Libraries & Authors

Did you know that in the U.S., authors don’t receive payment each time readers check out books from libraries? However, if you listen to a song on Spotify, the artist receives $.0005. That half of a penny could add up. Last year, Spotify paid cellist Zoe Keating $12,231 to stream her music. Can you imagine what Taylor Swift made?

Thirty-three countries, not including the U.S., have implemented the Public Lending Right (PLR) program. Each country’s guidelines differ, but the bottom line is the same: authors get paid when readers check out their books. In the UK and Ireland (in 2017), authors received about 10 cents (U.S.) per use, with a cap of $8,500 (U.S.) per year.

From 1979 to 1989, the Authors Guild lobbied for the PLR program in the U.S. Two bills made it to Congress, but both died in committee. The good news is that the Authors Guild’s current president, James Gleick, is willing to fight for the legislation again. Check out his letter to the organization’s members.

It’s a complicated situation as publishers and authors are paid when the library buys the book. If the U.S. adapted the PLR program, libraries would need to generate the funding to pay the author royalties or the government would need to underwrite them.

What’s your opinion? Should authors receive royalties like musicians?

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