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?

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?

53 countries are known to have recognised lending rights in their copyright or other legislation.

33 of these have taken the next step of setting up a PLR system. (Systems exist where payments are being made, or where there is PLR legislation and funding has been committed.)

29 of the PLR systems are in Europe: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. 

The other working systems are in Canada, Israel, New Zealand and Australia.

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

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What is the legal basis for PLR?

The 33 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 and Austria, 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 which, since October 2013, is part of the British Library.

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, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, 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 by the PLR office from a sample of public library computer systems across the country. 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 6.20 pence in 2014.

(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 is the system that operates 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.

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 authors in the UK and other states. 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 (first enacted in 1992 and reconstituted in 2006) 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 lending 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 initially 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.

In Ireland legislation was passed in November 2007 and the Library Council took responsibility for PLR. Development of a PLR system was undertaken by the UK’s PLR office on behalf of the Library Council. The system was completed in December 2009 and first payments made in February 2010. In 2012, following abolition of the Library Council, the Irish government contracted with the UK’s PLR office top manage the day-to-day operation of Irish PLR.

The Spanish government has amended its legislation and funding is now available for PLR although the collecting society CEDRO which has responsibility for PLR fees has been experiencing difficulties in collecting PLR payments from local municipalities as required by the Spanish PLR system; the Italian government has also amended its legislation to recognise PLR and the collecting society SIAE is administering the new PLR payments.

The Portuguese government has amended the PLR provisions of its copyright legislation to meet Commission objections but continues to exclude public libraries from PLR. Official complaints have been lodged with the European Commission by authors’ organisations in Spain and Portugal about what they see as the governments’ failure to implement effective PLR systems.

Legislation and funding are in place in Luxembourg where the collecting society LUXORR will administer payments.

The Czech Republic introduced legislation in 2006 and the collecting society DILIA has negotiated lending licences on behalf of authors with libraries. First payments to authors have been made.

Regulations to implement a formal PLR scheme in the Slovak Republic have been implemented by the government and payments are now being made by the collecting society LITA.

Cyprus: following discussions between the government, libraries and authors’ organisations, and studies of book lending in local and school libraries, the logistics of setting up a PLR operation were felt to be too challenging in present circumstances. Instead, as an interim solution, the government agreed in 2013 to make a ‘symbolic’ annual budget of Euro 5,000 available to authors’ organisations to distribute for the benefit of authors.

In Romania the Directive has been implemented but currently public library lending is exempt. The government undertook a consultation as part of a review of copyright law (including PLR) in June 2014.

Bulgarian law makes no provision for PLR.

Plans in Greece by the Collective Management Organisation OSDEL to provide books to public libraries in exchange for agreement to set up PLR remain to be agreed with the libraries concerned.

Croatia has implemented the 1992 Lending Right Directive in its national legislation. PLR funding of Euro 260,000 has been provided by the government to the Croatian Writers Association and will be paid out to authors for loans of their books during 2013. The scheme is administered by the National Library.

Hungary now has PLR legislation and an organisation established to administer the PLR system but the government (in 2008) postponed the allocation of funding for the new scheme. First payments were made in 2013.

Malta’s first PLR system will be up and running in 2014. It will be run by the National Library with funding of Euro 25,000 from the government. Payments will be made to registered authors on the basis of book loans.

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

In 2013 Polish authors and publishers were at an advanced stage of negotiations with the Ministry of Culture on the details of Poland’s first PLR system. Expectations are that the new system will be up and running in early 2014, with payments likely to be based on numbers of book loans and titles available for lending.

All three non-EU member states in the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) have PLR systems.

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Where can I get more information about PLR?

Information 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, former Head of UK PLR. More information about the Network and its activities can be found on this website or direct from the PLR office (jim.parker@bl.uk).

The Network organises periodic training seminars on PLR and a two-yearly conference. The last PLR conference was held in Dublin in September 2013 and was attended by representatives form 33 countries. The next conference is planned for Amsterdam in September 2015. The conferences are open to people with an interest in PLR from any professional background – government, libraries, publishing, authorship, collecting societies, authors’ rights etc.

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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 or contact Jim Parker direct (email address provided above).

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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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