Legal Deposit

By law, a copy of every UK print publication must be given to the British Library by its publishers, and to five other major libraries that request it. This system is called legal deposit and has been a part of English law since 1662.

From 6 April 2013, legal deposit also covers material published digitally and online, so that the Legal Deposit Libraries can provide a national archive of the UK’s non-print published material, such as websites, blogs, e-journals and CD-ROMs.

The Legal Deposit Libraries are:

  • the British Library,
  • the National Library of Scotland,
  • the National Library of Wales,
  • the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford,
  • the University Library, Cambridge,  and
  • the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

The legal deposit system also 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.