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Discussions on public lending rights and tasks ahead

 

2019.09.09

 

Public lending rights (PLR) refer to the rights authors, and other original content creators have in regards to books that are loaned to the public by institutions like public libraries. PLR is a credit-type right to claim compensation in order to make up for losses the content creator may face due to the lending of their book by libraries to the public. It is not a real proprietary right that has the power to permit or ban the use of the published work itself.

 


Countries that have adopted PLR

 

Nearly all the countries that have PLR are in Europe because the program implementation was made mandatory as part of a European Community (EC) agreement.

 

PLR was first adopted by Denmark in 1946 and enforced by other European countries slowly after then. As of August 2019, 33 countries around the world have implemented this program (some state 35 countries currently have PLR in place when including the Faroe Islands and Greece, but the Faroe Islands are part of the Kingdom of Denmark and not a member of the United Nations, rendering them difficult to see as a separate country, while Greece has been mired in multi-year-long discussions over minor details regarding the policy). Out of these countries, 29 are in Europe while the remaining four are New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Israel. Nearly all the countries that have PLR are in Europe because the program implementation was made mandatory as part of a European Community (EC) agreement back in 1992 involving rights to lease and loan. Even after the European Union was established, the program was kept more or less the same under a revamped agreement.
Out of the 28 member countries of the EU where PLR is mandatory, 24 countries currently enforce it with the exception of Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Portugal. Regarding this, PLR International (PLRi) and the International Authors Forum have been seeking ways to adopt this program in those four countries, where no compensation is given to authors of books in public libraries.
Among the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 27 countries have PLR in place with the exception of Greece, South Korea, Mexico, the United States, Switzerland, Japan, Chile, Turkey and Portugal.

 

The logo and website for PLR International

The logo and website for PLR International

 


Details on PLR programs and current status

 

The details of PLR programs adopted by individual countries and how they have been implemented all vary, in terms of legal grounds on which compensation is provided for public lending of books, compensation recipients, the source of funds for compensation, the scope of libraries that fall under the program, books that are subject to PLR and general rules on compensation-setting. Below is a table on the PLR programs in Germany, the United Kingdom and France, which all have publishing markets of substantial size.

 

〈Table〉 Comparisons of PLR programs in Germany, the U.K. and France

 

  Germany UK France
Introduction period/
Implementation period
1972/1973 1979/1982 2003/2006
Legal basis Copyright law Public lending law Intellectual property law
Subject materials All books, audiobooks, audio-visual materials Books (audiobooks, e-books included as of July 1, 2018) Books
Institutions Public libraries, university libraries, special libraries Public libraries Public libraries
Selection standards Number of times material is borrowed Number of times material is borrowed ⓐ Number of purchased copies
ⓑ Number of library users
Compensation sources Federal government 10%,Regional government 90% Central government ⓐ 6% of funds used for library book purchases (VAT excluded)
ⓑ Central government budget
Management Managing associations (8) British Library SOFIA
Levy and distribution Library compensation center (ZBT) British Library ⓐ Book suppliers pay funds to managing groups per library instructions
Compensation recipients Authors, illustrators, translators, editors, publishers Authors, illustrators, translaters, editors, playwrights, audiobook narrators Authors, illustrators, publishers
Compensation distribution details After deductions for management fees, social funds, author pension fees, compensation given to authors and publishers (Academic publications 5:5, other 7:3) Authors, etc given amount equal to 〈Number of times borrowed x 8.52 pence〉- Annual compensation cap per person 6,600 pounds. Minimum amount 1 pound ⓐ Pension insurance fees for authors, translators partly paid with compensation
ⓑ Equal compensation for authors, publishers
Compensation size, number of recipients 16.65 mln euros (2018)/
9.98 mln euros paid by VG WORT
6 mln pounds/
22,314 authors (2018)
11.70 mln euros/
66,859 authors + 2,643 publishers (2018)
Source: PLR International, VG WORT 2018 annual report, British Library PLR News (Most borrowed authors and books in UK libraries, 2019.8.7), Recomposition of ECONOMIE DU LIVRE_le secteur du livre: chiffres-cles 2017-2018, 2019.3).

 


Discussions for PLR implementation in South Korea

 

If a PLR program is implemented in South Korea, all funds will come from the public sector and eventually, this is an issue that can't help but be connected to the tax burden the country's citizens will face.

 

Research and discussion on implementing a PLR program in South Korea began in 1986. Today, the dialogue is mostly being led by author groups, publishing associations and literary data organizations. Authors and publishers state, they should be allowed compensation of some sort as they face potential sales losses due to repeated, continuous lending of publications by public libraries. Meanwhile, experts on literary data and library-related officials say South Korea needs more public libraries when considering the current status of libraries in the country. If the number of libraries is to be increased, this would mean more spending on books and related officials say due to budget restraints, now is not the time to discuss PLR programs.
Should South Korea implement a PLR program, the funds for compensation would have to come from either national treasury funds or provincial budgets, as the central and regional governments are responsible for the establishment of public libraries. As public funds will be used for compensation as they are for purchasing library books, this is linked to taxpayers and the tax burdens they potentially face. It requires consideration on the part of the central government and provincial governments on what their budgets look like and how public funds can be distributed.
The national budget allocated for public libraries in 2017 was 98.5 billion won. This budget should be foremost focused on purchasing books for libraries, and PLR adoption should be discussed after the budget is raised by a substantial amount. To protect the rights of both authors and publishers and make up their financial losses, perhaps the implementation of a compensation program regarding the private copying of publications that will not need to dip into public funds is more needed than PLR programs.

 

 


Written by Park Ik-soon (Korean Publishing and Copyright Research Institute)

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Park Ik-soon (Korean Publishing and Copyright Research Institute)

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