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Educational Lending Right

Australian lending rights in the international context

All lending right programs around the globe are based on the premise that creators of books should be compensated for the potential loss of income they incur because their books are circulated through libraries instead of purchased. Creators of books may include authors, illustrators, editors, compilers, translators and publishers. In Australia we have two such programs: Public Lending Right (PLR) and Educational Lending Right (ELR).

International context

Twenty-three countries currently have a national Public Lending Rights system. Denmark was the first country to establish a PLR system in 1946, followed by Norway in 1947 and Sweden in 1954. Australia set up its Public Lending Right scheme in 1974 and its Educational Lending Right scheme in 2000.

In 1995 the PLR International Network was set up to promote international awareness of PLR and inform the PLR community of events, developments and news from around the world. This network provides the most up-to-date information on the implementation of PLR across the globe.

Internationally, lending rights are based on three different rationales. In some countries, such as Germany, Austria and The Netherlands, Public Lending Right is part of the copyright legislation. In these countries, lending is seen as a type of copyright exploitation of authors' works and payments are made to authors who have books in libraries. In Germany these payments are made by the State. In The Netherlands, it is the libraries themselves that make the payments to authors through specific agencies created for this purpose.

Other countries, like the United Kingdom, have passed specific PLR legislation on the premise that authors have a legal right to receive payment from the government for the lending out of their books by public libraries. While this legislation gives authors a right to payment, they may not prohibit the lending of their books.

The third category of lending right schemes are those based on the concept of State support for its country's culture. By providing payments only to writers who create in a particular language or to citizens, the State ensures that PLR payments encourage the growth of the writing and publishing industry within that particular country. For example, the Finnish Government provides payments to any authors or translators who live or have permanently lived in Finland and whose works enhance the Finnish Culture. Denmark provides payments to authors of books written in the Danish language.

Australian lending right schemes

Australia's lending right schemes are based on these last two categories. Australia's PLR is run under the Public Lending Right Act 1985.

The objects of this Act are:

  1. to make payments to Australian creators of books, and to publishers of books in Australia, in recognition of their loss of income from their books being available for loan from, or for use in, public lending libraries in Australia; and
  2. to support the enrichment of Australian culture by encouraging Australian persons to create books and by encouraging publishers to publish books in Australia.

Both PLR and ELR in Australia have no connection to any copyright legislation at all, although they do operate under a legislative framework.

Eligibility criteria

Criteria for eligibility for the Australian PLR or ELR payments are that the creators must be citizens or permanent residents of Australia. This ensures that all lending right funds are used to exclusively develop Australian culture, as is the case in Finland and Denmark. In The Netherlands and Germany, where lending right is linked to copyright law, payments are made to creators of any nationality.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA represents library and information services and their users. They have expressed concern over the growing number of PLR schemes and their impact on the free delivery of library and information services. In a paper titled The IFLA Position on Public Lending Right (April 2005), they state that IFLA does not support any lending right schemes that are linked to copyright and that may impede free access to information: 'If a PLR system is introduced, it should be either a cultural support scheme or a remuneration right with its own enabling legislation outside the copyright legislative regime.'

Australia's two lending right schemes, PLR and ELR, fit within the IFLA guidelines.

Payment

The IFLA's position on the funding of any lending right scheme is very clear. In the position paper they write:

Access to public libraries, whether to use the works they contain for reference purposes or in order to borrow them, must remain free at the point of use … the funds for establishing and maintaining PLR systems and remunerating rights holders must not come from library budgets but should be separately funded by the State.

In most countries funding for the PLR scheme comes from the national government, except in The Netherlands, where the libraries themselves are responsible for the funding the PLR scheme. All funding for the Australian ELR and PLR schemes are allocated by the Minister responsible for the Public Lending Right Act. No money is diverted from governmental funding allocations to libraries (public or educational) to run the Australian lending right schemes.

Each country's PLR scheme specifies what material is eligible for payments. Most focus on printed material, although some cover audiovisual as well as electronic material, especially those whose PLR schemes are linked to copyright. In Australia any book that has an ISBN, is offered for sale and has no more than five creators is eligible for the scheme.

There are varying methods of calculation of payments. Finland's PLR schemes work on providing grants and subsidies to authors, illustrators and translators. Most other countries calculate payments on the basis of how often an item is loaned. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greenland and New Zealand base payments on the number of copies of the book estimated to be held in libraries.

Australia's authors, illustrators, publishers, translators, compilers and editors play an essential role in enriching Australian culture. The Australian government's PLR and ELR schemes are designed to support them in their work. Australian libraries benefit from the scheme, as it ensures that quality Australian material is available for libraries to circulate to their clients, both students and the wider public.

Renate Beilharz
ELR Project Officer

References Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2007, Lending Rights. Retrieved January 2008 from http://www.arts.gov.au/literature/lending_rights

IFLA, Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters 2005, Background paper on public lending right. Retrieved January 2008 from http://www.ifla.org/III/clm/p1/PublicLendingRigh.htm

IFLA, Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters 2005, The IFLA position on public lending right. Retrieved January 2008 from http://www.ifla.org/III/clm/p1/PublicLendingRigh.htm

Parker, Jim 2002, 'PLR – an update on the international situation'. Paper presented at 68th IFLA Council and General Conference August 18–24 2002, IFLA, Glasgow. Retrieved January 2008 from http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla68/papers/105e-Parker.pdf

PLR International Network n.d., Established PLR schemes. Retrieved January 2008 from http://www.plrinternational.com/

PLR International Network n.d., PLR around the world at a glance. Retrieved January 2008 from http://www.plrinternational.com/plraroundtheworld.pdf