Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 makes provision in place of section 15 of the Copyright Act 1911 relating to the deposit of printed and similar publications, including on and off-line publications and makes provision about the use and preservation of material deposited.

The Copyright Act 1911 required a copy of every UK print publication to be automatically deposited by publishers in the British Library. Each of the other deposit libraries could request a deposit to be made. These deposit libraries are the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College, Dublin.

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 extended these provisions, potentially bringing all forms of non-print publications under the system of legal deposit. This includes content published online (e.g. e-journals) and other electronic works, for example CD-ROM and microfilm. Sound and film recordings are specifically excluded from the Act.

The existing provisions for print were left unchanged by the 2003 Act. The Act was drafted so that it would be flexible enough to cover the complex nature of the publishing industry in the 21st century. It ensured that forms of publication developed in the future could be incorporated into legal deposit, without the need to return to primary legislation.

Publishers of non-print works will not be required to deposit their works until regulations are made. The Act will be implemented progressively, as it is enabling legislation. Any draft regulations would be subject to full public consultation and to affirmative resolution in both Houses.

What is a publisher?

A publisher is anyone who issues or distributes publications to the public. This definition includes all Government Departments and Agencies where they are publishing material themselves. Where, however, a publication is being published via a private sector publisher (e.g. TSO (The Stationery Office Limited)) then it is the responsibility of the publisher to fulfill the obligation to deposit.

Where a department is contracting with a private sector publisher then the contract should emphasize this obligation. The following form of words may be used in contracts:

Copyright deposit

The Publisher shall at its own expense deposit such copies of all publications produced under this contract in the libraries in which such deposit is defined and required by law within the time stipulated in the relevant legislation. In the case of libraries which are entitled to copies only on specific claim, the Publisher shall dispatch copies automatically without the need for libraries to claim them.”

The scope of legal deposit

All printed publications come within the scope of legal deposit. In advance of the making of further Regulations a code of practice exists in the United Kingdom for the voluntary deposit of non-print publications, including microform and electronic media. Further Regulations are also planned in relation to the deposit of standalone publications which are only published on the Internet although the deposit of both offline and online electronic publications is currently voluntary, departments and agencies should be setting an example and ensuring that copies are deposited.

A work is said to be published when copies are issued to the public or made available via an internet website. The place of publication or printing, the nature of the imprint and size of distribution are immaterial – it is the act of issuing it or distributing it to the public that renders a work liable for deposit. Published printed works liable to deposit include books, pamphlets, maps, printed music, journals and newspapers. There are exemptions, however, and unless a written demand is made by the British Library internal reports and house magazines, local transport timetables, appointment diaries, wall and desk calendars, forms and posters need not be deposited.

The deposit of print publications

Publishers are obliged to send one copy of each of their publications to the British Library. The other five libraries have the right to claim those publications from the publishers and distributors. In practice many publishers (including The Stationery Office Limited) deposit their publications with all six libraries without waiting for a claim to be made and it is this practice that departments and agencies should adopt in relation to the deposit of their own publications. In the case of magazines, journals and other serial publications, however, it is advisable to consult the Agent for the Legal Deposit Libraries before sending as the five libraries may have agreed between them to limit the number of copies to be claimed.

The deposit of non-print offline electronic publications

In 1997 the Culture Secretary set up a working party to advise on an effective national archive of non-print material. The working party concluded that only statutory legal deposit could secure a comprehensive national archive. The Culture Secretary responded that, following further work on definitions and the impact on business, he would move towards legislation. In the meantime he asked for a voluntary code of practice to be drawn up.

A code of practice for the voluntary deposit of non-print publications in the United Kingdom, including some types of electronic media, was prepared and was endorsed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Legal Deposit Libraries, the Publishers‟ Association, the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers and the Periodical Publishers‟ Association. The code was re-launched in January 2007 and covers the deposit of non-print publications in microform (e.g. microfilm) and offline electronic media or electronic publications issued on physically separate digital media, such as CD-ROM, DVDs and magnetic disks. Continuously updated publications such as dynamic databases and excluded. Deposit is also not required:

  • if a publication substantially duplicates the content of a print publication from the same publisher which has already been deposited;
  • if a publication is published only for private internal use within an organisation (such as internal reports or an internal house magazine);
  • if a publication has already been deposited under a separate agreement with one or more of the deposit libraries;
  • if a publication falls within a category of publications specified by the legal deposit libraries as not being required for deposit - e.g. computer software, computer games.

The code only requires that one copy be deposited with the British Library though the other libraries may request a copy. The deposit of non-print online (Internet) Official Publications

A growing number of Official publications are increasingly only being published on-line via departmental/agency websites. Many of these “publications” (e.g. annual statistics, reports etc.) may in previous years have been published in print and copies of these will have been deposited with the Legal Deposit Libraries. It is important that the Legal Deposit Libraries are able to maintain a complete run of such publications and all departments should therefore take steps to provide to the British Library a copy of any publication which is now published only via the internet.

Copies of such publications should be provided to the British Library by e-mail or FTP. Further advice may be obtained from the Legal Deposit and Digital Acquisitions Co-ordinator at the British Library


Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003