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 Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013 apply to any work published in offline media (on CD-ROM, microform etc.) in the UK, and to any work published online:
“(a) if it is made available to the public from a website with a domain name which relates to the United Kingdom or to a place within the United Kingdom; or
(b) it is made available to the public by a person and any of that person’s activities relating to the creation or the publication of the work take place within the United Kingdom.”
but excluding works which are only accessible to persons outside the UK.
Part (a), referring to a website with a domain name which relates to the UK or to a place within the UK, is interpreted as including all .uk websites, plus websites in potential future geographic top level domains that relate to the UK such as .scotland, .wales or .london. However it is not construed as covering websites whose domain name mentions a UK place within a generic top level domain or another country’s geographic top level domain such as, hypothetically, www.oxford.com or www.london.tv. Works that are made available to the public from such websites, or from other websites whose domain name does not mention a UK place, will only be treated as being published in the UK if part (b) applies.
The Legal Deposit Libraries anticipate two main scenarios, in which part (b) may apply:
- For works that are behind a login facility and harvested by a deposit library or for works that are delivered to a deposit library by the publisher—i.e. subject to Regulation 16—there will be an engagement process between the publisher and a deposit library. As part of this engagement, deposit libraries would normally expect to discuss and agree with the publisher the scope of works that will be harvested or that should be delivered. In this scenario, the deposit libraries anticipate defining the scope by whether a substantial (i.e. non-trivial) part of creating the work, or the editorial decision to make the work available to the public, took place in the UK.
- When a deposit library archives copies of relevant material from the open web, under the combined effect of Regulations 13(3) and 18(3), an automated crawling process will be used. Although the crawler will identify itself to the website server, in the normal course of events there is unlikely to be an opportunity for separate dialogues between the deposit library and each individual publisher. In this scenario, the deposit libraries will use a variety of techniques in an effort to identify websites that are published in the UK, and will implement a notice and takedown policy for any material copied erroneously.