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By law, a copy of every UK print publication must be given to the British Library by its publishers, and to five other major libraries that request it. This system is called legal deposit and has been a part of English law since 1662.

From 6 April 2013, legal deposit also covers material published electronically, so that the Legal Deposit Libraries can maintain a national collection of e-journals, e-books, digitally published news, magazines and other types of content.

The British Library and other Legal Deposit Libraries are entitled by law to collect UK-published material that is protected by password or behind a login facility by harvesting, subject to giving at least 1 month’s written notice for the publisher to provide a password or access credentials.

Alternatively, by mutual agreement, a publisher and deposit library may decide to use another deposit method such as publisher delivery.

What do I need to do as a publisher?

Nothing yet. If you already deposit printed publications, please continue to do so until the British Library or another Legal Deposit Library contacts you.

  • If your electronic content is freely accessible on the web, without any requirement for users to log in or pay, the British Library will attempt to archive it directly through a crawling process. See: Websites and web pages
  • If your electronic content requires a password, subscription or payment, the British Library or another Legal Deposit Library will contact you as soon as it is ready to begin processing your material. See: Collecting objectives in 2013-14

What formats should be deposited?

For works published in both print and non-print media which are substantially the same, only one medium is subject to deposit; a publisher should continue depositing print, until both the publisher and the deposit libraries mutually agree to transfer to depositing electronically.

For electronic publications published in more than one digital format, it may be necessary to agree which digital format should be deposited. Common accepted formats include XML, HTML, SGML, PDF, EPub, Microsoft Word and RTF.

What options are available for delivering content to the Legal Deposit Libraries?

Options include:-

  • For publishers of books, journals or other documents in PDF, Microsoft Word, RTF, EPub and other non-XML formats, delivering them via a dedicated secure portal.
  • By mutual agreement, arranging with an existing supplier or intermediary, such as a distributor or aggregator, to deposit copies at the British Library on behalf of the publisher.
  • For e-journal publishers archiving with Portico, authorising Portico to deposit a copy with the British Library.

Do I need to deposit metadata?

A publisher must also deliver a copy of any computer programs, tools, manuals and information—such as metadata, login details, and a means of removing individual DRM technical protection measures—that are necessary for using and preserving the publication. The deposit libraries have separate security arrangements restricting the use of deposited material to just those activities that are permitted by the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013.

What do new start-up companies and micro-businesses need to do?

Until 31st March 2014, micro-businesses of fewer than 10 employees and new start-up businesses are exempt from the Regulations that require a publisher to deposit offline publications or to provide a password for library harvesting of protected material.

Find out more about:

For further details please contact:

Digital Processing Team
The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BY

Tel: +44 (0)1937 546060 (Customer Services)