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: