Digital Economy Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (DEB 60)


1 The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit, non-union organization, established in 1977 and wholly owned by the 90,000 authors in our membership. The current membership includes authors working across diverse genres for print, audio, audio-visual and digital publications. We collect money for secondary uses of our members’ work, including photocopying, retransmission in the UK and overseas, digital reproduction, educational recording and repeat use via the internet. The ALCS also campaigns on behalf of writers at a national and international level. We aim to ensure that writers receive fair payment for the use of their work, and that writers’ rights are recognised and respected. We inform our members of issues that may affect them, such as copyright developments in the EU, national policies affecting Public Lending Right and copyright exceptions, and the growing problem of unfair contracts for writers.

2 The Digital Economy Bill provides an opportunity to ensure that principles of remuneration for authors reflect technological change. We would like to see an amendment made to the Bill to ensure that ebooks are fully considered in remuneration for lending.


3 We are calling for the Digital Economy Bill to be amended to extend Public Lending Right (PLR) to remote offsite ebook lending.

3.1 PLR was designed to balance the social need for free public access to books against an author’s right to be remunerated for the use of their work. The scheme provides authors with a modest payment (around 7p) each time one of their books (written or audio) is borrowed from a public library. Over 22,000 writers, illustrators, photographers, translators and editors receive PLR payments each year under the Public Lending Right Act 1979 and subsequent amendments. There is a minimum payment threshold of £1 and a maximum of £6,600. Although this does not replace the royalties authors would receive if the books had been purchased by each borrower, PLR provides a significant and much-valued part of many authors’ incomes, particularly to authors whose books are sold mainly to libraries and to those whose books are no longer in print but are still being read.

3.2 The way we access books is increasingly changing as technology offers new ways to access written works. Libraries are now lending many ebooks:-2.3 million ebook loans were made in the last year alone but authors are not being remunerated for those loans.

3.3 The Government previously committed to remuneration for ebook loans as long ago as in the March 2013 Department for Culture, Media and Sport statement: Government Response to the Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England

3.4 While the Digital Economy Act 2010’s extension of PLR to audio-books was a useful and overdue reform, the extension to on-site loans of ebooks was inconsequential as no such loans are made. By contrast, remote e-book lending has increased significantly and is increasing much faster than physical lending.

4 We propose amending the Digital Economy Act 2010 to ensure remuneration is received by writers for remote e-lending at the same rate per loan as for physical books. We believe it is vital that authors receive remuneration for loans of their works irrespective of format, the principle of remuneration that enables authors to work should not be unfairly obstructed by technical and technological change.

4.1 An amendment to the Digital Economy Bill 2016 which would enable PLR for remote e-lending should be considered. This could be achieved very simply by taking measures to amend the Digital Economy Act 2010, omitting the second paragraph (b) under section 43(2) of the Digital Economy Act 2010, which set remote loans outside of the definition of lending under PLR.

4.2 The cost of this measure would be negligible (to pay for 2.3 million loans would cost under £200,000) but the principle is extremely important as was recognised by the Government in March 2013 Department for Culture, Media and Sport statement: Government Response to the Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England.

October 2016


Prepared 21st October 2016