Public Lending Right (PLR) allows authors to be fairly paid for each loan when their work is lent through public libraries. It was granted in 1979 after a long campaign by the Society of Authors and others. 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.
The scheme provides authors with a modest payment (around 8.5p) each time one of their books (written or audio) is borrowed from a public library. Over 22,000 writers, illustrators, photographers, translators and editors receive PLR payments of up to £6,600 each year.
Although this does not replace the royalties authors would receive if the books had been purchased by each borrower, PLR provides a significant and much-valued part of many authors’ incomes, particularly to authors whose books are sold mainly to libraries and to those whose books are no longer in print but are still being read.
PLR for e-books
Legislation to extend PLR to include remote loans of e-books and e-audiobooks became law as part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act. This followed a long campaign, and discussions between ourselves, authors, publishers, agents and booksellers to balance the rights and concerns of all parties.
The extension of PLR to e-lending came into force on 1 July 2018, with the first in arrears payments due to be made by February 2020. This represents a great victory for SoA members.
What are we asking for?
We are calling for the PLR budget to be ring-fenced as part of the Government’s next spending review, particularly following the extension of the scheme to e-books. We are also calling for PLR to be extended to volunteer libraries, ending the anomaly under which private lending libraries do not pay authors for loans.