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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.

A common concern in publisher responses to the Government’s consultations on non-print legal deposit was the security of works deposited under the Regulations. The deposit libraries have signed a joint undertaking to the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit which contains a range of commitments covering the security of deposited non-print publications and appropriate assurance mechanisms.

See: Joint Undertaking on Security for legal deposit

The Legal Deposit Libraries have implemented a shared technical infrastructure for non-print legal deposit. This is based upon the Digital Library System first developed by the British Library and now supported in partnership with the National Library of Scotland and National Library of Wales, and with a financial contribution from the Bodleian Library Oxford, Cambridge University Library and the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

The Shared Technical Infrastructure is maintained in a secure environment, with network links protected by firewalls and virus checking systems, and with no public internet access.

Deposited works are stored in this Shared Technical Infrastructure, which currently has four storage nodes located in St Pancras, Boston Spa, Aberystwyth and Edinburgh. Each node stores a full copy of all the materials held within the system. The nodes are in constant communication with each other across a secure network, with automated routines for self‐checking, replication and repair; if a digital file stored in one of the nodes becomes corrupted or lost, it is automatically restored from one of the other nodes. Furthermore, each node also uses a technical arrangement by which files are copied and stored on two or more physical disks, with self‐checking and replication between the disks.

These measures are designed to ensure that the system is extremely resilient and capable of preserving content for many years. The system is also designed to be secure and meets the requirements of the Regulations; a digital rights management system prevents digital copying and ensures that a deposited work may only be displayed at one computer at a time within the premises of each legal deposit library.

Descriptive bibliographic information (metadata) is also stored in the Shared Technical Infrastructure. Copies of the metadata are exported, with periodic updates as required, to each library’s resource discovery system or catalogue. Users of each deposit library are able to identify legal deposit material within the library’s collections and submit a request to use it. For users in the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales, access to the material is via the local node; readers in Oxford, Cambridge or Dublin connect to one of the British Library nodes via a secure network in order to view the material. In all circumstances, access is managed by an overall digital policy module which controls all use of material and is delivered through a secured remote desktop browser system.