The Public Lending Right (PLR) will be extended to cover e-books and e-audiobooks borrowed from libraries from 1st July.
The change means that authors are eligible for payment in the same way if their works are borrowed electronically or as physical books. The Society of Authors is "thrilled" at the news following years of its campaigning on the issue and said "authors will be delighted".
The UK is one of the first countries to extend its library lending compensation scheme to remote e-lending after E-lending in public libraries has risen dramatically in the past six years, according to the statement issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Last year more than 6,750,000 works were borrowed electronically, compared to just 750,000 in 2011/12.
Libraries minister Michael Ellis said: “We want to help our libraries thrive in the digital age. This legislation fulfils a manifesto commitment and recognises the exciting increase in e-lending. By extending the scheme we are ensuring authors are properly compensated as the e-book industry continues to grow into the future.”
Tom Holland, chair of the PLR Advisory Committee, said it was “excellent news that the government is backing a PLR fit for the 21st century”.
“This will be hugely to the benefit of authors, who are fully aware that printed books these days are not the only way of reaching their readers,” he said.
The PLR scheme is managed by the British Library on behalf of the government, with more than £6m of payments made to 22,000 authors, illustrators, photographers, translators and rights holders each year.
The change comes almost two years after an e-lending ruling passed by the European Union which said that the lending of digital books in public libraries should be treated the same as physical books in "certain conditions". The EU ruling in November 2016 was met with mixed reactions with publishers advising caution and librarians welcoming the change.
Provisions to extend PLR to e-books and digital audiobooks were contained in the Digital Economy Act 2017, but further secondary legislation was required before the changes could be implemented and the issue was being resolved slowly, according to the SoA.
"After many months of silence from the government, a consultation on the proposals was launched at the start of May this year," an SoA spokesperson said. "This followed a request from the Society of Authors to our members to write to culture secretary Matt Hancock urging him to proceed with the reforms, and over 350 of them did so in the space of just a few days."
SoA c.e.o. Nicola Solomon said: “We are thrilled that the extension of PLR to e-lending has finally been given the green light. PLR is a vital source of income for many authors, and it is only right that the same rules apply to e-lending as to the lending of physical books.
“Today’s announcement follows years of lobbying and campaigning alongside authors, booksellers, libraries, agents and publishers. All this work has finally reached fruition, and I know that authors will be delighted by the news.”
The society has campaigned on this issue for several years and in 2015 described how “while e-books lent on site are subject to PLR this is of little consequence when nearly all are remotely loaned”.
Because the changes will come into force from the beginning of July, in line with the start of the new PLR year (1st July to 30th June), it means that e-lending will be reflected in the PLR for 2018/19 year onwards.