The Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors: Getting Paid for Copies of Your Books in New Zealand Libraries

Are you a New Zealand author? If so, did you know that you can be paid for each copy of your books that are held by New Zealand public libraries – as long as the books meet certain criteria, and provided you apply? You can, by applying under the new Public Lending Right.

The most important of the criteria is that there have to be 50 copies of your book in New Zealand public libraries (which do not include school libraries) for it to qualify. Unfortunately, this isn’t cumulative – if you have had ten books published, and 49 copies of each are held in qualifying libraries, I’m afraid you won’t get a bean. (And, by the way, the regulations stop you donating a few copies here and there just to get your total for each book up above 50.)

I should say at this point that this blog post represents my understanding of the Public Lending Right – please don’t regard anything I say here as definitive! You can find the official information on the PLR, and the registration form for it, at the National Library web site:

Public Lending Right for New Zealand authors

One thing that surprises me about the scheme is that the number of copies of a book held in New Zealand libraries is worked out by using a statistical sampling method, rather than by counting the total copies. This was the case under the Author’s Fund, but given that the National Library maintains a site where you can check the holdings of your book in New Zealand libraries, I would have thought a little script that visited each online library catalogue in turn and added up the number of each book held might have done the trick. But doubtless there are complexities here than I’m not aware of!

To be eligible for registration for the Public Lending Right in 2009, for books published prior to 31 March 2009, you need to complete and return the registration form by 30 April 2009. So, if you think you have a book which is eligible, I recommend that you get cracking, especially as the completed form has to be witnesses by a JP or other person authorised to witness a statutory declaration. Downloading the form is a good place to start.

UPDATE: I must mention the key role of the New Zealand Society of Authors in getting the Public Lending Right legislation passed by the previous government, thereby ensuring a more stable future for such payments to authors. Well done NZSA!