Suffolk libraries believe they will remain a part of the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme when they are transferred to an independent Industrial and Provident Society on August 1.
The Society of Authors is concerned that volunteer run libraries would reduce the basis on which loans are calculated and lead to reduced incomes for writers.
This week they wrote to Culture Minister Ed Vaisey. quoting PLR registrar Jim Parker saying:
Under the PLR legislation, PLR only applies to public libraries administered by local library authorities as defined by the Public Libraries Act (1964). This, therefore, would exclude library branches no longer run by the local authority and taken over by voluntary groups.
The letter added that Parker said it would be a “grey area” in locations where local authorities were allowing volunteers to run branches while still remaining under their umbrella.
It looked as if Suffolk, currently one of the PLR sampling areas for calculation of loans of individual books, might fall into this “grey area”.
But I am told by the Suffolk libraries IPS that it believed that they will be eligible to continue to be a part of the PLR scheme.
There would be no advantage in not remaining a part of the scheme as the payments to authors are funded by the Culture Department.
In its letter to Vaisey, the SoA General Secretary, Nicola Solomon, said:
I accepted in my previous letter that taking volunteer run libraries out of the statutory scheme will not have an immediate effect on authors’ incomes as the Government allocates a fixed amount to PLR (around £6.3 million for 2012/13) and the calculation of the rate per loan is essentially a mathematical exercise, dependent on the number of loans and the money available. The rate per loan in 2012 has been fixed at 6.05p and this rate has been falling steadily in response to Government cuts. We are concerned that taking volunteer libraries out of the scheme will lead to an apparent drop in book loans which will encourage Government to propose cutting the already meagre fund still further. We seek an assurance that the overall fund will not be cut due to volunteer run libraries being removed from the scheme. Please let me have that assurance by return.
It is a complex issue and the SoA is asking that the government find a statutory solution that would avoid the possibility of volunteer libraries being sued for copyright infringement. They are also asking for a part of the Digital Economy Act which extends PLR to audio books and e-books to be implemented.
So the threat (Daily Telegraph: Sarah Waters among authors threatening action over ‘Big Society’ lending libraries) is that volunteer libraries which ae not part of the wider system that continues to record all loans and is capable to providing figures for PLR, could be faced with paying copyright fees.
That would face local volunteer libraries with added costs which, I suspect, the Government will want to avoid.
Libraries already pay copyright fees for music through Performing Rights Society licences.
I asked why my local library had to have a PRS licence. It was explained that sessions where children sign along to music needed the licence.