We are delighted that, following many years of lobbying by the Society of Authors, legislation has been passed by Parliament to extend Public Lending Right (PLR) to ebooks and audio books loaned remotely from public libraries. The new legislation is part of the Digital Economy Bill, which received royal assent on 27 April 2017.
It is a great victory for our members, and makes the UK the first country in the world to extend PLR to ebooks and audio books. We worked hard with many parties, including authors, libraries, publishers, agents, bookshops and the DCMS to ensure that the Bill was passed prior to the dissolution of Parliament before the upcoming General Election.
Commenting, writer and Society of Authors council member Joanna Trollope said:
This is such good news. Some justice at last! Of course, it is the successful writers who hit the headlines, but there are so many good but unshowy writers for whom PLR is of vital importance and for whom this legislation will make a significant difference.
PLR will apply to ebooks and audio books loaned remotely after 1 July 2018, with the first payments to authors due to be paid in arrears in January 2020. The rate of payment will be the same as for physical loans, currently 7p per loan, and the overall cap will remain the same.
Ebook loans form a small but steadily growing proportion of public library loans. In the year to April 2016 there were around 4 million ebook loans. Around 2 million titles are currently available to be purchased by libraries for ebook lending, with only Hachette the major publisher currently not making ebooks available in this way.
The wording of the new legislation has been carefully negotiated between all interested parties to ensure that books could be made available to libraries and PLR paid, while still protecting the commercial interests of publishers and authors.
Where next for PLR?
We will be working closely on several points over the months ahead.
- We will be working with the PLR office over the coming months to clarify the registration process.
- We will continue to press for the fund to be maintained
- We will press Government to pay the PLR office for the costs of introducing the new scheme and upgrading the present systems for easier use
- And we will continue to campaign for PLR to be extended to volunteer libraries, ending the anomaly under which private lending libraries do not pay authors on loans.
A note for authors
It is possible to register your ebooks now but we and the PLR office advise that you wait until further notice, when the system has been updated and guidance notes prepared. That is likely to be in the autumn.
In the meantime, don’t forget to ensure that you have registered all your physical books by 30 June 2017 to ensure that you receive payment for the 2016/2017 year.