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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 Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013 apply to any digital or other non-print publication, except:

  • A work containing personal data that is only made available to restricted groups.
  • A work consisting solely or predominantly of film or recorded sound (or both), where other forms of content are purely incidental.

Sound recordings and films are defined by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988: a sound recording is “a recording of sounds, from which the sounds may be reproduced, or a recording of the whole or any part of a literary, dramatic or musical work from which sounds reproducing the work or part may be produced, regardless of the medium on which the recording is made or the method by which the sounds are reproduced or produced” and a film is a “recording on any medium from which a moving image may by any means be produced”.

Removing the audio-visual elements from a work that consists solely or predominantly of recorded film or sound (or both) would leave little or no intelligible content. Thus, for example, the 2013 Regulations do not apply to a cinema film DVD, a music CD, broadcast or streamed TV and radio programmes, or UK-published content in online sites such as LoveFilm, YouTube or Spotify.

However the 2013 Regulations do apply to a work that includes audio-visual material as a feature within the main body of work rather than as its main purpose. Removing the audio-visual elements from such a work might well diminish the work’s content or the user’s experience of it, but would not eliminate all of its value. Thus, for example, the Regulations do apply to most websites containing sound or video clips (such as the BBC’s website) because they also include text- or image-based content; the Regulations would also apply to any e-book, e-journal or e-magazine containing embedded sound or moving image files to the extent that the embedded files are published under the control of the publisher.