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Voluntary and legal deposit of publications

The British Library has an unrivalled collection of UK publishing, much of which we have received under legal deposit law over several hundred years. As in the print world the British Library is looking to build a comprehensive collection of UK electronic publishing through the extension of legal deposit.

Our mission is to enable the United Kingdom to preserve and use its digital output forever so we are actively involved in the legislative process to enable statutory deposit of UK electronic publishing. In the short-term, we are operating a series of schemes which enable publishers to voluntarily deposit titles published electronically. We will catalogue, store and preserve your publications in our secure digital library system to ensure the content is available to researchers in this and future generations.

We anticipate there will be much electronic publishing specifically relating to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and whilst publishers are not currently obliged to deposit, we encourage you to take up the voluntary deposit facility and lodge a copy with us. We can receive publications via e-mail to, via FTP or we can even automatically collect your website if you would like! All this will enable us to create a full and lasting legacy of the Games.

If you are interested in deposit of your electronic publications with us or would like more information, then please contact:

Andrew Davis
Legal Deposit & Digital Acquisitions Co-ordinator
The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ 

The Legal Deposit Advisory Panel (LDAP) was established by the Department of Culture Media and Sport in September 2005 as an independent body to advise the Secretary of State on the implementation of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003. This Act allows for Regulations to be made, where appropriate, to extend the existing system of legal deposit to non-print publications; this is being done on an incremental basis.

Legal deposit of publications with the British Library

The principle of legal deposit has been well established for nearly four centuries and has great advantages for authors and publishers. Publications deposited with the libraries are made available to registered users, are preserved for the benefit of future generations, and become part of the national heritage.

Legal deposit is the act of depositing published material in designated libraries. Publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and in Ireland have a legal obligation to deposit published material in the six legal deposit libraries which collectively maintain the national published archive of the British Isles. These are:

  1. The British Library
  2. The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
  3. Cambridge University Library
  4. The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
  5. The Library of Trinity College, Dublin
  6. The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Publishers are obliged to send one copy of each of their publications to the British Library within one month of publication. The other five libraries have the right to claim items. In practice many publishers deposit their publications with all six libraries without waiting for a claim to be made.

What is legal deposit based upon?

In the United Kingdom, the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, and, in Ireland, the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 make it obligatory for publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and Ireland to deposit their publications.

What is a publisher?

Within the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries and Copyright Acts, 'publisher' is understood to be anyone who issues publications to the public.

What should publishers deposit?

All printed publications come within the scope of legal deposit. Items published and distributed in the United Kingdom and in Ireland are liable for deposit. The requirement remains, irrespective of the number of copies in a published edition, the price of individual copies, or the size of the publishing body. Items originally published elsewhere but distributed in the United Kingdom and in Ireland are also liable for deposit.
Every issue of a periodical, journal or newspaper should be deposited. Published maps and sheet music should also be deposited.
The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and, in Ireland, the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 also make provision to extend legal deposit to electronic publishing.

How is information about publications made available?

Publications are recorded in the catalogues of the six legal deposit libraries. The catalogues are accessible on the World Wide Web and will remain essential research tools for generations to come. Most of the books and new serial titles are listed in the British National Bibliography (BNB), which is used by librarians and the book trade for stock selection. All the legal deposit libraries contribute to BNB, which has a world-wide distribution.

Click on the Legacy link at the top of the page for other aspects of the Olympics legacy.

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