Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors, said writers have a legal right to the payments, she said – and could even consider going to court to recover them. "Since 1992 'rental and lending right' has been a part of copyright protection. That means that authors have a legal right to equitable remuneration whenever their works are lent out," she said. "The failure to make the payments means that the government and libraries are actually infringing the author's copyright every time they make an ebook loan and authors would be entitled to sue for the losses caused by that infringement. We have no current plans to sue, and don't know of any authors who are planning to do so – we would hope that the Government would recognise its legal and moral responsibility to make payments to authors particularly as ebook lending from libraries is becoming significant."
Solomon has written to both culture secretary Ed Vaizey and Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who is sitting on the select committee inquiry into library closures, to highlight the issue. "Any ebook lending should result in a PLR payment to the author … PLR is 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," she wrote to Vaizey on behalf of the Society of Authors, which includes Philip Gross, Anthony Horowitz and Sarah Waters on its management committee. "We also wish to remind you that section 43 of the Digital Economy Act 2010 extends PLR to audiobooks and ebooks 'lent out' from library premises for a limited time but these payments have never been implemented. This is patently unjust and we urge that this provision be brought into force and that extra funds be made available to cover PLR payments for such lending."
Chair of the society, historical novelist Lindsey Davis, said that authors would "certainly be pushing" for PLR to be extended to ebooks and audiobooks. "We have earned it. It's not a benefit, it's a right," she said. "I would expect to be paid. There is no difference between ebooks and print books – it is all work, produced for people to read ... It seems very obvious to me [that an ebook] is just another version of a title, in the same way that a paperback is."
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