Public Lending Right

The Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors scheme was established in 2008 to compensate New Zealand authors, illustrators, and editors for the use of their books in New Zealand libraries.
In the late 1960’s The New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) began a campaign for a Public Lending Right that would compensate authors for free public access to tNZ authors work in public libraries.

NZSA campaigned for Public Lending Right for nearly 40 years before the scheme was successfully established by Prime Minister Norman Kirk.

Initially a fund of $ 1 million, it was topped up by another $1 million years later by then Prime Minister Helen Clarke. The fund received a smaller COVID top of $400k and the fund now sits at $2.4million.

The scheme is administered by the National Library of New Zealand.

The scheme has failed to keep pace with CPI and compensation for work in digital formats, and does not include compensation for free access to work in school libraries.

Reform Public Lending Right  – compensation and investment.

Public Lending Right (PLR) pays for free public access to printed books in NZ libraries. (Authors earn, on average, only $15,600 pa (CLNZ Horizon Survey 2020).

We cannot underestimate the importance of our own stories to national pride and identity, and the proven links between local content, school libraries and literacy.  The current system excludes Educational Lending Rights (ELR) and Digital Lending Rights (DLR).

In 2016 NZSA petitioned for an ‘urgent review of PLR’ and submitted to an issues paper in 2017.

The government (NLNZ) collated feedback and then commissioned an independent consultant’s report from Allen and Clarke, which was released with its recommendations in June 2020. Since then the review has stalled and NZSA has been trying to effect its completion.

PLR Reform was included in the 2023 Book Sector Election Manifesto to government asking to prioritise the completion of the ‘urgent review’ begun by the National Library in 2017.

NZSA has continued to advocate for the completion of the Review with The National Library of NZ and the DIA Minister.

The National Library of NZ has proposed changes to Regulations in the Act, to modify the ‘definition of a library’ and the ‘definition of a book’ whereby the regulations could expand to increase school libraries and digital formats. Due to COVID and other government pressures, they have not yet been able to get this on the legislative calendar.

NZSA has two representatives on the Public Lending Right Advisory Group. Currently, that is Anna Mackenzie (Chair) and Sherryl Clark.

The urgent reforms NZSA is seeking are:
  • The introduction of an Educational Lending Right to compensate free access to books in school libraries
  • The introduction of Digital Lending Rights to compensate free access to ebooks and audiobooks in public libraries and school libraries
  • A top-up to the fund
  • To dispense with the 50-copy threshold (due to multiple formats)
  • That the fund be linked to annual CPI increases so it will no longer fall behind cost of living parity.

The New Zealand scheme is now well out of step with major trading partners. The UK and Australia have Digital Lending Rights signed into legislation.

As a comparison, Australia has had an Educational Lending Right for over two decades.  The Australian Lending Rights site says over 17,500 individual lending right payments totalling $22.7 million were paid in 2021–22.  Australia has a population 26 million, so NZ funding pro rata could/should be $5.9 million. (currently it is $2.4m).

Digital Lending Rights were signed into law this year in Australia alongside a massive increase given to the Lending Right Fund in  2023  of another $12.9m as part of the arts REVIVE policy.

This illustrates the disparity and inadequacy of the current NZ scheme, and that NZ writers are poorly served by an underfunded scheme.

Join the National Library PLR mailing list  —

The scheme makes payments for books published by 1 January of the registration year, and doesn’t include ebooks or audiobooks.

Link to National Library Public Lending Right website

As an author registered with the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme, you’re entitled to receive an annual payment based on the number of copies of your title held in New Zealand libraries. This number is determined by a regular survey.

Surveying New Zealand Libraries — find out about the survey the National Library of NZ uses to determine the number of copies of your titles held in New Zealand libraries.

  • Adult books must be at least 48 pages long.
  • Children’s books must be at least 24 pages of text or text and illustrations.
  • Poetry must be at least 24 pages in length.
  • Editors registering must have contributed at least 48 pages to the book they are editing.
  • Books must have no more than 3 authors/contributors.
  • Self-published books are eligible.
  • You must be entitled to receive a royalty payment or income from the sale of your book.

Currently, you need to have at least 50 copies of a title in New Zealand libraries to get a payment.

NZSA wishes to dispense with the threshold of a minimum number of physical copies, especially in these days of multi-format publishing.

Payments from the PLR fund

The Public Lending Right fund ($2.4 million annually) is divided among registered authors, based on how many copies of their works are held by libraries. If you’re eligible for a payment, you’ll receive it by December 31, directly into your nominated bank account. The payment appears as a Crown payment in your account. Tax is not deducted from your payment.

Inland Revenue information about non-taxable income

In the unfortunate event that you die after registering, the payment will go to your estate. However, your heirs may not re-register for you in subsequent years.

There are no payments for years when you were not registered.

PLR payment statistics — see how the fund has been distributed so far.

On November 27 NZSA delivered a letter to the incoming Minister of Internal Affairs, who has responsibility for The National Library and Public Lending Right, linked here.    To the Honourable Brooke van Velden 24.11.23