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PLR and volunteer-run libraries

Last updated: 30 October 2012

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, responded to Nicola Solomon's latest letter about PLR and volunteer-run libraries on 10 September. Click here to read Ed Vaizey's letter. As this reply doesn't answer the original points raised, Nicola has since resent her letter of 21 August. Click here to read Nicola Solomon's letter.

Following an article from the libraries campaign group, Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (Is Gloucestershire County Council giving unlawful advice to Community Libraries?) which prompted the PLR Registrar to confirm that volunteer libraries outside a council’s statutory provision would not pay the PLR, Nicola Solomon sent a letter to culture minister Ed Vaizey (17 July) to raise a number of concerns. In the letter Nicola says:

“DCMS has now confirmed that it is their understanding that the new community libraries are not covered by PLR, as they are outside the statutory library service. Under the Council Directive authors are entitled to equitable compensation for any such loans. However, it seems that the Government may have failed in its obligations to enact appropriate UK law for this purpose.”

We feel that the government must provide clearer direction on how PLR might be paid if the volunteer-run libraries share the same Lending Right Scheme as council-run libraries. Nicola continues:

“We urge the government to provide clear guidance to volunteers and the PLR issues on how these issues are to be tackled without delay and to explain how this model satisfies the requirement to provide a comprehensive library service.”

The letter reiterates our call for the government to extend PLR to e-book and audiobook loans as it is meant to be under Section 43 of the Digital Economy Act 2010, saying the payments have never been implemented and that this is “patently unjust”.

The response from Ed Vaizey does not answer the main points we made previously and Nicola Solomon has therefore written a reply and further request to answer our points - particularly in relation to European obligations.

Again, as Ed Vaizey's letter did not satisfactorily answer the main points, Nicola Solomon wrote to him again on 21 August.

As this reply doesn't answer the original points raised, Nicola has since resent her letter of 21 August and the DCMS have sent the reply below.

Related Articles:

The Background

In May we wrote to Louise Mensch MP to put forward the views of authors in relation to libraries and particularly our concerns over Public Lending Right and volunteer-run libraries.

In this letter we quote Public Lending Right Registrar Jim Parker who said that under existing legislation, PLR payments to authors for their library loans will not apply to books loaned by volunteer-run libraries which are no longer run by local authorities. In a response to a query from Lewisham library campaigners, Jim Parker said:

"Under the PLR legislation, PLR only applies to public libraries administered by local library authorities as defined by the Public Libraries Act (1964). This, therefore, would exclude library branches no longer run by the local authority and taken over by voluntary groups."

However Jim Parker said it would be a "grey area" in locations where local authorities were allowing volunteers to run branches while still remaining under their umbrella.

The letter asked Louise Mensch to confirm that PLR will continue to be paid, whoever runs the library. Any book lending should result in a PLR payment to the author.

About the PLR scheme

The Public Lending Right scheme provides authors with a modest payment each time one of their books is borrowed from a public library. PLR is designed to balance the social need for free public access to books against an author’s right to be remunerated for the use of their work.

PLR is particularly important to authors whose books are sold mainly to libraries and to those whose books are no longer in print but are still being read. Press coverage tends to focus on a few successful authors, yet most struggle to make ends meet. PLR provides a significant and much-valued part of many such authors’ incomes.

Although PLR is a legal right rather than a grant or subsidy, its funding has already been subject to significant cuts and we continue to press for funding to be reinstated. Not only would it be unfair and deeply damaging to authors if PLR were not paid on loans from volunteer libraries, it would also be unlawful.

Under the UK's copyright legislation book lending is a copyright act and a licence may be needed - except where PLR applies. Council Directive 92/100/EEC of 19 November 1992 on rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property creates a "rental and lending right" under which authors have the exclusive right, subject to limitations, to authorise or prohibit the rental or lending of their works [Art. 2(1)]. The rental and lending right may be transferred, but even if it is transferred, the author retains an inalienable and unwaivable right to equitable compensation. Member States may allow a derogation for public lending (i.e. public libraries) provided that authors obtain royalties.

The SoA position

We believe that if volunteer-run libraries are not covered under the PLR scheme then lending by them is unlawful unless authorised by the author, and authors would be entitled to sue such libraries for copyright infringement. Obviously it would be preferable to ensure that there is a statutory solution. And if we are to see more branch libraries dropping out of the statutory service and being reconstituted as privately-run libraries the government may need to look again at the existing legislation.

In addition, section 43 of the Digital Economy Act 2010 extends PLR to audiobooks and ebooks “lent out” from library premises for a limited time but these payments have never been implemented. This is patently unjust. We urge that this provision be brought into force and that extra funds be made available to cover PLR payments for such lending.

Related articles

Authors are getting cross - Nicola Solomon in The Spectator

Authors face royalty threat from volunteer libraries - The Guardian

Dan Jarvis accuses Government of incompetence on library lending - SoA website

Solomon presses Vaizey for answers on PLR - The Bookseller

DCMS accused of ‘incompetence’ over PLR confusion - The Bookseller

Government's shambles over volunteer libraries continues - Dan Jarvis MP website

Is Gloucestershire County Council giving unlawful advice to Community Libraries? - Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

PLR - how it applies - DCMS website



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