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Sunday, 5 March 2017

Are You Publishing a Book? What do you Know About Legal Deposit?

Recent posts on Facebook indicate a great deal of confusion over Legal Deposit. Some self-publishing authors have never heard of it, while others question what it means to them. Combined with this is a misunderstanding of where the books have to be sent, mainly because a lot of the Depositories are National Libraries. To many people, writers included, a library is a place which lends books, and the distinction between Legal Deposit libraries and public libraries is not clear. So, it might be best to start off with a clarification of this issue.
Montrose Library courtesy of Russ Hamer, Wikipedia Commons
Public Libraries

Public libraries can be found in every town. They provide a free book lending source for the general public. These libraries should not be confused with the Legal Deposit libraries which I will discuss in the next section. A public library buys the books it requires to stock the library and is not entitled to free copies of an author or publisher’s book after publication, although an author may gift books if they so wish. However, library contacts have informed me that not every library will accept free copies and if an author sends them they will not be added to the library shelves and will probably land up in the next library book sale. The reason for this is related to health and safety because many donated books are not in good condition.

Legal Depositories

Legal Deposit of publications is a requirement in every country. Legal depositories are mainly National Libraries which also includes University libraries in some countries. In addition to National libraries, university libraries are used as depositories in the UK, Russia, Poland, Slovenia, and Sri Lanka. Books acquired for Legal Deposit are archived and not available for lending, although they can be viewed and accessed for research.
Legal Depository stacks at the National Library of Scotland

What is Legal Deposit

Legal deposit is a statutory requirement to submit copies of publications to a repository. This has been limited to printed publications but the system is currently under expansion to include digital publications. It is referred to as Legal Deposit in most countries, however, it is referred to as Mandatory Deposit in the United States.


Most countries have their own legislation setting out the statutory requirements. In the UK the current legislation is the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, although the legislation originated in 1662. Secondary legislation was brought in to deal with non-print publications (electronic) with the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013.

In the Australia legal deposit is embodied in the Copyright Act 1968. In Canada, it is the Library and Archives of Canada Act 2004. In China, it is article 22 of the Regulations on the Administration of Publication 2001. Each country has its own legislation.

The Legal Requirement

This varies from country to country, ranging from one copy of each new publication in Brazil, to nineteen copies in Poland. As I reside in Britain I will restrict this discussion to UK requirements.

The legal requirement in the UK is for six copies of each new publication to be submitted for legal deposit. The legislation states that one copy of a new publication should be sent to the British Library within thirty days of publication. The British Library will not ask for it and the publisher is expected to send the publication within the allotted time scale. If the book is not sent they will send a reminder informing you that you have not complied with the legislation.

The five remaining books do not need to be sent unless a request for them is made. But once the request is made by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries the same time scale applies.

It is important to note that the British Library legal deposit of one book and the five books required by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries are sent to different addresses. If you combine the six books into one parcel and send to either one or the other address it will result in lost books.

The addresses are:
Legal Deposit Office, The British Library, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7BY (one copy)

Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries, 161 Causewayside, Edinburgh EH9 1PH (five copies)

Agency for Legal Deposit

As mentioned previously, the Agency for Legal Deposit is separate from the Legal Deposit Office at the British Library. The agency’s role is to collect and disperse the remaining five copies of the new publication to the various legal deposit libraries. These libraries are:
  • the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford;
  • Cambridge University Library;
  • the National Library of Scotland;
  • the Library of Trinity College, Dublin;
  • the National Library of Wales.

Who has to comply with Legal Deposit?

The statutory duty to comply with the legislation rests with the publisher. This is another area of confusion with self-publishers. They sometimes find it difficult to determine who is the publisher. The term self-publish can lead to the assumption that everyone who self-publishes is liable for Legal Deposit, and in many cases that is the correct assumption. However, some self-publishers accept the free ISBN that Createspace and similar companies offer, and if they do this they are not the publisher of their self-published book.

So, to clarify the position, it is the person or company who buys the ISBN who is the publisher. So if a free ISBN has been accepted this makes Createspace, or the company supplying it, the publisher. Therefore, the responsibility lies with them. And, of course, if Createspace is the publisher the book is a US publication. If, on the other hand, you have bought your own ISBN and are using Createspace as a printer, rather than a publisher, and you reside in the UK your book is a UK publication. If you reside in a different country it is the country of residence of the publisher.

I have tried to include everything in this post but if anything is missing, or you have a question, please put it in the comments and I will try to answer.

In the meantime, I suppose I should mention that I have included a section on Legal Deposit in my new book the Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing: How to Self-Publish Ebooks and Paperbacks. There are also other sections on PLR (library lending), ALCS (secondary royalties) and loads of other information as well as step-by-step guides to formatting.

Chris Longmuir

Where to buy Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing
UK – paperback – Kindle

US – Paperback - Kindle