Become a member


February 8, 2023

Digital Lending Rights to be introduced

We’ve been heard: after lengthy campaigning by the ASA, the Albanese Government has announced the expansion of the Lending Rights Scheme to include ebooks and audiobooks, 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. 

Our many years of lobbying led by Chair, Robert Pullan, Deputy Chair, Nadia Wheatley and writer representative of the PLR Committee, Libby Gleeson, then resulted in the introduction of Educational Lending Right in 2000 by the Howard Government. It was the first government in the world to introduce Educational Lending Right in full.

Now, we join the UK, Denmark, and Canada in including digital formats in our Lending Rights Scheme. And we wish to warmly thank our ambassadors who helped us get there. To Morris Gleitzman, Kirsty Murray, Nick Earls, Markus Zusak, Carrie Tiffany and Natasha Lester, we are grateful for your generous time and advocacy. Thank you!    

It’s difficult to account for the amount of work this involved: it comes as a result of consistent meetings with the Office for the Arts, industry-wide lobbying, the conducting of research and surveying of authors and illustrators, appearances before Inquiries and conferences, and submissions and letters to Government. 

To every author and illustrator who contributed to our fight for DLR we thank you: your letters to your local MP, the data you supplied for case studies, your quotes to the media, your sharing of information with your networks, and shouting from the rooftops to be heard made all the difference. This win demonstrates just how powerful we can be when we stand together.

The ASA does not receive government funding as an organisation, meaning that our achievements are only possible through the income we generate from membership and services. If you’d like to see an even stronger ASA fighting on your behalf, consider encouraging those in your writing and illustrating community to become members. We’ve had 60 years of success, here’s to another 60.

We also wish to thank ALIA for their staunch support of our campaign and provision of statistical information on digital collections in public libraries. The ASA galvanised the book industry behind this campaign – our thanks to the Australian Literary Agents Association and Australian Publishers Association for their support so we could take a united request on behalf of the entire book industry to government.