists in the UK.  The 1979 PLR Act gives authors a legal right to receive payment from the government for the lending out of their books by public libraries.  This is a right to payment, not an exclusive right allowing authors to prohibit or license the lending of their books.  The PLR system is administered by the PLR office, a small government agency.

PLR as part of State support for culture exists mainly in the Scandinavian countries where, for example, payments are made only to authors of books written in a country’s native language.  This is aimed at minority languages and encouraging the writing of literature in those languages.  The effect is to prevent PLR payments in those countries going to writers in more dominant languages such as English.

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How are payments to authors calculated and who qualifies?

The two main methods of calculation are as follows: (a) payment on the basis of how often an author’s works are lent out; and (b) payment per copy of an author’s work held in libraries.

(a) The PLR systems in the UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Iceland, Estonia and Slovenia all make payments to authors in line with the number of times their books are borrowed.  For example, in the UK details of book loans are collected from a sample of public library computer systems across the country by the PLR office. This data is used to calculate the estimated number of times that books are borrowed nationally, and payment is made on the basis of an annually calculated rate per loan. This was 5.98 pence in 2007. 

(b) Alternatively, payment can be made to authors for each copy of their books held by libraries (eg in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark).

Other approaches include relating payments to book purchases,  which will be the new system in France. In Norway, the Culture Ministry negotiates an overall amount of funding with a committee of authors’ organisation representatives; the money is then divided among the organisations for distribution as grants to their members; in Finland government funding is made available for authors to apply for – the funding equates to a percentage of government expenditure on library books; in Iceland PLR funding from the government is made available in a number of ways, such as grants,  but recently has been changed to include payment for book loans using the UK model.

Each PLR system has its own rules about who may qualify for payment, but EU Member States cannot discriminate on grounds of nationality.  The Scandinavian countries restrict payment to authors writing in their own languages; as copyright-based systems, the German, Dutch and Austrian PLR schemes need to follow the rules of ‘national treatment’, and all three make payments to UK authors via ALCS. The UK system is open to authors resident in any country in the European Economic Area (ie EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

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What does the EU Lending Right Directive say?

The Directive gives authors and other rightsholders an exclusive right to license or prohibit the lending of their works by libraries.  However, Member States may derogate from an exclusive right provided that they remunerate rightsholders for the loan of their works.  Member States are also permitted to exclude from the right the lending of authors’ works from specific categories of library; they may also give priority to their national cultural objectives in establishing PLR schemes.

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How has the Directive been implemented by EU States?

Most Member States have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) the Directive in their own copyright legislation. Belgium did not do this and was successfully taken to court by the European Commission as a result.  The Belgian government has now put legislation in place and the collecting society REPROBEL has responsibility for giving effect to the law. Most of the north European countries already had PLR systems. France passed PLR legislation in May 2003 and in March 2005 appointed the authors’ organisation SOFIA to manage the new system.   First payments were made in 2008.

Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland chose to take advantage of the flexibilities provided by the Directive to recognise PLR in principle, but to exclude the lending out of works by public libraries from any obligation on the part of the State to remunerate authors.  This approach was challenged by the European Commission and the Commission began proceedings against Ireland, Spain and Portugal for improper implementation in December 2004; further proceedings against Italy and Luxembourg were not considered as each government committed itself to introducing new PLR legislation; however, the Commission initiated proceedings in March 2005 as neither country had made satisfactory progress. Since then, Ireland introduced legislation in November 2007and details of the new Irish PLR scheme are currently being worked out by the government. The Spanish government has amended its legislation and funding is now available for PLR; the Italian government has also amended its legislation to recognise PLR and the collecting society SIAE will administer the new PLR system. The Portuguese government has amended the PLR provisions of its copyright legislation to meet Commission objections but continues to exclude public libraries from PLR.  Legislation and funding are in place in Luxembourg where the collecting society LUXORR will administer payments.  

All three European Economic Area countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) have PLR systems.   

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what is the PLR situation in the new eu member states?

The following countries have all incorporated the Lending Right Directive in their copyright legislation: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Cyprus, the Slovak Republic and  Slovenia.  The Czech Republic introduced legislation in 2006 and the collecting society DILIA will negotiate lending licences on behalf of authors with libraries. First payments are expected in 2008.  Regulations to implement a formal PLR scheme in the Slovak Republic have not yet been implemented by the government, but PLR funding will be made available to LITA, the Slovak collecting society, for distribution to authors during 2007 on the basis of loans data supplied by the National Library. 

The Cyprus Writers’ Union has been in discussion (April 2007) with the government on how a PLR system might be set up to meet the requirements of the 1992 Directive.

In Romania the Directive has been implemented but currently public library lending is exempt. Bulgarian law makes no provision for PLR

Of the EU candidate states, Croatia has implemented the 1992 Lending Right Directive in its national legislation but the establishment of a PLR system awaits discussions with an appropriate authors’ collecting society to administer it. The Turkish government is looking at harmonising its copyright legislation with EU directives, and a delegation of experts is visiting the UK in November 2007 to look in detail at the working of the UK’s PLR system. 

The three Baltic countries and Slovenia have established working PLR schemes.  They have all have chosen systems that will make payments on the basis of book lending, though the new Slovenian system (first payments made in 2004) also makes payments in the form of scholarships. Lithuania is the first to have made payments to authors, in 2002. Estonia followed in 2004.

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Where can I get more information about PLR?

IInformation and advice for countries interested in setting up their own PLR systems and in interpreting the provisions of the EU Lending Right Directive is available from the International PLR Network.  This is an informal network which brings together the national PLR organisations and other interested individuals and bodies. It is co-ordinated by Dr Jim Parker, Registrar at the UK’s PLR office.  More information about the Network and its activities can be found on this website or direct from the PLR office (jim.parker@plr.uk.com).

The Network organises periodic training seminars on PLR and a two-yearly conference. The last two-yearly conference was held in Paris in September 2007 and the next is planned for Lisbon in early 2009. Training seminars aimed at the newest EU member states have been held under the aegis of the European Writers Congress and with funding from the Norwegian collecting society, Kopinor, in London (2003), Rome (2004), Madrid (2006) and Budapest (2007). The next is planned for Romania in September 2008.

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How can I update information on this site?

You can complete a Feedback form which is sent directly to the PLR International Coordinator.

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Can I be sent updates regarding PLR International Developments?

Yes. If you complete the form in the Subscribe section of this site, you will automatically be informed via email, when a new development occurs.

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