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14 Mar 2003 : Column 578—continued

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Bill does not change the position of those other five libraries as regards printed material, which is the current position, and serves only to extend provision, to a certain extent, of non-printed material?

Mr. Mole: Throughout the development of the Bill we have sought to ensure that, in practice, the principles of access to materials for readers in Wales and Scotland will continue to be the same as they are now.

In the mid-1990s, following pressure from the legal deposit libraries and other interested parties, the Government issued a Green Paper on legal deposit and the possibility of its extension to other types of material. A working group chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny concluded in 1998 that only a system of legal deposit would secure a comprehensive published archive. He stated:

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My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, responded to the report in a parliamentary answer in December 1998. It ended:

My right hon. Friend requested that, in the meantime, a code of practice for the voluntary deposit of non-print publications should be drawn up and agreed between publishers and the deposit libraries.

It was under that direction that the joint committee for voluntary deposits, with members representing publishers and deposit libraries, was set up. The JCVD oversees the operation of a draft code developed by it and endorsed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Publishers Association, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, the Periodical Publishers Association and the legal deposit libraries.

The voluntary code, in operation since January 2000, covers non-print publications in microform—basically on microfilm, as well as offline electronic media, such as CD-ROMs, DVDs and magnetic discs. To date, more than 100 publishers have signed up to the scheme and more than 1,000 monographs and 850 journals have been archived.

The purpose of the voluntary system was to plug the growing gap in the national published archive ahead of eventual legislation to introduce the statutory deposit of non-print publications. It was also intended to act as a pilot phase, during which matters of definition, procedure and control could be agreed by the publishers and libraries and any difficulties in implementation monitored.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, the then Secretary of State, said in response to the working party:

The scheme proved useful in assisting in the process of drafting effective and workable legislation. The JCVD arrangements will continue for the collection of film and sound materials.

Despite the success of the voluntary code of practice between publishers and legal deposit libraries, well over half of electronically delivered publications—the fastest growing group of materials—and about a quarter of hand-held publications, such as CD-ROMs, are not currently deposited. They are typically materials used in long-term research, which are of cultural significance and are a vital part of the nation's published heritage.

Collecting, storing and preserving that material will present the legal deposit libraries with a major challenge. They are already working with other countries to identify the best ways of preserving electronic materials. New systems are being developed to allow information to be migrated to media that will be used by future generations, permitting materials to be accessed even when their original formats have become

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obsolete. No one expects easy answers, but solutions are evolving. The Bill sets out a framework to enable the Secretary of State to implement secondary legislation in the form of regulations addressing the exact ways in which new media material will be collected. That is necessary to make sure that the legislation remains future-proof—materials published by technologies currently in development and those that have not even been invented yet can, if necessary, be brought within the scope of the legal deposit.

Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central): I want to make a practical point, but first I congratulate my hon. Friend on the Bill. I have received a significant amount of lobbying from people in my constituency, where there are two university libraries—Aberdeen university library and the Robert Gordon university library. They are anxious that the Bill should be enacted.

Clause 2 deals with the issue of new and alternative editions. My practical point concerns, for example, newspapers that are published and sold on the streets in hard copy form and, at the same time, published on a website on the internet. At the moment, the hard copy is required to be sent to the various archives mentioned by my hon. Friend, but the clause would seem to provide publishers with the option of sending either the hard copy or the online copy, which, for some, would be cheaper. At the same time, the provision may not cover issues of importance to future generations. For example, classified ads tell us a lot about what people think—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can make his intervention more succinct. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) has got his drift.

Mr. Mole: Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have got the gist of what my hon. Friend is saying. If two different media in which a publication appears are essentially the same, the clause requires only one version to be deposited, but if there is a substantial difference between the online edition and the print edition, they will be treated as separate publications. I hope that that helps my hon. Friend to understand the intentions behind clause 2.

I shall skate across the Bill's financial implications, as they are set out in the regulatory impact assessment, a copy of which has been placed in the House of Commons Library. Some publishers have expressed concern about clause 7, which deals with access and preservation. I believe that that is a matter of implementation, so it may be better addressed by the Secretary of State. However, I can reinforce the point that the legislative process involves detailed consultation with all stakeholders prior to the introduction of secondary legislation. Notwithstanding that fact, both the legal deposit libraries and publishers' representatives agree that new legislation is necessary to safeguard the future integrity and completeness of the national published archive. They agree, as do the Government, that new legislation should be generic to ensure that new formats and information carriers are included, by means of secondary legislation, within the legal deposit as they appear.

In conclusion, the legal deposit libraries provide vital collections for researchers in business and industry, as well as academics and students across the UK.

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However, with the explosion in e-publishing, they face the prospect of becoming irrelevant. Unless we extend the law as many other countries are already doing, valuable material will be lost forever. The Bill provides a timely opportunity to update and extend the law on the legal deposit, and I commend it to the House.

1.9 pm

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): I congratulate the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) on securing a high place in the private Members' ballot, and more so on choosing to introduce a Bill on such an important and worthwhile issue, which has widespread support in all parts of the House and from a large number of prestigious and prominent bodies in the United Kingdom. I compliment the hon. Gentleman on the authoritative way in which he presented his Bill to the House.

I have received substantial correspondence on the matter, as I am sure have many hon. Members present today, from a wide spectrum of interested parties and groups ranging from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, to the Arts and Humanities Research Board, from the Society of College, National and University Libraries to the National Maritime Museum. A common theme throughout the correspondence was overwhelming support for the Bill for the benefit of researchers, industries and the general public, both now and in the future.

On a slightly cautionary note, I also received correspondence from the publishers, who are anxious that the Bill may have been too hastily compiled, without adequate consultation with them. However, they were at pains to stress their overall support for the merits of the Bill, but felt strongly that their voice had been overlooked on some issues of huge consequence to their industry. I shall elaborate on their concerns a little later.

The current system of legal deposits dates back to legislation passed in 1911. The House at that time recognised the importance of archiving all UK publications in the interests of the recognition and prosperity of our national heritage. The original legislation has left us with much to be grateful for, ensuring that even the most seemingly trivial publications are preserved for future use, when their content may provide an essential resource.

The practice of depositing printed publications to the six legal deposit libraries—the British Library, the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, the national libraries of Scotland and Wales, and the library of Trinity college, Dublin—has led to the compilation of an immeasurably useful archive and resource that charts the history and heritage of the United Kingdom. To date, the British Library alone has archived more than 50 million items as a direct result of the Copyright Act 1911.

Speaking of the British Library, I take this opportunity to say what a great success, if largely unsung and unrecognised, that venture has been. On a recent visit, I was very impressed with the building, its architecture, its facilities and the professional way in which its services were presented. The British Library is

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not, however, just the building or, for that matter, the books and archive material in it. The quality of its services is due to the staff at all levels, and I pay tribute to them all, and in particular those who have worked tirelessly in the joint committee on voluntary deposits and contributed so significantly to the Bill.

It is important that we act with the same foresight as the Members who approved the original legislation in 1911, to ensure that the modern methods of publishing material are encompassed in the legal deposit legislation. The obvious advantages of publishing in non-print form, as a cost-effective and far-reaching medium, mean that many individuals are choosing to publish their material online in websites and electronic journals, or on non-paper media such as microform, CD-ROM and DVD. That is a reflection of the technological advances of our age, an era that future generations are likely to overlook unless we acknowledge the importance of these new methods of publishing. Just as the original Bill sought to preserve our heritage for the benefit of future generations, we must act to safeguard all modern publications for the same purpose. However, we must proceed with caution and common sense. Although we are all eager to include digital and non-print publications in the national archives and limit the loss of future material, we cannot rush into a matter of such importance without proper and in-depth consultation with all the parties involved.

Last year, it was estimated that more than 50 per cent. of electronic publications and some 25 per cent. of hand-held publications failed to be consigned to any of the six legal deposit libraries. The web has not been systematically archived thus far and much valuable content has already been lost. Examples of materials that are being lost include web editions of the major newspapers, the Cochrane library mentioned by the hon. Gentleman and important e-serials such as the Oxford Economic Forecasting's "Weekly Briefing".

The most recent figure of 60,000 non-print weekly publications published within the United Kingdom is set to rise sharply in the coming years as individuals come to recognise the benefits of these new methods. In failing to register such items, we are failing to acknowledge elements of our modern culture and potentially harming the progress of future research by denying a new generation of researchers access to a vast archive of information.

I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the work of the joint committee on voluntary deposits, working alongside the legal deposit libraries in their continuing endeavours to extend the national public archive. Their successes have meant that material that would otherwise have been lost to the libraries has been properly and justly archived. However, online publications and websites are not a part of that undertaking and therefore some 3 million websites in the UK are being overlooked as a result of our outdated legislation. The internet has provided us with an immense archive and source of information that should be acknowledged within the legal deposit system.

Before we endeavour to include this technology, however, we must assess whether the facilities and safeguards are in place to carry that out. I come now to one of the chief concerns of the publishing industry, as represented to me by the digital content forum, a group established by the Department for Trade and Industry

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and the Publishers Association whose membership comprises a number of eminent bodies within the publishing world, including the British Educational Suppliers Association, the Newspaper Society, the Computing Services and Software Association and the European Publishing Council, to name but a few.

In our haste to address the omissions within the legal deposit system, we may have overlooked key areas of concern, including the potential for breach of copyright of the highly valuable material deposited with the libraries by the publishers. Those publishers, who incur the cost of consigning their material to the legal deposit libraries, naturally seek a guarantee from the Secretary of State and the Department that adequate measures will be put in place to safeguard their publications from piracy and copyright infringement.

Furthermore, under clause 6(2)(f), the Government seem to seek to make the publishers liable for the cost of potential IT incompatibility by granting the Secretary of State the power to specify the publishing format, which may not correlate with that of the depositor. Does the Minister accept that that could be a costly and time-consuming burden to place on the publishing industry, and that therefore we should look into the merits of that practice before endorsing it? We must also be aware that it may be necessary to readdress some of the copyright laws and amend them accordingly owing to the unique nature of online publications.

The legal deposit libraries certainly have the experience to encompass all new material included within the legislation in their deposits. The success of the legal deposit scheme thus far has ensured that the foundations for expanding the scope of the national intellectual archive are already in place. However, while the willingness and co-operation of both sides may already be established, the means for carrying out the expansion may not be readily available.

The digital content forum was keen to illustrate the experiences of the Dutch national library in implementing a similar scheme where substantial public funding was needed to address the problems that it encountered. The scale of what we are proposing here today may need to be considered in more detail in Committee and perhaps in the other place in order to placate and benefit all those involved.

It was generally agreed by all those with a vested interest in the legislation that the joint committee on voluntary deposits would be required to continue its effective work or else that a similar body would be set up in its place to oversee the new measures and help to sustain good relations between the industry and the legal deposit libraries. A renewed role and responsibility for such a body is an issue that may also have to be addressed, owing to the technicalities of implementing such a Bill. For example, websites can alter with extraordinary frequency, so will it be the role of that body to decide when a site qualifies as a new publication?

I am delighted that it has been recognised in the drafting of the Bill, in clause 8(7), that the Secretary of State should be required to consult deposit libraries and publishers before making any new regulations under the Bill. I seek an assurance from the Minister that undue Government intervention will not be imposed on any of the interested parties, which could be enabled under

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clause 7. I have been informed that the promises to publishers on consultations after the Bill's publication were not adhered to. Publishers were promised a consultation period of several months; instead, they got five days. It also seems that the draftsmen have not obviously sought to address the need for a balance of benefit and burden for all parties involved.

In the interests of the Bill being UK-wide legislation, I understand that the appropriate consultations with the devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have taken place and that all the issues have been adequately discussed and considered. The Bill will further compound the strong relations that previously existed between the British Library and the national libraries of Scotland and Wales through their co-operation in effectively carrying out the necessary application and administration. The outcome of such co-operation ensures that individuals throughout the United Kingdom can benefit from the system of legal deposits.

I therefore offer the support of the Opposition for the purposes of the Bill in the interests of the continued success of the legal deposit scheme. In an age of increasing numbers of non-print publications, it is vital not to lose sight of the simple objectives of legal deposits in ensuring that all UK published material is archived and preserved for use in the present and in the future. In step with the new opportunities afforded to the publishing world as a result of technological advances, the legislation needs to be updated to reflect a rapidly expanding medium of publishing and to safeguard the preservation of UK publications.

However, I should like to reflect the concerns of those who have raised objections about the apparent hastiness in drafting the Bill. We have only one opportunity to implement this worthwhile measure, so we must endeavour to do so with caution, due consideration and, above all, proper and full consultation with the groups that will feel the impact of our decisions today.

We shall be looking to improve the Bill in Committee so as to reflect the concerns expressed by the publishing community. Without its full and unconditional support, such a Bill will probably be unworkable, and we will not be giving the Bill unconditional support in future if those issues have not been properly and satisfactorily addressed. Perhaps the Minister could indicate that he is both aware of those recent difficulties and prepared to address them in due course.

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