Legal deposit is the statutory obligation to deposit at least one copy of every UK publication, free of charge, at the British Library and other designated deposit libraries.
This obligation has existed in English law for printed books and papers since 1662 and for electronic and other non-print publications since 6th April 2013. It helps to ensure that the nation's published output, and thereby its intellectual record and future published heritage, is collected systematically, both in order to preserve the material for the use of future generations and to make it available for readers within the designated deposit libraries.
Benefits for publishers
The legal deposit system has benefits for 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 on CD-ROM in MARC Exchange formats, and has a world-wide distribution
- 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.
Understanding the legal requirement placed on publishers
1. Printed publications
- Relevant legislation: Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 (Ireland)
The Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, are each entitled to delivery, free of charge, of one copy of every publication that they request. However,
- The request must be made in writing (whether sent by electronic or other means) no later than 12 months after the day of the work's publication. The request may be made before publication and may include all future numbers or parts of an encyclopaedia, newspaper, magazine, journal or other work
- The deposited copy must be delivered within one month of the day of publication or the day on which the request is received, whichever is later
- The deposited copy 'is to be of the same quality as the largest number of copies which, at the time of delivery, have been produced for publication in the United Kingdom'
- Copies for these deposit libraries must be delivered to a specified address. For many years they have shared an Agency that requests and takes receipt of deposited works.
The Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries operates on behalf of five of the UK's designated deposit libraries. The agency is located at 21 Marnin Way, Edinburgh EH12 9GD. It operates as a single point from which legal deposit requests and receipts are made. It has a responsibility to record the deposit of publications and to securely distribute that material to the five legal deposit libraries it represents.
2. Electronic (non-print) publications
- Relevant legislation: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/777/pdfs/uksi_20130777_en.pdf
In 2013 the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations recognised the importance to the UK’s information infrastructure of the key shift in publishing which has taken place in recent years: the move to digital. The Regulations recognise the central role the Legal Deposit Libraries have in securing this electronic manifestation of the national published memory for future generations. They permit each Legal Deposit Library to claim and receive publications in an electronic format. However, this must be by agreement and the default format remains print until such time as an agreement is reached. Please see detail below.
What do I need to do as a publisher?
If you already deposit printed publications, please continue to do so until the British Library or another Legal Deposit Library contacts you.
- If your electronic content is freely accessible on the web, without any requirement for users to log in or pay, the British Library will attempt to archive it directly through a crawling process. See: Legal Deposit UK Web Archive.
- If your electronic content requires a password, subscription or payment, the British Library or another Legal Deposit Library will contact you as soon as it is ready to begin processing your material. See: Electronic legal deposit collecting plans
Or you may choose to move to digital deposit using the British Library's deposit portal now. If so, please read on.
Publishers, particularly of e-only titles, but also of titles with a print & digital equivalent may deposit their published content via a secure online submission portal, which can be found at the following link, and which will require registration to proceed: https://publisherdeposit.ldls.org.uk
One-time submission of each new book title or periodical issue replaces the need to deposit six printed copies each time a new publication is produced. All deposited digital files are securely stored, preserved, catalogued and made accessible to registered readers within the Legal Deposit Libraries. Only a single reader on the premises of a legal deposit library can consult a deposited work at any one time.
The deposit portal allows publishers, once registered, to upload ePub or PDF files. A simple metadata template can be completed upon submission. Legal Deposit via this route offers publishers the option to upload e-books or e-journals. Currently, ISBN and / or ISSN, and title are mandatory elements for successful deposit.
The portal is intended for use by publishers who produce a relatively small number of new book titles or periodical issues. As a general guide, this will be book publishers publishing fewer than 50 new titles per year and periodical publishers with fewer than 10 current titles. For the larger publisher of digital content, options might include arranging with an existing distributor or aggregator to deposit copies at the British Library on your behalf.
For a demonstration on how to use the portal please see
For e-journal publishers who have archiving arrangements in place with Portico, there is also an option, subject to prior agreement with the British Library, to authorise Portico to deposit a copy with the British Library on the publisher’s behalf.
Should you have any further questions or problems uploading content via the portal, in the first instance please contact the British Library’s Customer Services department: Customer-Services@bl.uk (+44 (0)1937 546060).
The Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013 can be found here, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111533703
The British Library website also contains further information for publishers, http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/legaldeposit/index.html
The Legal Deposit Libraries will always try to accommodate individual publishers who approach them for agreement to begin depositing electronic publications, provided that the content is of a type and format that they can process and provided that any transition from print deposit to electronic deposit (if relevant) is agreed and properly coordinated. However it may sometimes be necessary to postpone individual publisher requests if the libraries are not yet able to deal with their content because of technical constraints, operational (processing) difficulties or financial and resourcing considerations.