The public lending right : United States prospects

Hawkins, Jo Anne Walker, 1938-
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The concept of the public lending right (PLR), the idea that authors are entitled to be compensated for the multiple uses of their books in libraries, is a relatively new issue of public policy in librarianship and in authorship. There have been substantive movements toward the public lending right for about forty years, and it has been adopted in eleven countries. Two major issues have dominated the movement: authors' struggles to gain acceptance for the emerging idea that the borrowing of a copyrighted work from a library constitutes a use for which the author has a right to be compensated, and efforts to implement the idea in a form that would satisfy the practical requirements of the complicated national and international worlds of libraries, books and politics. The term public lending right was coined by British author Sir Alan Herbert in 1959, after an analogy to the public performing right. However, there is not universal agreement on the nature of the "right" or of the term. While this term has gained general acceptance in English-speaking countries, the concept is also known by other terms, including "library compensation" or forfattarpenning, "author's coin" in Sweden. In West Germany, the term Bibliothekstantieme, "library royalty" is used. In the United States, some authors' groups prefer the term "authors lending royalty," or ALR. Since Denmark established the first PLR system in 1946, ten other nations have implemented a public lending right. Ten countries continue to maintain a PLR system (the Netherlands suspended its PLR program in 1983), but the idea is still new to the United States. The object of this report is to explore the feasibility of the implementation of a public lending right in the U.S. To arrive at a conclusion to the PLR question, the purposes and development of PLR and its models will be described, and issues in the PLR debate will be explored. Legal and copyright issues will be addressed. Brief histories of PLR movements in countries in which it has been adopted will be drawn, with descriptions of relevant activities of writers' and library organizations and interest groups. The U.S. PLR movement and problems and prospects of PLR implementation in the U.S. will be discussed, and a final conclusion will be drawn.