Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

1 posts categorized "Policy"

09 June 2015

PLR: benefiting authors, illustrators – and even narrators!

Although its history is shorter then Magna Carta’s magnificent 800 years and its scope considerably smaller, Public Lending Right (PLR) has made its own significant contribution since it was established by the Public Lending Right Act in 1979. And it is continuing to do so as the technology connecting books and readers changes and develops. 


The PLR Act was passed after a long campaign by British authors for recognition of their right to receive payment for the lending of their books by public libraries. Now firmly enshrined in law,  payment is made from government funds to authors, illustrators and other contributors whose books are borrowed from public libraries.  Distributed annually, these payments are made on the basis of loans data collected from a sample of public libraries in the UK.  All that authors need to do to qualify for payment is to register their book when it is first published and to register all subsequent editions of it as they appear.

This simple but effective system, which has become a highly valued part of any author or illustrator’s life, has brought additional funding that helps to encourage creativity. In particular, at a time when new books attract the most attention, PLR payments can reflect the value of older titles which may still be popular despite being less visible in bookshops. And it is not just the extra money that authors and illustrators appreciate; it is also that, implicit in the government funding, is recognition for the contribution that authors and illustrators make to the UKs creative success and prestige abroad.

This year, in addition to the work that has been dedicated to print books and related matter since 1979, PLR has opened up for new business. The Digital Economy Act, passed in March 2010, cleared the way for the legislation to be extended to include public library loans of audio-books and ebooks downloaded to library premises for taking away as loans. While the latter is still restricted by legislation about how ebooks may be borrowed, the former is now up and running. The new arrangements to reflect and reward this new business officially began on 1 July 2014, at the start of the first year in which loans data for audio-book borrowing could be collected in readiness for the PLR payment distribution in February 2016.

Long hoped for, the inclusion of audio-books has been meticulously planned so as to make the division between all the many contributors  as fair as  possible. The author, narrator and producer of an audio-book will all qualify for PLR on the basis of fixed PLR shares as follows: 60% for the author, 20% for the narrator and 20% for the producer. In cases where there is a translator and/or abridger, they will qualify for fixed 30% and 20% shares respectively of the author’s 60% share. This would mean that in the case of an audio-book with an abridger and a translator the shares would be as follows: author (30%), abridger (12%), translator (18%), producer (20%) and narrator (20%).

It is fiddly business but the great advantage of the fixed share is that every contributor can do their own registrations without needing to find all their fellow collaborators.  And they are busy doing so. Narrators and producers are new to PLR and they – and the team at the PLR office - are working hard to get all the details of each title correct and to apportion the PLR fixed shares. This is big business: over 7,000 audio books have already been registered and there are many more being processed.  

Actress Lorelei King, who has already registered 244 titles which she has narrated including Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Pelican Brief by John Grisham and Sepulchre by Kate Mosse expressed her delight, "I'm so pleased that PLR has been extended to audiobooks. As well as benefitting authors, it also acknowledges the contribution of narrators and audio producers to this growing medium." 

Commenting on her registrations she added that 244 titles was not the end of it: “I'm afraid there are more to come. It's carving out the time to input them!”

Narrator Jeff Harding, who has already registered over 658 titles including The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver and Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer, was equally delighted, “We narrators are always glad to get any kind of recognition, critical or financial, and to be included with authors is an even greater privilege. Many thanks to the PLR!”

The registration deadline for this year is fast approaching – authors, illustrators and others who are eligible for PLR should register online before midnight on Tuesday 30 June to be included in the 2016 round of payments.

Julia Eccleshare

Head of PLR Policy and Advocacy