About legal deposit

Cartoon of woman shouting "The Library wants everything!".

Legal deposit requires publishers to provide a copy of every work they publish in the UK to the British Library. It's existed in English law since 1662. Since 2013, legal deposit regulations have expanded to include digital as well as print publications.

Why do we need legal deposit?

Legal deposit ensures the nation's published output is:

  • collected systematically
  • preserved for the use of future generations
  • available for readers within legal deposit libraries.

If you're a publisher you should deposit a copy of every work you publish in the UK with the British Library, and as requested by the legal deposit Libraries. Digital publications are collected by web archiving, or by other methods agreed with publishers.

How legal deposit supports authors and publishers

Deposited publications are made available to users of the deposit libraries on their premises, are preserved for the benefit of future generations, and become part of the nation’s heritage.

Publications are recorded in the online catalogues, and become an essential research resource 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. The BNB is available in a variety of formats.

Publishers have at times approached the deposit libraries for copies of their own publications which they no longer have but which have been preserved through legal deposit.

Legal deposit supports a cycle of knowledge, whereby deposited works provide inspiration and source material for new books that will eventually achieve publication.

Legal deposit legislation

Please look at the following for more information:

The legal deposit libraries

There are 6 UK legal deposit libraries. In addition to the British Library, they are:

The legal deposit libraries work together to ensure the long term preservation of UK publications, both in print and digital form. They ensure that publications are held securely and that they can be discovered and accessed by readers.

Our Joint Collecting Framework for Legal Deposit (PDF) provides more information about our activities and priorities.


How to deposit your print publications

Advice for publishers about what material to send us and where to send it for legal deposit

How to deposit your digital publications

Legal deposit advice for publishers of websites, CD-ROMs and other e-publications

Get an ISBN or ISSN for your publication

These identifiers are used for distributing, describing and selling publications

Request access restrictions for your publications

Information on our notice and takedown procedure