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Legal deposit for printed publications

Legal deposit has existed in English law since 1662. It helps to ensure that the nation’s published output (and thereby its intellectual record and future published heritage) is collected systematically, to preserve the material for the use of future generations and to make it available for readers within the designated legal deposit libraries.

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 applies to any person who publishes in the United Kingdom. In the case of works published in print, it covers the following categories:

  • a book (including a pamphlet, magazine or newspaper),
  • a sheet of letterpress or music,
  • a map, plan, chart or table, and
  • a part of any such work.

Every new publication and every new edition of a publication, each of which may contain corrections, amendments or additional content, is liable for deposit . However straightforward re-prints are not liable for deposit. In addition, publishers are not required to deposit the following categories of material unless a written demand for them is made by a legal deposit library:

  • Internal reports
  • Examination papers
  • Local transport timetables
  • Appointment diaries
  • Wall and desk calendars
  • Posters

It should be noted that the requirement to deposit an item does not depend on its having been allocated an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or Serial Number (ISSN), but on whether or not it can be considered to have been published. A work is said to have been published when copies of it are issued to the public. The place of publication or printing, the nature of the imprint and size of distribution are immaterial. It is the act of issuing or distributing to the public in the United Kingdom which renders a work liable for deposit.

Find out more:

I publish the same content in print and digital media; do I need to continue depositing print?

Yes, please, until you have successfully registered for depositing digitally and the British Library or another deposit library has confirmed that your digital content can be processed and preserved. We aim to help as many publishers as possible transfer from depositing print to depositing digitally, as soon as appropriate systems and adequate resources are in place, and mutually satisfactory arrangements are agreed.

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