The Society of Authors has welcomed the European Court's ruling on e-lending, which it argues removes “the final barrier” to applying Public Lending Right (PLR) to the remote lending of e-books and audiobooks.
Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) held that the definition of lending by public libraries in European copyright law also includes remote electronic lending. This is under the condition that only one copy can be downloaded during a specific lending period and that after the lending period ends the copy must no longer be usable.
Currently, remotely loaned books are not subject to PLR, which is the right for authors to receive payment for the loans of their books by public libraries. However, the SoA, who have been campaigning on this issue for "several years", says that the CJEU ruling, which is based on a ‘one copy, one user’ means that PLR on remote e-lending should be incorporated into a Government approved amendment to the Digital Economy Bill in the Lords early in 2017.
The Digital Economy Bill is currently being discussed at UK Parliament. The committee stage of the Bill was recently completed and saw the withdrawal of an amendment to extend PLR to remotely lent e-books. Minister Matt Hancock commented that the government has been considering ways to remunerate authors for remote e-lending from libraries, but said that any changes must be compatible with the Copyright Directive while we remain in the EU. He said that the result of this week’s ruling should inform the wording of an appropriate clause.
Meanwhile publishers and booksellers associations have expressed concerns over the e-lending ruling, with the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) saying: "Revenues from sales of physical books and e-books to the market are still the main way the sector is financed, and authors are remunerated. Very simply, it is difficult to compete in a market in which virtually the identical product is available for free."