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Digital Economy Act 2010

Topic 11: Public lending right


204.Section 43 amends the Public Lending Right Act 1979 (“the 1979 Act”) and the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”) to reflect the changing nature of book publishing and the increasing demand for the loan of books from public libraries in formats other than print. It does this by:

  • Extending eligibility for public lending right (“PLR”) payments, to cover authors of audio-books and e-books;

  • Extending PLR to cover producers and narrators of books that are recorded as sound recordings; and

  • Protecting public libraries who lend the books from liability for breach of copyright or breach of rights in performances.

205.The section does not extend PLR to works that are available for loan from public libraries but that do not consist mainly of written or spoken words or still pictures. For example, films, music recordings and computer games are not covered. Neither does the section extend PLR to digital files downloaded outside library premises.

206.Since its introduction in 1979, PLR has compensated authors for the potential loss in sales resulting from their works being freely available to borrow from public libraries. Under the current PLR scheme established by virtue of the 1979 Act translators, editors, compilers and illustrators are included (along with writers) in the definition of ‘author’ and so are eligible for PLR payments. PLR is now recognised by European legislation (Directive 2006/115/EC on rental right and lending right) as reflecting and protecting the exclusive lending and rental rights of holders of rights in print books.

207.Authors, performers and producers of non-print books, such as audio-books and e-books, have rights conferred on them under the 1988 Act allowing them (or anyone to whom they have assigned their rights) to authorise or prohibit the lending of their work by public libraries. The law required libraries to enter into individual contractual and financial arrangements with those rights holders for the lending of non-print books.

208.It is the view of government that this requirement could have had an impact on the willingness of libraries to lend audio and e-books. It could also have resulted in libraries lending works in breach of the rights of authors and other rights holders. Section 43 is designed to help simplify the current system of payment to rights holders, give a wider range of rights holders’ protection under the PLR scheme, and support innovation in publishing and the creative industries. The government hopes that it will also increase non-print lending by encouraging authors to enter the non-print market.

Section 43: Public lending right

209.This section amends the definition of “book” in the Public Lending Right Act 1979. The 1979 Act pre-dated the advent of most audio and e-books and consequently use of the word “books” within it was interpreted as being limited to books in printed format. This section extends the definition to works that are recorded as sound recordings, and works recorded electronically, so long as they consist mainly of written or spoken words or still pictures. As is already the case for printed books, it is intended that the PLR payment scheme established under the 1979 Act will not cover audio and e-books whose author is described as other than a natural person, or that are musical scores, Crown copyright publications, newspapers, journals or periodicals, or that are not offered for sale to the public or do not have an international standard book number (“ISBN”).

210.Section 43 also amends the definitions of “lent out”, “loan” and “borrowed” in the 1979 Act with the aim of capturing almost all cases in which a public library makes a book (whether in print or audio or e-book form) available to a member of the public for use away from the library for a limited period of time. The exception is where the book is communicated by means of electronic transmission to a place other than the library, for example where the library makes digital files available for remote downloading. In practice this exception is likely to apply to e-books for which a licensing agreement exists between the library and author or publisher under which incremental payment is made based on usage, rather than on individual units purchased on a once-and-for-all basis. The section does not limit a library’s ability to make concurrent loans of an electronic work, provided that they have the appropriate permission to do so.

211.Section 43 amends the definition of “author” in the 1979 Act. Producers and narrators of audio-books and of e-books recorded as sound recordings play a role in making works in audio formats new and unique creations, not just different formats of the same printed volume. Like authors, producers and narrators are conferred with lending rights under the 1988 Act: copyright in the case of producers and performers’ rights in the case of narrators. This section extends eligibility for PLR to those additional categories of rights holder.

212.PLR as extended by section 43 continues to be available to all rights holders primarily resident within the European Economic Area (EEA). The section also preserves the lending rights of non-EEA rights holders under the 1988 Act so that they remain able to license or assign their rights to public libraries (and other persons) independently.

213.Section 43 makes consequential amendments of the 1988 Act to reflect the extended definitions of “book”, “author” and “lent out” in the 1979 Act. The amendments reduce the scope of copyright and rights in performances under the 1988 Act. This is to protect public libraries from liability under that Act when they lend works that are eligible for PLR. As a result of the changes, libraries will generally no longer need to make agreements with authors before lending out their e-books and audio-books.

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