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 11p, but see below for the 2021/22 rate) 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 in February 2020.
What are we asking for?
Although we welcome PLR, we ask for some reforms:
We are calling for the PLR budget to be ring-fenced and the (already meagre) fund to be increased, particularly following the extension of the scheme to e-books. We were disappointed that this was not addressed in the Government’s last spending review. Taking into account the UK population, our PLR funding is well below that of comparable EU countries. At £6 million net of administration costs, it compares badly with the £14 million annually in Germany (£11.2 million on a population-adjusted basis at current exchange rates).
We are also calling for PLR to be extended to volunteer libraries. The government must include these libraries in the PLR scheme so that true figures for library lending can be recorded and remunerated. This, along with decreased lending due to the pandemic and continuing cuts, mean the government is failing to fulfil its obligation to provide “a comprehensive and efficient” library service, and this must not happen.
PLR should also be extended to school libraries, prison libraries and private lending libraries, ending the anomaly under which these do not pay authors for loans.
Rate per loan 2021/2022
We accept The British Library Board’s proposed increase in rate per loan of 30.53 pence for payments in the 2021 to 2022 year, an increase of 19.27 pence from 11.26 pence for the previous year. The increase reflects the central fund being unchanged and a reduction in the estimated number of loans of books registered for PLR due to Covid lockdowns that year. It is not an increase and most authors will receive very similar PLR payments to the previous year.
However, in a letter to government on 21 October 2022, we have continued to call for the reforms outlined above.
We are a member of the Creator’s Rights Alliance (CRA) #PayTheCreator campaign, which brings together the campaigning work of member organisations to collectively call for creators of all types to be paid properly for the work they do, and the rights they grant, and to be given the same considerations enjoyed by other workers in the areas of pay, business support and policy making.