Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Public Lending Right

Think downloading a book for free is the same as borrowing it from the library? If it's a local author, you could be denying them renumeration. Twice.

When libraries buy books the author gets their royalties from the sale. In addition to this, many countries have a public lending right program, which pays authors based on the number of books they have and or how often the books are borrowed from the library.

From the PLR website's downloadable pdf explanation:

"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.

How long has it existed?
PLR has been around since the 1 940s. 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.

How many countries recognise PLR?
Currently around 30 countries recognise lending rights in their legislation; but of these, only 15 have taken the next step of setting up a PLR scheme. (This should increase to 16 next year (2002) when a PLR scheme is set up in France.) Most of the working systems are in Europe, but PLR can also be found in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Israel."

Here's the link for established PLR programs around the world. Click on each country and you'll see how they renumerate their authors.

Yes, that's right, in many countries libraries pay their country's authors.

I discovered this through a comment on Robert J. Sawyer's website. The post is about remaindered books. The segment I'm quoting is part of the second comment.

"On public libraries compensating authors, it depends where you live. If it's in the United States, the author gets his or her normal $2.50 royalty when the library buys the hardcover -- and if 20 people read that hardcover over its life, the author gets 12.5 cents per reader.

If you live just about anywhere else in the Western world, there will be a Public Lending Right system, by which the government will compensate authors for the lost royalties on copies of their books circulated in their own country's libraries (on the assumption that it's wrong to use the author's tax dollars to fund a system that deprives the author of income).

In Canada, the maximum kickback to authors from libraries is about $2,800 per year -- not to be sneezed at, of course, but not huge [and down from $4,300 15 years ago], and only a very small percentage of Canadian SF authors would get the maximum (although I'm lucky enough to be one who does); you need a lot of books, and you need them to be stocked in just about every library, to get that amount."

It may not be much, but authors need to live if readers are to get more books. Just something to consider the next time you contemplate stealing an ebook with the justification of "it's just like borrowing it from the library".

And note, I find it unfortunate that the US doesn't have this system yet.


The Brillig Blogger said...

When you look at the to-do over the Google settlement in the United States, which is in many ways a private enterprise version of PLR for electronic books, don't expect to see a consensus forming here for any PLR equivalent any time soon. And who's going to pay it? Libraries are all locally funded, they're always on the chopping block when tax revenues plummet as they have in the past 18 months, and I wouldn't want to be the author leading the charge to say "so what if the library can only afford to be open three days a week instead of five, pay me instead."

Jessica Strider said...

I didn't realize the situation in the States was so bad. I read a news article that said many poor Americans require the library computers for internet access for job hunting and health information.


And then to see a lot of the libraries are closing on Sundays now, and many school libraries are being closed completely... boggles the mind.


In the Toronto area libraries have closed on Sundays for quite a while, usually only in the summer, but I fear that will get worse. And you'd think the summer, when kids are out of school, is when families would find sunday access a benefit.