Securing digital lending rights for Australian authors

Impact: Economy impacts, Policy impacts

Description of impact *

Why do Australian authors receive no payment when their books are borrowed from libraries in electronic form? This was one of the issues addressed in pioneering research on authors’ economic circumstances undertaken by David Throsby, Paul Crosby and Jan Zwar as part of a larger project on digital disruption in the book industry. This project has highlighted issues relating to the low levels of author income, the reading habits of Australians, the role of literary festivals, and patterns of international rights sales.

We discussed the research on digital lending rights in a submission to a Federal Government Inquiry into Australia’s creative and cultural industries (Throsby, Zwar and Crosby, 2020). Our submission recommended that public and educational lending rights be extended to include digital lending by libraries. Despite rapid growth in the borrowing of ebooks and audiobooks, Australian authors aren't compensated for loans in these formats -- a considerable loss of income for Australia’s creative workforce.

The impact of this submission on policy awareness was significant. When the Parliamentary Inquiry’s findings were released (Parliament of Australia, 2021), the final report quoted evidence from our submission and included a recommendation derived directly from this research to “ensure that authors are being appropriately compensated for income lost through free multiple use of their books in public and educational lending libraries”. This outcome was welcomed in the industry – for example, the Australian Society of Authors noted that the recommendations would have a positive impact on the incomes of Australian authors past, present and future.
Impact date20202022
Category of impactEconomy impacts, Policy impacts
Impact levelAdoption (early)