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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


Kids4Kids Author Ann Brady said...

I thought you summed the requirements up extremely well Chris. Well done.

It can be a mine field I know. I sent my first book to Wetherby thinking I was doing the right thing only to receive a letter demanding the other 5 so it can be a little costly if you self-publish. The positive side is your books are there for posterity.

Graham Watkins said...

Interesting blog. Thanks for posting it.

Chris Longmuir said...

I know what you mean, Ann Brady, and I'm sure my post has made it clear why the additional demand for 5 books was made. Just don't make the mistake of sending the additional 5 books to Wetherby, and vice versa with the single book.

Karl Drinkwater said...

"If the book is not sent they will send a reminder informing you that you have not complied with the legislation."

Is that the extent of the penalty for non-compliance? Or are there fines, or something more severe? From looking at discussions it is clear that sometimes it is not complied with (possibly due to ignorance of it; or maybe forgetting, since the BL does not always send reminders). If the worst penalty in the UK is receiving a reminder letter then it doesn't create much pressure to comply. Of course, since most libraries have storage problems, they might not be keen to do any enforcement anyway - probably why I've heard they will accept PDFs in many cases.

Chris Longmuir said...

I've never left it until after the reminder so I don't know how stroppy they get, and the deposit libraries usually have large areas for storage of the deposits. I had a tour of the National Library of Scotland recently and we were taken down to the stacks. They seemed to stretch forever. Books were shelved as they normally are, newspapers and magazines and other print publications were boxed on the shelves. The indexing was meticulate, but you would have to know what you were doing.

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks for that Chris. I have never done it, but knew I should, and it's something that's always worried me. As someone who makes very little from writing, the prospect of being required to buy 6 of the print version of each title (and being POD they're expensive), which will be filed away unread,is not attractive. I was VERY glad when Accent Press republished me and it was someone else's responsibility. As it's turned out, having a publisher has not proved an unalloyed success, but that's another story. Your clear explanation proves to me that I did not need to make the required deposit as I self-published through Create Space. I can now let out my breath. I wasn't breaking the law. !

Karl Drinkwater said...

It's great fun touring the archives. I've been a public, FE and HE librarian, and also been around my National Library back areas (Wales). Though deposit libraries are strange beasts. Normal libraries have a collection development policy that usually aims at getting rid of as many books as they take in, but deposit libraries can't do that, they have to keep it all! And it can be a lot (c. 8,000 books per day at the BL - that's a huge amount of storage used up every month), so they have to expand to store the books. That's all I meant by them favouring e-storage in some cases for low-demand items. They can store the equivalent of millions of books on a server the size of a hat box. :-)
If there's no penalty for not sending them the books I can imagine in some cases the publisher might not bother, and the libraries might not mind too much either if it isn't a high-profile work, or something tied to their priorities (e.g. books in Welsh or about Wales in the National Library of wales). Thanks for your post helping any authors who were unfamiliar with this area.

Chris Longmuir said...

In my previous career as Adoptions Officer, I was responsible for ensuring that all adoption records were archived. They had to be kept for 75 years and we had many a discussion about this. When considering electronic copies of the records it was pointed out that technology moves on and there might be no way of accessing these files if the medium they were stored in became defunct!

Karl Drinkwater said...

A totally valid point Chris. Many digitally archived things have already been lost or rendered unusable due to changes in technology. Even PDF is a proprietary format that does weird things to content (not storing it as a plain text layer, as anyone who has even copied and pasted from PDFs soon discovers). The most common system is to migrate data formats before they become archaic, which is also a big issue that can introduce problems. And yet, with paper, I've been aware of many cases where irreplaceable materials have been lost in fire or flood, and because they weren't digital, there were no copies elsewhere - they really were the only existing record, gone for good. It's an interesting area, data conservation, and no perfect answers, but lots of questions. Preservation takes a lot of money and time, whatever the format. (Apart from carving in stone, which lasts quite well).

Chris Longmuir said...

I hate to think of the size of depository needed for stone tablets!

Karl Drinkwater said...

Stonehenge x 1,000,000,000. :-)

Chris Longmuir said...

With that many Stonehenges there won't be any space left for people!