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The Public Lending Right Act 1979 gives authors the legal right to receive payment for the free loan of their books by public libraries. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that any eligible works currently lent under the PLR scheme are lent without infringing copyright under the 1988 Act. Clause 44 of this Bill proposes to extend the 1979 Act to cover non-print book formats, meaning that e-books would now be included under the public lending right.
Publishers strongly support the remuneration that PLR provides for authors and would like authors to continue to collect PLR money based on the model of one payment for one loan to one reader. If the proposal were enacted, rights holders' ability to licence the lending rights for these works to libraries would effectively be removed. E-book formats, unlike their physical counterparts, are highly conducive to unauthorised copying and onward exploitation. It is important, therefore, that there are sufficient safeguards in the primary legislation. One of these safeguards should be that the extension of PLR to digital formats is restricted to one loan to one reader of each copy of the work held by the library, as would be the case for a physical book. This probing amendment is designed to clarify the Government's intention in this regard.
I believe that the Government have already expressed their commitment to this policy although it is not included in the Bill. While hard copy audiobooks or pre-loaded e-books can be lent in a meaningful sense of the word, libraries do not have the controls in place to protect loans of digital book files or enforce temporary access to books in digital formats which are downloaded for a short time but not retained. Without the inclusion of this proviso, multiple copies of an e-book could be made available for loan simultaneously when only one copy had been purchased. This would effectively result in free loans or free online access to authors' and publishers' content in an e-format and could result in heavy financial losses for creators, making investment in the burgeoning digital market unsustainable. I beg to move.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, finally, unlike in Arthurian legend, we have reached our version of the holy grail-the final amendment. I agree that in order to protect the interests of rights holders it is vital that loans are limited in the way that this amendment suggests to ensure that libraries are not able to provide the public with unlimited access to an author's work. However, while the phrase "one copy" presents no immediate problems in respect of hard-format printed or audio works, it is not sufficient to cover all the means by which libraries may offer soft-copy electronic works to readers. In those circumstances, it may be that a library holds just one copy of a work, but has, directly or indirectly with the retailer, purchased permission to lend the work to a fixed number of people more than one at any one time.
Crucially, therefore, it is not the number of copies of a work held by a library which should dictate the number of times that work can be loaned out at any one time, but the number of permissions to loan it out,
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We agree with the objective behind the amendment and intend to address this issue in secondary legislation. While the suggestion is correct in its intention, I trust that in the light of my explanation and assurance that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I very much hope that the holy grail we are talking about is not the Monty Python version. That is all I can say at the end of seven days in Committee. The Minister's reply will be of great interest to publishers. There were some very useful elements in it. However, perhaps the Minister has ended Committee stage of the Bill on the same note with which he started it; namely, that it will all be fine in the secondary legislation.
The amount of secondary legislation that this Bill gives rise to will make the seven days in Committee appear like a fleabite in terms of parliamentary time. I shudder to think about how much secondary legislation will need to be debated through the affirmative process. I have not checked whether this particular secondary legislation under Clause 44 is by the affirmative process, but certainly there will be a great deal more. I hope
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