Concerns have been raised as to whether the UK Government is breaking EU Copyright laws relating to volunteer-run libraries payment commitments. Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors (SoA), drew attention to the decreasing rates of authors’ compensation because of the increasing number of volunteer-run libraries, replacing traditional public libraries. Under the EU’s copyright Directive in relation to rental and lending rights, authors generally have the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit the renting or lending of their original works or copies of said works. These authors are entitled to a "single equitable remuneration" in order to compensate for those who loan out their works.
Yet the Directive state that EU member states may derogate from that "exclusive right" where it concerns public lending, such as public libraries, and they may "exempt certain categories of establishments from the payment of the remuneration" if they desire. In these cases the authors are entitled to receive remuneration for lending.
However, although UK Law requires public "public libraries administered by local library authorities" to pay royalties to registered authors, under the Public Libraries Act, volunteer-run libraries are not included in this definition. Therefore, due to the wording of the act, such libraries are not required to pay royalties when lending or renting works. Solomon, on behalf of the SoA, seeked assurance that this would not result in a reduction of the overall amount paid to authors. She stated that if this were the case, "It would be unfair and deeply damaging to authors if authors were prejudiced by transfers of loans to volunteer libraries." It was also highlighted that the authors to which this would be of most damage is those whose books have ceased to be in print, yet are still being read by the public.
According to a report by the Guardian, The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have clearly stated that the increase in the number of volunteer-run libraries would hold no affect over the authors’ royalties payments. This is because the PLR payments are set annually and are not based on the number of loans from all libraries nationally. Instead, the royalties are based on the number of loans from a sample group of libraries. Volunteer-run libraries are not included within the sample group. However the DCMS argued that this would affect in no way the amount the authors received.
© Brian Miller, solicitor. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author. This article reflects the current law and practice. It is general in nature, and does not purport in any way to be comprehensive or a substitute for specialist legal advice in individual circumstances.
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