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Electronic Legal Deposit


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

What changes took place on 6 April 2013? 
Since 6 April 2013 legal deposit has also covered 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, ejournals, ebooks, and CD-ROMs.

The Legal Deposit Libraries are:

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

Is there a difference between ‘non-print’, ’digital’ or  ‘electronic legal deposit’?
No.  The legislation and regulations refer to non-print legal deposit; the libraries have agreed to use the term ‘electronic legal deposit’.

What has been made available since 6 April 2013?

A mixture of content has been made available since 6 April 2013, including more than 1 million ejournal articles, a growing collections of ebooks from selected academic and non-academic publishers, maps and websites in the UK domain. Documents from the web, including those in PDF and MS Office formats, particularly official publications, will be added. Sheet music will also be included in the future.

Is anything excluded?
Audio-visual material consisting solely or predominantly of film or recorded sound is excluded, as are works containing personal data made only available to restricted groups. In addition, the content of pure video streaming sites, such as YouTube, also falls outside the legislation.

Will there be a print copy available as well?
No. The Library can only receive one format under these regulations. When a journal is received in digital format, the print equivalent ceases to be deposited from that date. The same will applies to ebooks, with publishers usually transitioning their entire publication run from print to digital (and in rare cases from digital to print). Trinity Library currently operates a Reader Recommendation scheme for acquiring print copies of a limited number of books deposited digitally under UK eLD.

Will material behind pay walls and password barriers be collected? 
Yes, the intention is that this material is in scope.

Can I view this content on my own laptop or at home? 
No. The terms of the legislation prohibit the content from being viewed at home or on personal laptops.

Can I print electronic legal deposit content?
Yes, printing within the terms of the legislation is available from designated electronic legal deposit terminals in each Library building. You must use our UK eLD Printing Guide as the printing process is slightly different to standard printing of subscribed content. 

Can I save an article to a memory stick? 
No. Downloading of this content is not permitted under the legislation.

Can I email an article? 
No. This is not permitted under the legislation.

Can I take a photograph of the item on the screen?
No. Making digital copies of any kind is not permitted.

I want to look at a particular article, but I'm told that it's already in use. When will it be available for me to see, and can I book it? 
Only one person at a time in the Library can view each item. Once a reader has finished using the item and has closed it down, it will become available for another reader to consult.  This replicates the conditions in the print environment and forms part of the regulations.

What are the plans for the future? 
It is anticipated that the extent of the content available will grow over time. The conditions of the regulations remain in force forever, including after all intellectual property rights in the deposited material have expired.