What is Public Lending Right (PLR)?
Public Lending Right is the right of authors and other rightsholders to receive payment for the free public use of their works in libraries.
How long has it existed?

PLR has been in existence since the 1940s. The first country to establish a PLR system was Denmark in 1946, followed by Norway in 1947 and Sweden in 1954.

How widespread internationally is PLR?

33 countries currently have PLR systems. 29 of these are in Europe. Outside Europe only Australia, Canada, Israel and New Zealand have PLR systems. (A further 24 countries have made provision for lending rights in legislation but have not taken the next step of setting up working PLR systems.)

What is the legal basis for PLR?

The 33 national PLR systems fall into three broad categories:

  • Copyright-based systems where lending is an exclusive right;
  • PLR as a separate remuneration right recognised in law;
  • PLR as part of State support for culture (mainly in Scandinavia).

Some countries incorporate a combination of all three approaches.

What is the position on PLR in the European Union?

The 1992 Directive on Rental and Lending Right (reconstituted in 2006) requires Member States to recognise authors’ lending rights and set up PLR systems to give effect to these. Currently, 24 EU Member States have PLR schemes, although there remain problems in several States with the effectiveness of the system and the levels of funding. Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal and Romania do not yet have PLR systems.

Which countries are likely to be next to set up PLR systems?

In Greece and Malawi, recent copyright legislation has made provision for PLR and discussions on how the new schemes will operate are ongoing. In Turkey, draft PLR legislation awaits parliamentary approval. In Hong Kong the government has accepted the case for PLR in principle following a campaign by authors and publishers. Discussions continue on implementation.

How is PLR funded?

In most countries PLR is directly funded by central or regional government and payments do not come from library budgets.

How are payments calculated?

Most commonly PLR is distributed to authors and other stakeholders in the form of payments related to how often their works have been lent out by libraries. This payment-per-loan approach can be found in countries like the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Malta. In Sweden, where the bulk of the PLR funding is paid out to authors in line with book lending, PLR payments are also made to authors of reference works which are used for on-the-spot reference in libraries and are not available for loan.

Alternatively, payment can be made to rightsholders in line with how many copies of their books are held by libraries – this stock or title count method is operated by countries such as Canada, Denmark and Australia.

Other approaches include relating payments to book purchases. This is the approach in France where part of the overall PLR fund comes from a small payment made by booksellers every time they sell a book to a library. The remaining part of the PLR fund is covered by the state budget according to how many users are registered in the libraries (the users do not have to pay any fees). PLR funds are used in some countries to provide authors with pensions (Germany and France), and in others to pay for travel grants and scholarships (Norway, Italy and Slovenia).

Who qualifies for payment?

In addition to writers, other contributors to books such as illustrators and visual artists, translators, editors and photographers commonly qualify for PLR payments; in eight countries publishers share the PLR payments with authors.