Following on from recent articles in The Bookseller and CILIP Update regarding the possible exclusion of volunteer run libraries from the Public Lending Right, we were asked by a local campaigner if this meant that authors could refuse to allow books to be loaned by such libraries? We contacted UK PLR registrar, Jim Parker, for clarification. Here is his response:
The first thing to say is that volunteer-run public libraries are not automatically excluded from PLR. Where a volunteer-run library continues to operate under the local authority public library service then PLR continues to apply. PLR would only not apply were a library branch to be closed by the local authority and reopened under new management by a voluntary or other group entirely independent of the local authority. So, for example, in North Yorkshire several branch libraries are now run by volunteers but remain part of the county library service and it continues to be possible for PLR to collect book loans data from them.
I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your second question…. My understanding is that in situations where PLR does not apply, under UK copyright law unless a library is a ‘prescribed’ library it would need a licence from the author to lend a book out. But the situation may also depend on the wording of an author’s contract with his/her publisher over what the publisher is entitled to do by way of selling the author’s books.
As Mr Parker indicates, the situation is not clear cut. Some volunteer run libraries fall within the statutory provision of a local authority and others outside of it. This will determine whether they are part of the public lending right scheme or not.