Public Lending Right is the right of authors to receive payment for free public use of their works in libraries. More than 30 countries around the world have PLR programs. In some countries, payments to eligible authors are based on library lending. In other countries, payments are based on the total number of copies of each book held in libraries. In Canada, payments are based on the presence of a title in public library catalogues that are consulted during the annual PLR survey. Canada’s PLR program was established in 1986.
In Canada, the calculation of PLR payments is determined by the PLR Commission, an advisory body of the Canada Council for the Arts. The payment process takes a full year and involves four main steps: registering titles, verifying title eligibility, sampling of public library collections, and preparing and issuing payments.
As a high school teacher, I’ve always encouraged young people to visit public libraries. Now, as a published author, I’m thankful to the PLR program that financially benefits Canadian creators whose works are available for the enjoyment of all.
-Ann YK Choi, Author
The PLR is arguably the most important program in the country for published writers--especially those who don't have a regular salary from another source--because it comes through like clockwork, year after year.
- Steven Heighton, Author
We determine PLR payments based on the presence of an eligible title in the collections of selected library systems.
We select library systems with large collections, across different regions of the country. We survey 7 public library systems in each language group. Bilingual books or books written in languages other than English or French are searched for in all 14 library catalogues, though the maximum number of times these books can be found is limited to 7. We don’t take into account the number of copies found in each library or the number of times a title has been checked out.
For many years, PLR sampling was done by hand, with librarians going through their collections with a list of registered titles. Now, PLR staff compare the list of eligible titles with the library’s online catalogue or a digital copy of its catalogue. At the end of the process, we have a record of how many times each registered title was found. Only those creators whose library survey results amount to at least $50 qualify to receive a PLR payment.
Preparation and sending of payments
We calculate each author payment based on the number of titles each author has registered, the number of times each of the title was found, and the PLR payment budget.
Other variables can also affect the payments, for example:
- the author’s percentage share
- the maximum or minimum payment set by the PLR Commission
- the payment category in which the title falls, determined by the number of years the title has been registered.
Each January, the payments are calculated, checked and finalized, and the cheques and reports are produced. Envelopes are mailed to authors in mid-February.
Note: If a cheque is not cashed by the end of the calendar year, the amount is placed back into the PLR author payment budget for the following year.
Public Lending Right International (PLRI)
More than 30 countries around the world have PLR programs. Canada's PLR program is a member of Public Lending Right International (PLRI). PLRI brings together organizations which oversee PLR programs around the world, to exchange information, develop best practices and promote PLR. Learn more about PLRI.