Although the basic idea behind public lending rights (PLR) is the same across countries -- compensation to authors for use of their work in public libraries -- the details vary. According to Public Lending Rights International, three general approaches are used.
The first, found for example in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, is based on copyright. In essence, libraries lease the right to provide authors’ works to the public, somewhat like they lease access to databases. In each country an organization representing writers deals with licensing and fee distribution. These transactions may be with the national or privincial government, or in some cases, directly with libraries. Under this arrangement, an author could choose to withhold use of their work in libraries as part of their copyright privilege.
A second type, used in the United Kingdom, considers PLR as an issue of compensation, rather than copyright. The UK’s 1979 PLR Act determined that government owes writers some remuneration for public use of their works in libraries. The act has nothing to do with licensing. A government agency oversees the program.
The third system is designed to support cultural goals. Scandinavian countries use PLR to encourage writing in their native languages. Authors receive no payment for books written in English, for example.
Denmark was the first country to initiate PLR in 1946. Norway followed in 1947, Sweden in 1954 and the UK in 1979. PLR are part of the European Union framework, as well. Another 13 countries have passed legislation regarding PLR but haven’t yet implemented systems for funding and payment.
PLR programs do not exist in the U.S., South America, Asia or Africa.
Various methods are used to calculate payments but the two most common are per library loan and per copy held by libraries. Statistics are gathered annually from a sampling of libraries to calculate payments. Criteria to qualify for PLR payments also vary by country; some apply only to books and authors, while others include illustrators, photographers, translators, and publishers. In some cases, audio books and music recordings are covered, as well.
Next: Canadian Claire Eamer on PLR in Canada.