In April, Ireland came up with a very creative way of helping author collect royalties for their world, while simultaneously making their work available to the largest group of people. The Department of Trade and Employment set up a system by which authors gather royalties each time their works are checked out at the library, better yet, this set up doesn’t cost the patron a cent. Some countries have extended this system to include CDs, audio-visual material and works of art.

This set up is formally know as the Public Lending Right (PLR), and its intent is to compensate authors for potential sale losses when their work is made available through public libraries. Currently about 30 countries have Public Lending Rights, including Canada, the UK, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and all the Scandinavian countries. There is some discussion of expending Public Lending Rights to cover all of the EU. PLR was first implemented in Denmark in 1946, and was followed shortly after by Norway in 1947, then the UK in 1979.

How Public Lending Rights are implemented tends to vary from country to country. The main division seems to be between countries that consider PLR part of copyright law, and those nations which wish to support culture, with a particular emphasis on local authors. Other differences include, whether foreign residing authors are excluded or not, payments often varies, with some countries making payment for each time a book is loaned, while others base the decision solely on whether the library owns the book.

The initiative is not without detractors. Some of the discontent in the EU circles around the issue of whether or not a country is conforming with EU Directives of Lending and Rental Rights while implementing PLR. These directives establish a framework that gives author and other right holders exclusive rights to license or prohibit lending. Along these lines, the PLR International has set up a website with advice for countries with existing PLR, and to council others considering the change.

Here is a paper presented at IFLA in 2002 about the issue, mainly as it concerns the EU.