A Public Lending Right (PLR) program, is a program intended to either compensate authors for the potential loss of sales from their works being available in public libraries, or as a governmental support of the arts, through support of works available in public libraries, such as books, music and artwork.
Twenty-eight countries have a PLR program, and others are considering adopting one. Canada, the United Kingdom, all the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand currently have PLR programs. There is ongoing debate in France about implementing one. There is also a move towards having a Europe-wide PLR program administered by the European Union.
The first PLR program was initiated in Denmark in 1941. However, it was not properly implemented until 1946 due to World War II. The idea spread slowly from country to country and many nations' PLR programs are quite recent developments.
PLR programs vary from country to country. Some like Germany, and the Netherlands have linked PLR to copyright legislation and have made libraries liable to pay authors for every book in their collection. Other countries do not connect PLR to copyright. For a nation like Canada or Australia the majority of funds would be going to authors outside the country, much of it to the United States, which is unpalatable to those nations.
In Denmark, the current program is considered a type of governmental support of the arts, not reimbursement of potential lost sales. Types of works supported are books, music, and visual artworks, created and published in Denmark, and available in public and school libraries.
How amounts of payment are determined also varies from country to country. Some pay based on how many times a book has been taken out of a library, others use a simpler system of payment based simply on whether a library owns a book or not.
The amount of payments is also variable. The amount any one author can receive is never very considerable. In Canada for instance the payment is C$38.30 per book per library, with a maximum of C$2,681 (in 2008) for any one author in a year.
Different countries also have differing eligibility criteria. In most nations only published works are accepted, government publications are rarely counted, nor are bibliographies or dictionaries. Some PLR services are mandated solely to fund literary works of fiction, and some such as Norway, have a sliding scale paying far less to non-fiction works. Many nations also exclude scholarly and academic texts.
Within the European Union, the public lending right is regulated since November 1992 by directive 92/100/EEC on rental right and lending right. A report in 2002 from the European Commission  pointed out that many member countries had failed to implement this directive correctly.
The PLR directive has met with resistance from the side of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). The IFLA has stated that the principles of 'lending right' can jeopardize free access to the services of publicly accessible libraries, which is the citizen's human right.. The PLR directive and its implementation in public libraries is rejected by a number of European authors, including Nobel Laureates Dario Fo and José Saramago.