This amendment proposes a new section 1(4) which, in effect, would mean the Act would not commence upon enactment, but rather at the time regulations bringing a public lending remuneration scheme into operation are made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
This issue was raised on Second Stage in the Dáil. At that stage I indicated that it is imperative that this legislation comes into effect as soon as it is passed by the Oireachtas. As evidenced by the European Court of Justice decision against Ireland in January of this year, we are in default of our obligations under the EU directive on rental and lending and it is incumbent on us to come into compliance with the ECJ decision as soon as possible.
The Commission is pursuing Ireland under Article 228 of the treaty. These proceedings are very advanced and could ultimately lead to the imposition of very heavy monetary fines against the State unless remedial action is taken quickly. In that sense, our immediate obligation is to provide an exclusive lending right for authors. This exclusive right will be replaced by a right to remuneration upon introduction of the public lending library remuneration scheme but it is not possible to await that development, given our immediate obligations under the directive.
Deputies will recall that on Second Stage in the Dáil it was indicated that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was working on the making of the regulations with a view to having the scheme operational from 2009. This undertaking should go a long way to providing a clear signal of the Government's intentions in this regard.
I know Deputies were concerned about the exposure for public libraries in the period between the enactment of the legislation and the introduction of the scheme in the sense that authors might exercise their exclusive right and prevent their books from being lent in public libraries. However, our legal imperative to respect our EU obligations under the directive are of the utmost concern and, according to our legal advice, must be addressed immediately in the context of the Bill. This means there is an unavoidable interregnum for the libraries. However, it must be borne in mind that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has given an undertaking to have the public lending rights remuneration scheme in place in 2009. Equally, there is a significant spend annually by the public libraries in book stock which, in itself, yields a reward for authors. This is particularly important for less well-known authors for whom the public libraries represent one of their major customers. An amount in excess of €15 million will be spent by public libraries in purchasing book stock this year. That is an increase of 10% over 2006. The continuing investment by public libraries in book stock will result in a total expenditure of €75 million in the period from 2002 to 2007.
I must revert to the compelling rationale for the legislation and the fact that it must be enacted as soon as possible. For that reason I cannot accept Deputy Penrose's amendment. I accept what he said regarding an interregnum.
Deputy Cyprian Brady took the Chair.