You may recall in the Seighart review of e-lending in public libraries in England, that one recommendation was the extension of PLR (public lending right) to e-books and audio books in the UK, with the necessary increase in funding to facilitate this.
Well, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has just launched a public consultation on such a proposal, for e-book and audiobook downloads on public library premises. The consultation is open until 13th March 2014, and anyone can respond. There is more information on the Gov.uk pages. The document contains background information as well as contact details for your response.
Note that the Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA 2010) amended the PLR Act 1979 so that the term ‘book’ includes audio and e-book. And that although the DEA would enable PLR to be extended to on-site downloads (section 43), it would require other legislation to take account of remote downloads. This is noted in the Government’s response to the Seighart review: “Extending the PLR to incorporate remote lending will require primary legislation, and is an amendment the Government will seek to pursue in future parliamentary sessions, subject to considering whether that would be compatible with the Copyright Directive.”
In case you’re wondering why this is so, the explanation is in the Government’s response document:
“The reason that the e-book provisions in the DEA only allow downloading from library premises is because under the Copyright Directive authors are provided with the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any communication to the public of their works. This includes making a work available to the public by electronic transmission in such a way that members of the public may access it from a place and time of their own choosing. This is provided for in section 182CA of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.” (DCMS, 2013)
For more about this, you may be interested in the EBLIDA ebook campaign “The right to e‐read: an e-book policy for libraries in Europe“. They are “calling on the EU Commission for a clear copyright framework that allows libraries to acquire and lend e-books with an adequate remuneration to authors and other rights holders.“
To note, in Wales the most popular time for downloads of e-books from the consortium scheme is between 7-9pm. This is when 95% of libraries are shut. I would imagine therefore that authors will therefore wish to see PLR being extended to remote downloads as well as on-site downloads.