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Legal deposit

What is Legal Deposit?

Legal deposit is a way of maintaining a systematic record of publishing output in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, preserving it for future generations. The legislation governing legal deposit was first introduced in 1662. In 2013 it was updated to include electronic and non-print publications.

There are six legal deposit libraries in the UK and ROI:

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

A wide range of materials are published by our community at Reading; from books and journals, to magazines and information pamphlets, to Twitter feeds and blogs; all of these will be covered by the legal deposit legislation.

What does the legislation mean by published?

The legislation only covers material published in the UK. Print material is considered to have been published when copies of it are made available to the public. Under the regulations, non-print material is published in the United Kingdom when:

it is published on a website with a domain name related to the UK or a place in the UK;

it is made available by an entity and any of such entity's activities in relation to creation and publication of materials are in the UK.

What is covered by legal deposit?

As mentioned above, legal deposit applies to both printed and non-printed material. According to British Library guidance, printed material includes:

  • a book (including a pamphlet, magazine or newspaper);
  • a sheet of letterpress or music;
  • a map, plan, chart or table; and
  • a part of any such work.

Online materials are also covered by the legislation; however legal deposit libraries will harvest most of these materials themselves - if they are behind firewalls or paywalls, there will be a request to harvest. If something is published in both print and online, a print copy should still be deposited.

Other types of non-print materials such as CD-ROMS and microfilm are also included.

Is anything exempt?

The following types of publication are exempt from the legislation:

  • reprints of materials already deposited (unless the reprint includes substantial changes);
  • material consisting solely or predominantly of audio-visual content (e.g. material on YouTube);
  • material which contains personal data and is only made available to a restricted group (i.e. not made available to all members of the public). This could include "private social network content (e.g. protected tweets, private Facebook messages); and
  • anything published in a non-print format before 6 April 2013.

What are my obligations?

Anyone publishing material in the UK which does not fall into one of the exceptions above is obliged to send, without charge, one copy of the publication to the British Library within one month of the date of publication. The other legal deposit libraries have the right to request copies to be sent to them, free of charge, within one year of publication. The Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries ( ) will usually request copies on their behalf.

Note that the University is only required to deposit materials which we publish. For example, if you submit an article for publication in a third party journal, the third party will be obliged to deposit your article as part of their publication. There is no obligation to deposit the article separately.

Need help?

For more information please see the British Library legal deposit pages ( or contact the Copyright and Compliance Officer.