News

Digital publications to head to deposit libraries

New regulations coming into force tomorrow [6th April] will mean that publishers will have to provide a copy of all digital publications to the six legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland.

The libraries, including the British Library and the Bodleian Library, will have the right to receive a copy of every UK electronic publication, including e-books, journals and magazines, with the libraries also working to archive the entire UK web domain.

The regulations were developed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, alongside the joint committee on legal deposit which included representatives from the publishing industry.

The libraries will be working with 25 publishers in the first year, with the number increasing as their capabilities to store digital content increase. British Library head of content strategy, research and operations Lucie Burgess said they were currently deciding on which publishers they will initially be in contact with, with priority given to e-book only publishers, and the aim to "represent the diversity of publishing". They will also work with 15 e-journal publishers.

Burgess said in instances when a new work is published simultaneously in print and in digital formats, the default format for legal deposit will remain print for the time being, but if a publisher produces an enhanced e-book, for example, with substantially different content, this will be required in addition to the print copy.

Researchers will only be able to access the digital archive content while at a legal deposit library, and there will be a minimum of seven days between the content being transferred to the library and it being available online. Burgess stressed the aim was to balance the public interest in accessing the archive and protect publishers' commercial interests and copyright.

Publishers will be able to transfer their files through an online file transfer service, with Burgess encouraging particularly small and medium-sized publishers to use this service, as they might not be among the first to be contacted by the library.  

Burgess said: "One of our objectives is to support the publishing industry; it is really important that we preserve this digital output."

British Library chief executive Roly Keating said: "Ten years ago, there was a very real danger of a black hole opening up and swallowing our digital heritage . . . The regulations now coming into force make digital legal deposit a reality, and ensure that the Legal Deposit Libraries themselves are able to evolve."