Shadow Culture minister Dan Jarvis today called on the Government to "get its act together" to clear up the ongoing confusion over volunteer libraries.
Jarvis stated, "Last week I called for the Government to provide some clarity over the status of volunteer libraries, and raised serious concerns these may be breaking the law because they are not part of the system to compensate authors for loans of their books. The Government's response has been a mix of complacency and incompetence."
EU Council Directive 92/100/EEC of 19 November 1992 stipulates that authors are entitled to equitable compensation for loans of their works from libraries. Normally this is provided through the Public Lending Right (PLR) system, but this only applies to libraries that are part of a council's statutory provision.
Jarvis continued, "On the crucial issue of whether volunteer libraries are part of a council's statutory provision, they've passed the buck onto the PLR registrar.
"The registrar is supposed to decide what constitutes statutory provision, but this is an issue with massive implications – it affects whether a council can claim to be fulfilling its legal responsibility to provide an efficient and comprehensive library service. It’s not clear why the registrar should have that job: his competency is getting money to authors.
“There is no indication of how he would make a determination or the criteria he would use - just a vague assertion that this will depend on the circumstances. DCMS seem blissfully unaware the registrar has already indicated that volunteer libraries were not part of statutory provision – now it seems that is not the case.
"Meanwhile DCMS have simply ignored the issue of EU law, although this could potentially lead to community libraries being sued by authors for breach of copyright," Jarvis said. "The only thing that is clear in this whole mess is that the Government are making it up as they go along.
"These are issues that the Government should have carefully considered before they
started encouraging councils to shuffle off libraries to hard-pressed community groups.
"Ed Vaizey has a legal duty to oversee the library service and he is simply not doing his job.”