PLR Registrar confirms GCC community libraries not covered by public authority lending scheme

I have just had a very interesting conversation with the PLR Registrar Jim Parker. He confirmed that Gloucestershire County Council has NOT approached him for clarification over the PLR issues they face but he is happy to discuss this matter with them if they would like to.

Please note : Mr Parker stated that the information he was giving me had been clarified as correct by the DCMS before he spoke to me. Therefore, we would assume that if GCC had sought clarification from DCMS then they would have received the same information.

Gloucestershire County Council has been misinforming us and communities in Gloucestershire. This is serious cause for concern.

What follows is a report of my conversation with Mr Parker.

Gloucestershire County Council made it clear in their library strategy that the community run libraries would fall outside of the statutory provision. Libraries outside of the statutory provision are not covered by PLR. However, when questioned on the PLR issues , Sue Laurence (Head of Libraries) and Jo Grills (the Officer who is responsible for libraries). (Incidentally, County Councilors who have libraries in their portfolio seem to be invisible currently) said,

“We carefully considered the implications of the Public Lending Right when we developed our proposals for community libraries and we are satisfied that our plans are not in breach of this.  Community libraries, whilst not part of the core statutory service, are still part of the Gloucestershire library family. This means that they share the same library management system and library membership cards as council-run libraries and all book stock will be on the Gloucestershire Library catalogue.  As such, books will be available for loan to people in the county and we consider this to be under the umbrella of the local authority lending scheme”  (email to FoGL Chair)

This was repeated by GCC spokespeople  to the press

Mr Parker said this was in fact incorrect.

He said that if the authority is not legally responsible for the community libraries then they are not part of the statutory provision, are not covered by the 1964 Public Libraries Act and will not be covered by PLR.  PLR is part of the copyright act and allows book lending by public authorities.  Mr Parker confirmed that regardless of the “family” label Ms Grills and Ms Laurence have decided to give the community libraries, and regardless of the fact that they have access to the library management system, the community libraries fall outside the PLR umbrella.

In fact, and this is of some concern, Mr Parker told me that they would have to “disentangle” the community library issue statistics from the county statistics, which will be a logistical problem. He also said that this situation can only change if the government changes the PLR licence conditions and the Public Libraries Act 1964.

So, this is entirely contradictory to what GCC have told us and the communities.  It would seem that GCC are being loose cannons and are making it up as they go along.

We are very open about the source of our clarification – the PLR and DCMS who are responsible for PLR administration. GCC are refusing to tell us or give us sight of the source of their information.

Prescribed Library – a ray of hope for communities?

Mr Parker said that if the community libraries are not what are called “prescribed libraries” then they will need permission from authors to lend their books. When I asked him what prescribed libraries are he said it is unclear but in theory any library set up “for the public good” such as the British Library and education establishments. When asked if this applies to our community libraries he said he did not know the answer and that clarification from the government is also needed on this issue.

In conclusion

GCC have provided misinformation and have misled us. GCC appear to have not done their research.

Ms Grills told us, in response to our request to see sight of the advice they had received,

“Sue Laurence has made Gloucestershire’s position in relation to the PLR scheme clear, and if you have further queries on the operation of the scheme these should be addressed to the UK PLR Registrar or to the DCMS”

I would argue that it would be wise for her to take her own advice, especially given the fact that it is her and Ms Laurence’s job, not  ours, to ensure they are acting lawfully and giving out the right information.  Once again we find ourselves doing the job of Ed Vaizey and the DCMS in having to superintend GCC!

If only GCC had kept the community libraries as part of the statutory provision as we begged.

Mr Parker said that DCMS are aware of the PLR issues and are looking into it but this is a new situation and in order to change it legislation will need changing.

Until these issues have been resolved GCC should not be pushing ahead with these plans, should retract their inaccurate statements, and should ensure that communities are given the correct information. We ask again, what else have they overlooked?

We have been told that the legal handover of these libraries will be happening in November 2012.

UPDATE 16/07/2012

Today we received an update from the PLR Registrar telling us that according to the DCMS the “community libraries” may be treated as “prescribed” libraries, as mentioned in the post above.  He did not share any details of the practicalities with us so we have asked him to answer the following important questions;

  • how are authors recompensed for the lending done by these libraries. Will DCMS be paying PLR now for private libraries?
  • If authors are NOT recompensed by prescribed libraries, how will this impact on the income of authors as this model of library becomes more widespread? also, why should public bodies pay if private libraries do not have to?
  • How would PLR in Gloucestershire be administered? The loaning of the community libraries here will be tangled up with the loaning statistics of the public libraries as they use the same system. Would they need “disentangling” as was said during our last communication?
  • do the libraries have to register as ‘prescribed libraries’?

The above questions are really those that Gloucestershire County Council should be asking but, given the fact they have not sought guidance from the DCMS or the Public Lending Rights Registrar on this matter, and given the fact that DCMS seem to have no intention of making sure authorities are properly informed, we are once again taking it upon ourselves.

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22 Responses to PLR Registrar confirms GCC community libraries not covered by public authority lending scheme

  1. John Holland says:

    Brilliant post, Johanna. Your doggedness has paid off once again. FOGL doing both GCC’s and DCMS’s job now. These people/organisations are so irresponsible.

    • Thanks John. I am absolutely dismayed at just how ill-thought out this sudden rush to dump libraries on communities is. Especially as it is happening on an unprecedented scale nationwide. WHERE is the leadership and guidance in all of this?! Why are the professional librarians not finding the correct information? If I can why can’t they!? We always said it was a risky and untested experiment but no one would listen! the DCMS KNOW this is happening but were just willing to stand by and let GCC mislead people! It should not have taken such efforts from me to get to the bottom of it. If we had not taken GCC to court then these libraries would have been implemented by now and operating in breach of copyright law!

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  3. Cetherine Escott-Allen says:

    Well done again, Johanna. Was the last part of your post your opinion or that of Jim Parker
    (“Until these issues have been resolved GCC should not be pushing ahead with these plans, should retract their inaccurate statements, and should ensure that communities are given the correct information.”)? If yours, I have to agree, if his, how validating of your position…

    In reality, would authors refuse the right to lend their books? Am I right in thinking that the number of loans they get (from public libraries) affects some payment they receive (in lieu of sales?). And is Jim Parker saying that only those loans issued by ‘properly’ public libraries would count towards that revenue, a revenue that is probably important to many self employed authors who, unless they are best sellers, do not tend to earn that much?

    • Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for your comment.
      No, those were our words. It is largely irrelevant whether or not authors would refuse. Laws are laws and have to be abided by. I know the Society of Authors is very concerned about it and are investigating the issue. You are right about the PLR payments. If Gloucesterhsire’s model becomes commonplace then this will affect the income that authors receive. It is the fact that these libraries are no longer the legal responsibility of the County Council that is the problem not the manner in which the books are issued.

      Someone said this to me the other day in another context

      “a low probability of litigation isn’t going to convince libraries to engage in unlawful conduct”

      I hope this is the case here. It is unethical to deny authors this nominal income by not abiding by copyright laws

  4. Hi, Cetherine – being asked for permission to lend my books on an ongoing basis by a non-statutory library would put me in a very awkward position. I support libraries, but not piracy.

    The PLR office takes a sample of libraries every year, looks at books loaned, and uses this to calculate monies owed to authors who have had books borrowed. It equates to around 5p or so per loan, up to a maximum of – I think – £6000. And, yes, Jim Parker – the PLR registrar, held in very high regard by most of us – very much appears to be saying that books borrowed from a non-statutory library would not be counted. It would be an infringement of the author’s right to control and benefit from his/her own work.

    And, yes, PLR payments are hugely important to a very large number of authors, most of whom are poorly-paid.

    Once again, I am enormously grateful to the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries for all their efforts.

  5. Jim O'Neil says:

    This is all good work, and, going a little sideways, if nothing else it has alerted me to the fact that, now I have moved from (relativley small print runs of) self-published books to my first contracted book by an independent publisher, I ought to be investigating Society of Authors membership.

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  7. Rubymalvolio says:

    I’m amazed by the fact that when they are caught out for not having thought something through, both GCC and the DCMS seem to think they can get out of it by just describing the non-statutory libraries a different way using meaningless words like “family” or “prescribed”. In Oxfordshire if they have to separate their usage stats per library I don’t think their expensive, creaking, dos based management system is up to the job. Its just another nail in the coffin of the stupid community libraries nonsense and yet another example of the democratic failure of local government making up policy on the hoof and refusing to listen to anyone.

  8. Alistair says:

    why dont we all go on the pirate sites and download books, films music and then say well why cant we after all the GCC thinks it is ok to do this so why not have a pirate libary station like the old radio staions, perhaps theywill be runing adverts in these libarys and having dancing girls, this is so crazy we are in uk in a normalk civilization has the world gone mad, so stupid all the work that has gone into all this what do the lawyers say.

  9. Chris Day says:

    From some research I did on the Internet last week “prescribed library” is a term used in legislation in relation to the loan of books. It looked as if it was for DCMS to define its meaning by means of secondary legislation (probably “….. Regulations”).

    I couldn’t find that they had, although it’s a hard and risky business trying to research the law as a non-lawyer. On that basis they would be entitled to define it now to include community libraries.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. I’ve done some further research but would echo Chris’s warning that this should not be construed as authoritative legal advice

    Prescribed libraries were defined in the Copyright (Librarians and Archivists) (Copying of Copyright Material) Regulations 1989. This covers
    A library administered by a library authority within the meaning of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964
    The Legal Deposit libraries
    Any library of a school or educational establishment
    Any parliamentary or government department library
    Any library administered by a local authority (e.g. departmental libraries)
    And finally “Any other library conducted for the purpose of facilitating or encouraging the study of bibliography, education, fine arts, history, languages, medicine, music, philosophy, religion, science (including natural and social science) or technology, or administered by any establishment or organisation which is conducted wholly or mainly for such a purpose.”

    The European Directive on rental and lending rights which was Directive 92/100/EEC has been repealed and replaced by Directive 2006/115/EC. This provides for exclusive rights to authorise or prohibit the rental and lending of copyright works. This was implemented (as 92/100/EEC) into UK law by the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 1996. This states that:
    “Copyright in a work of any description is not infringed by the lending of a book by a public library if the book is within the public lending right scheme”
    It then goes on to say
    “Copyright in a work is not infringed by the lending of copies of the work by a prescribed library or archive (other than a public library) which is not conducted for profit.”
    This last section is not qualified by reference to public lending right.

    This would seem to suggest that:
    a) Community run libraries that are not part of the statutory public library service are prescribed libraries.
    b) As such they can lend copyright works without being covered by PLR.

    It also implies that while a public library can only loan books that are covered by PLR (and not all books are), other prescribed libraries can loan any book!

    • I think that about sums it up Carl, although the PLR registrar told me that the prescribed library legislation is still not fully written. If you, Chris and I can do the research I don’t know why chief librarians in Gloucestershire found it so difficult.

  11. trollhunterx says:

    Ed Vaizey certainly existed in Bristol, when they recorded ‘Any Questions?’ there, and no-one asked him a damn thing about library closures.

    FOGL are neglecting TiG articles about this (or is that a deliberate move?):

    • we aren’t “neglecting” TIG articles, deliberately or otherwise. This article is not about the PLR. I did not write a blog post about this but it was circulated to our mailing list members. As I have a full time job and we are all pretty busy, we do what we can but struggle to write posts on everything that comes up. we spent the last few weeks looking into the PLR issue, which rather dominated our time. Having said that though, not that many local pieces on the libraries have come up recently. They don’t seem to care for the finer but important issues regarding quite how these libraries will work though. the lawfulness of the libraries seems as ever to be an after thought in Glos.

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