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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Is it time for the United States to establish a Public Lending Right?

"Thirty-five countries—including the United Kingdom, every country in Europe, Canada, Israel, and Australia—support their authors with cash payments from the national government in compensation for the free library lending of their books. Over the past half-century, all these nations have established systems of Public Lending Right....PLR recognizes two fundamental principles: the need for society to provide free access to books, and the right of authors to be remunerated for their work. These principles should not be in conflict. The Authors Guild believes in both. We plan to work with the nation’s libraries to create a system that will benefit authors and libraries alike." -- James Gleick, Support of a Public Lending Right in the United States (PLR) (Authors Guild Bulletin, Winter 2018/Spring 2019)


"Paying authors for library loans is not a charity,” he said, “it’s a right: a payment for the service of borrowing an author’s work.” Robert Caro, Barbara Tuchman, and Anne Edwards were among the well-known authors who championed the cause. Preliminary bills were introduced in both houses of Congress. Eventually, in the Reagan era, the effort died.


"But overseas the evident justice and utility of PLR systems has persuaded country after country. Last year our counterparts in the U.K., the Society of Authors, led a successful effort to extend their program to include e-lending. Beginning July 1, authors became eligible for payments for library lending of their ebooks and audiobooks....

"The maximum payment to any one author would be capped: the idea is not to reward J. K. Rowling (no offense, Joanne) but to provide some much-needed help for midlist authors....


We never want to tell a library not to lend our books—love of libraries is at the core of who we are. At the same time, librarians themselves are recognizing that they need the professional author to survive... author income that once came from the use of books in classrooms has been evaporating. Expensive high-speed scanners are now standard equipment in university department offices, and university libraries increasingly believe it is their right to distribute digital copies of chapters and whole books throughout their communities. This turns authors into forced unpaid donors. A robust PLR system would restore some fairness."

The Authors Guild Calls for a “Public Lending Right” (Nate Hoffelder, The Digital Reader, 1-16-19) "The Authors Guild was somewhat correct when they said 22,000 authors in the UK were paid up to 6,600 pounds, but what they forgot to tell you was that almost as many authors were paid zilch.

"According to UK data from 2017 (the most recent I can find), a total of 41,750 authors were listed in the PLR system when the payments went out in February. Of that number, 19,548 received nothing at all because their share was less than one pound. Another 16.654 received under 100 pounds, while 3,232 received under 500 pounds (PDF).

"The numbers are almost as bad in Canada, where 59% of all registered authors were paid less than $253.80 CAD in June 2018 (this includes the authors who were paid nothing)."



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