197. Legal deposit is the act of depositing published
material in designated libraries or archives. Publishers and distributors
in the United Kingdom and 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.
The six legal deposit libraries are:
- The British Library
- Bodleian Library, Oxford
- Cambridge University Library
- National Library of Scotland
- Library of Trinity College Dublin
- National Library of Wales
198. The purpose of the system of legal deposit is
to "ensure that the nation's published output (and thereby
its intellectual record and future published heritage) is collected
systematically and as comprehensively as possible, both in order
to make it available to current researchers within the libraries
of the legal deposit system and to preserve the material for the
use of future generations of researchers".
Until recently, legal deposit legislation covered only print publications.
A substantial and growing proportion of published output in the
UK, however, is in digital format. In recognition of this change,
the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 enabled the Secretary of
State for Culture, Media and Sport to make regulations extending
the system of legal deposit to non-print material. As an interim
arrangement, in January 2000 a Voluntary Code of Practice was
established between the deposit libraries and three bodies representing
publishers, the Publishers Association, ALPSP and the Periodical
Publishers Association, to provide for the voluntary deposit of
digital publications. Under the Code, publishers are requested
and encouraged to deposit their digital publications but are not
obliged to do so.
199. Under the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries
Act 2003, DCMS is responsible for drawing up the regulations requiring
the deposit of non-print material. Each set of regulations will
be made subject to a public consultation. One of the assurances
given by DCMS to the publishing community during the passage of
the Act was that no regulations would be made until the department
had appointed a Legal Deposit Advisory Panel, comprised of members
of the publishing and library communities and independent experts.
In the Government's submission it is noted that "DCMS is
consulting on setting up the Advisory Panel and aims to have it
in place by the end of 2004. Work on regulations can begin then
and legal deposit of non-print material is likely to start in
the current arrangements for the deposit of non-print material
are voluntary only, the speed at which this process can be carried
out is extremely important. In answers to supplementary questions,
the British Library told the Committee that it hoped that we would
"encourage Government to ensure that the Advisory Panel is
set up without undue delay".
It is vital that work on regulations for the legal deposit
of non-print publications begins as soon as possible. We cannot
understand why DCMS has not yet established the Legal Deposit
Advisory Panel. We recommend that they appoint the panel and begin
preliminary work on the regulations at official level immediately.
200. Whereas print publications are relatively easy
to define and to trace, these processes are more complicated in
a digital environment. The British Library has attempted to define
non-print publications, using the following categories:
- Publications accessed over
the internet, e.g. electronic journals;
- Publications on media other than paper, such
as microfilm or fiche; and
- "Hand-held" electronic publications
on media such as CD-ROM or DVD.
This list is not exhaustive, and is likely to expand
as new technologies bring to light new formats and possibilities.
One of the issues that needs to be addressed in the regulations
is how they can capture digital publications that are not easily
categorised or defined as such. Similarly, the British Library
noted in answers to supplementary questions, that, "in the
making of Regulations, it will be necessary to arrive at a definition
of a United Kingdom publication, especially in an online environment,
which simultaneously recognises the need for an appropriate territorial
] but also prevents any significant 'deposit
gap' opening up in respect of material which could legitimately
be regarded as constituting part of the UK's intellectual and
We recommend that the first task of the Advisory Panel is to
establish definitions of a digital publication and a UK publication
that are flexible enough to capture material from a range of sources
in a range of formats.
201. In order for a print publication to be accessible
from all six legal deposit libraries, a copy of it has to be deposited
separately in each library. This is not the case for digital publications.
In its memorandum the Government noted that "the establishment
of a secure network between the deposit libraries [
allow access to non-print material from any of the deposit libraries,
following the deposit of just one copy. The details of how such
a network may operate [
] would be subject to consultation
and be covered in the regulations".
The existence of a secure network between the legal deposit
libraries would create greater efficiencies in the deposit system
and would have the potential to increase access to deposited material.
We recommend that provisions for such a network are made in the
regulations with these two aims in mind. The deposit libraries
should be funded to establish the network.
202. Legal deposit collections are not intended to
be a means for readers to obtain free access to publications as
an alternative to using existing supply channels. Print publications
that have been deposited under current legislation are available
to readers within the buildings of the relevant deposit library.
In addition, as is discussed in paragraphs 3031, the British
Library currently operates a Document Supply Service whereby readers
can pay a small fee to be sent articles that they need on request.
Digital technology offers the deposit libraries the option of
delivering deposited articles direct to the reader's desktop.
There is concern amongst the deposit libraries, however, that
the regulations for deposit are likely to prohibit such arrangements.
Cambridge University Library told us that the regulations "will
restrict access to the legal deposit versions of electronic journals,
probably to just one workstation within each legal deposit library
The National Library of Wales told us that "the Act and its
Regulations will prohibit the networking of legal deposit material
outside the walls of the LDLs themselves. (This is a particularly
severe restriction in the case of the National Library of Wales
because of its remote geographical location.)"
Whilst we agree with the British Library that "a judicious
balance must be struck between the national interest (which requires
access) on the one hand and the protection of the legitimate economic
interests of the publishing industry on the other", it would
be disappointing if the deposit libraries were not able to exploit
the technology available to improve access to non-print publications.
We recommend that the regulations make provision for the deposit
libraries to deliver digital articles remotely to desktops on
the same payment basis as Document Supply.
203. It was brought to our attention that, because
the deposit of non-print items is currently carried out on a voluntary
basis only, the deposit libraries will have potentially significant
gaps in their holdings by the time that the new regulations come
into force. There is no bibliographic control of UK publications
that would allow the libraries to be certain of the extent of
these omissions. Nonetheless, the British Library told us that:
- "Of hand-held electronic
publications the Library was already receiving a high proportion
of published output, possibly in the region of 75%
- For electronically-delivered
publications (mostly electronic serials) coverage was much less
good with the BL receiving a smaller proportion of all published
output, ie possibly as much as 45-50%".
As the National Library of Scotland told us, these
gaps could present considerable expense to the libraries: "in
this interim period if publishers are unwilling to deposit voluntarily,
the Library will be required to pay for material it received free
when it was in print form, or else cease to take it and accept
having significant gaps in its holdings".
Gaps of up to 60% in the deposit of electronically-delivered
publications, including STM journals, represent a significant
breach in the intellectual record. It is imperative that work
on recovering and purchasing the missing items begins immediately.
The six deposit libraries will need additional funding to do this.