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Non-print legal deposit: FAQs

More information about the legislation and how it is being implemented is available at Legal Deposit.

You can tell us what you think about the service by using the feedback links within Explore the British Library.

What is non-print legal deposit?
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.

As of 6 April 2013, legal deposit also covers material published digitally and online, so that the Legal Deposit Libraries can provide a national archive of the UK's non-print published material, such as websites, blogs, e-journals and CD-ROMs.

The Legal Deposit Libraries are:

  • The British Library
  • The National Library of Scotland
  • The National Library of Wales
  • The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
  • The University Library, Cambridge
  • The Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

What happened in April 2013?
Legal deposit regulations for non-print materials were introduced in April 2013.

These regulations empower the British Library and the UK legal deposit libraries to collect, store and preserve the nation's memory in the digital age. The content will include online articles and books, and websites.

What is excluded from the legislation?
Social media content, such as from Twitter and Facebook, is part of the legislation and therefore can be collected by the Library. Private messages sent via Facebook and Twitter, however, are excluded and so is not collected. In addition, the content of pure video streaming sites, such as YouTube, also falls outside the legislation.

Which Reading Rooms have access to this content?
All public PCs in the British Library's Reading Rooms provide access to this content, including Colindale and Boston Spa.

What is available?
Articles from journal titles are available now. Later there will be a mixture of content available, including PDF journal articles, websites in the UK domain web archive, as well as more articles/chapters from e-books and e-journals. NB: The content will take time to collect and process, so not everything will be available from "day one". The Library will make it accessible as soon as it can; we anticipate it will take the Library between 6-9 months to collect and collate all the UK domain websites.

How do I find this content on Explore the British Library?
You can find details of searching for and accessing this content in the Explore the British Library handouts Accessing non-print legal deposit content and Accessing web archives.

There are two entries for some archived websites. Why is this?
The Library was already archiving some websites before the non-print legal deposit legislation was introduced in April 2013. The Library needed permission to archive these sites, and as this was negotiated, so too was wider access via Explore the British Library.

Sites archived under legal deposit regulations have different access rights, as specified in the new regulations.

Legal deposit legislation covers all UK domain sites, and so there will be an overlap between what the Library already has archived, and what it will now archive under the new regulations.

As the access rights to the sites are different, the two records remain to enable the access options to be clearly defined.

Websites are generally available to anyone with internet access. Why is access to archived websites different?
Access to websites archived under non-print legal deposit regulations is more restrictive than the internet in general.

Non-print legal deposit legislation specifies that access is only via legal deposit libraries, and that only one person can view the content at any one time within the institution. So, websites archived under legal deposit regulations have to abide by these conditions.

Some of the links in the archived website don't work. Why is this?
Lots of websites contain links to other pages and websites, not all of which have been captured by the domain crawl. If this is the case, then the links within the website will not be able to connect to this additional content.

How many items can I access in a day?
Unlike printed material, there is no limit to the number of non-print legal deposit items you can access in a day.

I want to look at a particular item, but I'm told that it's already in use. When will it be available for me to see?
Only one person at a time can view each item, and there's no time limit set (within a day) for how long an item can be consulted. Once the person using it has finished and closes down the item, it will become available, within a couple of minutes, for another reader to consult.

I've accidentally closed down my session, and now I can't see the item again as I'm told that it's already in use. What do I do now?
If you close down a session, it takes a few seconds for the system to acknowledge this fact. If you try to go straight back into the same item, you may get the message telling you that the item is already in use. Wait for a minute or so, and then try again.

Can I make a reservation for a non-print legal deposit item, to ensure that it is available when I come in to view it?
For the moment the items will be available on a first come, first served basis. As the content increases the Library will monitor readers' satisfaction with the service and review the policy accordingly.

I want a record of what I've seen. Do these items show up in My Reading Room Requests?
No. My Reading Room Requests only displays requests for physical items from the Library's collections. You will need to take a note of the electronic item you have viewed.

Can I view this content on my own laptop, or at home?
No. Due to the terms of the legislation, you'll be unable to see the content at home, or via laptops on the Library's premises.

Can I print out from the resources?
Initially, no. We are currently working on a technical solution for this, and hope to introduce it shortly.
NB: Printing will be restricted, and you will have to accept the terms and conditions governing the printing of this content every time you print something out. The Library will be keeping an online log of printing, and will take action if anyone contravenes the terms and conditions stated.

Can I save this item to a memory stick?
No, downloading in the Reading Rooms is not permitted.

Can I take a photograph of the item on the screen?
No, the use of cameras (including camera phones) in the Reading Rooms is not permitted.

Where else can I view this information?
The other Legal Deposit Libraries are the National Library of Wales, National Library of Scotland, Oxford University, Cambridge University and Trinity College Dublin. You will need to contact them regarding their membership policy and terms of use.

If I need further help, who should I contact?
You can ask Reference Services staff who are available in the Reading Rooms, or you can use the feedback links within Explore the British Library.