SCCR 40: A New Tax on Non Profit libraries?

Other Matters at WIPO SCCR 40,a Proposal for study on public lending right:

Like a sail in the wind on Lake Leman in Geneva, the Copyright and Related Rights Committee can change directions quite rapidly. For example, at the end of this week SCCR, a new topic, the study of a public lending right was formally proposed. However, it was not described by the 3 sponsors as a future substantive item or as the basis for a request for a legal instrument but rather as a topic for discussion (at this point?). Because WIPO works in mysterious way, we should keep an eye on this.

To start, see Document: Proposal for a Study Focused on Public Lending Right in the Agenda and Future Work of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (SCCR/40/3) and note Committee Members Sierra Leone, Panama and Malawi are co-sponsoring a proposal for a scoping study on the public lending right. At SCCR/39, the Committee had indicated that it would welcome a formal proposal on this topic at a future meeting.

After a brief introduction by the delegations the Chair invited Members, IGOs and
NGOs to make general comments.

Sierra Leone:

Mr. Chair, my delegation together with the Delegation of Panama and Malawi is pleased to hear this proposal for a study on the Public Landing Rights to be undertaken by WIPO. Mr. Chair, our people who work in our creative industries in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America, and all around the world to produce books of literature and related works of rights are often deprived of a financial rewards for the work. This is clearly a disincentive.

Our societies and economies need to incentivize and develop our cultures by supporting and promoting lited chur that promotes the use of our local languages, our traditions, and our cultures.

Properly rewarding those engaged in this exercise of humanity is important. PLR is part of ecosystem that sustains the creative industries. We hope the study will create awareness and show how it can be implemented and how it can benefit local creators.

There is a great interest in PLR among African Member States such as Burkina Faso, Malawi Tanzania and Zimbabwe making steps to have PLR in legislation. The African intellectual property association, ARIPO includes the public lending right as part of the authors exclusive rights last year.

The SCCR has a number of items under consideration on this agenda. A proposal calls for a study to be carried out to identify how our countries could benefit from introducing PLR. We do not wish or intend for PLR to be added as a substantive item for discussion and we’re not asking for a legal instrument or a treaty under this topic.

Our co-objective is for countries particularly developing countries, to learn about PLR so that the authors will be remunerated for the free lending of their books, and the study is a standalone project that will be carried out by WIPO and presented to Member States when it is ready.

It is therefore no risk of burdening the agenda of the SCCR. The study will provide only an opportunity to learn more about an important element of the ecosystem that supports the creative industries across the world.

This Committee was established over 20 years ago with a mandate, and was asked to consider emerging questions in the field of copyright and related rights. The study on public lending right will contribute to fulfilling this mandate. I thank you for your attention and I thank two co-sponsors Malawi and Panama, and I look forward to develop this proposal in the period and continued conversation with Member States and other stakeholders. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Since the proposal of Sierra Leone was cosponsored by two delegations, namely Panama and the Republic of Malawi, they took the floor.


Chairman, Panama supports the proposal for a study on different experiences at the global level on the Public Lending Right. The PLR is a mechanism through which governments aim to support authors, visual artists, and other creators in a balance with the value provided by libraries and other interested parties to society by spreading knowledge and cultural linguistic and innovative expressions.

At this time of a pandemic, but also from day to day where individual direct access to text and other materials is difficult, if not impossible, the creators and their public throughout the world are in a critical situation as the traditional way of offering expressions has changed, so there is less income to sustain the activities of all the actors that are necessary for creation and the spread of this creation. It’s no different in Panama. Our creators and authors and those who want to spread ideas see the economic livelihoods threatened and find themselves in a very difficult situation.

A PLR regime that’s properly structured could be an important encouragement for this activity to find a balance between thousand and ensure a descent income for creators and authors who are not always large publishing houses or multinationals, and the objective of promoting the transmission of knowledge, thought, and culture is a goal that could benefit in an important way with a study on Public Lending Rights, and experiences in how it’s applied, pros and cons.

35 countries at present have PLR systems. They’re scattered throughout the world. They have different levels of development, different traditions, and different cultures. With 35 different legal systems, we have a great range of experience from which to learn and we can also learn from the experiences of jurisdictions that have opted for different systems from the PLR.

A basic study on different ways of implementing the PLR I think would be a good idea. From this we could draw on experiences and lessons learned from the different approaches to PLR and to find options suited to the particular features of each country. Panama hopes that the discussion we have today will mean that at the next session we can agree on setting underway the proposed study.


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and good afternoon once more. The Delegation of Malawi supports a proposal for a study focused on the public lending right systems around the world and how they benefit creators as well as how to make such a system work.

The Government of Malawi recognizes the importance of public lending rights system for the benefit of the authors and to this end, we have in our new current law provisions on the implementation of the public lending rights. Mr. Chairman, creators are an entry point for the economic value chain of the creative sector which includes print and other media in the country.

According to a study conducted by Malawi in 2013, with the support of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the creative sector contributed 3.46% to the national GDP which supports areas such as construction and manufacturing. This testifies the need for creativity to be nurtured and PLR is a significant element that can force creativity. The government therefore considers PLR as a source of vital financial support for the authors, more especially in this age when income from publishing falling due to largely the digital technology. Malawi in particular, authors who are not among best sellers, the PLR will be the biggest source of income because their published books which are not sold on the market but still being lent out by libraries would be slietled to remiewn yaition even out of print and lifesaver for authors requiring medical attention that are directly benefit in some circumstances. Such a study would therefore be necessary to identify the benefits that authors and other rightsholders gain from participating in PLR schemes. It will also facilitate into a production of the PLR in the world particularly in Africa and need to further identify issues to be first in setting up PLR in developing countries and identifying the best practices in working with other cultural agencies such as libraries operating in PLR. We thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Russian Federation speaking on behalf of the Caucasian Central Asian and Eastern European Countries (CACEEC) Group supported the scoping study. The UK on Behalf of Group B expressed interest but reminded the committee of all the other matters that are more mature agenda items. The EUropean Union expressed the need for more time to consider and undertand the study.

On behald of the African Goup, Zimbabwe:

The Group notes that PLR is the right of authors to receive payments for books lent free of charge by public and other libraries, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortened timeframe and truncated agenda the group has insufficient time to consider the proposal and still carrying out internal consultations and we look forward to further discussion on this proposal at SCCR 14.

Serbia spoke in favor:

Honorable Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, with regard to the proposal of Sierra Leone, Panama and Malawi the Delegation of Republic of Serbia wishes to express its support. We’re of the opinion that the system of public lending rights presents good mechanism enabling the writers, translators, visual artists, photographers, and other rightsholders to get adequate remuneration for the use of their works by its lending in the libraries. Public lending right has the principle of no use without payment by which the authors are entitled to receive income from any of their work.

Public Lending Right provides support to the authors which is important to sustain their creative work and is basis for their creative industries. With he believe in the importance of PLR and the proposal to ask the WIPO to undertake a study focused on Public Landing Rights so that all countries interested in the introduction of this system can get the same information about practical questions, such as the collection of remuneration, distribution to the authors, and the role of libraries and the government in the implementation of PLR System.

We also think that it would be very useful if WIPO could provide technical support to countries in setting up such systems.
Thank you.

There was no time for NGOs comments but we were invited to send written comments to be added to the reports. Here is KEI Statement on the public Lending RIghts.


Public lending rights, which are essentially a tax on libraries, may be appropriate in some countries, but are controversial and not an area for harmonization. That said, If countries want to adopt laws on the public lending rights, they should ensure that revenues are solely distributed to the original and still living authors, regardless of contracts or who now owns the copyrights for works, to ensure the money collected benefits those who actually create the works, as opposed to the corporate owners of rights.