Authors have called for Public Lending Right (PLR) to be extended to all e-book loans from libraries.
PLR is paid to an author each time a physical edition of a book of theirs is borrowed from a UK public library. It will be paid for audiobook loans and e-book loans made on library premises from 2015. However, according to a statement on the PLR website: “Libraries have advised us that they do not have facilities to enable e-books to be downloaded onto portable devices and taken away from the premises, and that all e-book and digital audio lending is carried out ‘remotely’ to home PCs and mobile devices.”
Author C J Daugherty said: “Digital is such a big part of how people read these days, so if e-books are available for lending but a significant proportion of those are left out of PLR, you can imagine how much authors stand to lose. It’s not whether we want digital, but how to incorporate it at all levels of publishing and book lending, and how to fairly recompense writers so they can afford to keep writing.”
Tracy Chevalier, chair of the PLR advisory committee, said: “No one goes to the library to download an e-book—it is done from home, or elsewhere. I suspect e-books will be loaned more and more, and authors shouldn’t lose out because a loan is ‘e’ rather than ‘p’.”
Author Keren David said that while remote e-book lending should be covered by PLR, it could make it “even more difficult” for authors to make a living. “I think what writers fear about remote e-book lending is what you might call a Spotification of reading; instead of buying books people pay pennies to borrow them,” she said. “We’ve all heard about the effect music-streaming sites have had on musicians’ incomes, and fear that remote e-lending might do the same to us.”
Martyn Wade, chair of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) council, said: “CILIP encourages the government to seek the necessary changes to EU copyright law so that [PLR] can be extended to remote loans, and to support more general changes to copyright law that would give libraries a right to purchase and lend e-books.”
The Sieghart Review, which reported on the UK’s library service, called for the government to extend PLR to e-books lent remotely, by changing UK and EU copyright laws during the next legislative term.
A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media & Sport said: “There is widespread support for the extension of PLR to remote loans of e-books but EU legislation currently prevents such an extension. The government believes the EU copyright framework should be reviewed to support e-lending initiatives, of which government is broadly supportive, provided rights-holders are remunerated.”