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Digital Lending Rights

Australian books held in public and educational libraries are subject to lending right payments – a federal government scheme that makes payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers in recognition of income lost through the free multiple use of their work. The Public Lending Right (PLR) and Educational Lending Right (ELR) schemes were established in 1975 and 2000 after successful campaigning by the ASA.

However, the scheme did not extend to ebooks and audiobooks.

What changed?

After many years’ campaigning by the ASA, the Albanese Government announced the expansion of the Lending Rights Scheme to include ebooks and audiobooks in January 2023, with a $12.9 million increase to the budget over the next four years.

This is a huge win for Australian authors and illustrators – we know that PLR/ELR represents reliable, stable income in an otherwise financially precarious career, and this investment will be delivered to where the need is most acute: directly to individual authors and illustrators who earn on average $18,200 a year from their creative practice. Editors, translators and publishers also stand to benefit. The expansion means the Government’s key form of investment in authors and illustrators is future-proofed, reflecting modern library collections and lending practices.

The expansion of the scheme was announced as part of the National Cultural Policy, Revive, launched by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for the Arts Tony Burke on Monday 30 January.

The commitment is made in the policy under the heading, Centrality of the Artist, stating, “Under the current arrangements Australian book publishers and creators are only entitled to compensation when printed works are held in Australian public and educational lending libraries, and not when digital works such as e-books and audiobooks are made available for public access. The Government will modernise these mechanisms to reflect evolving consumption patterns and include media such as e-books and audiobooks. These digital forms of literature also promote access for many people with disability.”

Details about timelines and criteria for registration and payment are yet to be announced, but we are thrilled to see a 14% increase to the annual PLR/ELR budget, to cover the expansion of the eligibility criteria.

Almost fifty years ago, in a world-leading move, Public Lending Right was brought in by the Whitlam Government after many years of campaigning by the ASA. Then Vice President, Colin Simpson, who was getting nowhere with letter writing to Government, decided to go after Whitlam personally by showing up to functions to bang the drum for PLR

How you can help

If you haven’t already, consider joining the ASA. The ASA’s lobbying efforts in Canberra would not be possible without our members’ support. The more voters we can show we represent, the clearer our voice will be heard by the politicians with the power to make change.

Alternatively, if you’re already a member or prefer to contribute without joining the ASA, you can donate to our Endowment Fund. Donations to the Endowment Fund go directly towards supporting the ASA to lobby and campaign for the rights and professional interests of authors and illustrators.

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