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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.

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.
  • If your electronic content requires a password, subscription or payment, the British Library or another legal deposit library will contact you as soon as we are ready to begin processing your material. See: Collecting plans for 2013-14

I would like to start depositing electronically now. What can I do?

We might not be ready to process your content yet because of technical constraints or because of our own financial and operational resourcing considerations, but we will try to accommodate your request if at all possible. Please either:

  • Submit a registration request to use the Deposit Portal, or
  • Contact the British Library to discuss other options:

+44 (0)1937 546060 (Customer Services)

Will content collected and archived by the LDLs through legal deposit be accessible on the internet?

No. Content collected through digital legal deposit will only be accessible within the premises of the legal deposit libraries, and digital copying including ‘copy and paste’ is not possible. See: Users’ access to deposited electronic publications

Am I obliged to deposit electronic publications that were published before the 2013 Regulations?

No, the Regulations only apply to websites and electronic publications being made available after 6th April 2013, and some Regulations only apply to start-up businesses and micro-businesses after 31st March 2014. However the British Library and Legal Deposit Libraries would encourage publishers to consider depositing their ‘back catalogue’ of electronic publications where possible, in order to ensure that they are archived for posterity within the national collection.

How do you decide what constitutes a UK website or UK electronic publication?

The 2013 Regulations define how relevant material must be “connected to the UK”. The Joint Committee on Legal Deposit has agreed how the Legal Deposit Libraries will interpret and implement these Regulations. See: Identifying UK websites and electronic publications

Does legal deposit apply to audio-visual material?

Legal deposit excludes cinema films and recorded music publications, although the Regulations do cover music, sound and video contained within other publications. For further detail, see: Recorded Sound and Film