Skip to main content

Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013

Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2013

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved By

That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013.

Relevant document: 18th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, legal deposit is the statutory requirement for individuals or organisations to deliver copies of their publications to designated institutions, known as legal deposit libraries. They are the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, the Bodleian Library, Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin. The legal deposit regime is crucial in enabling these institutions to preserve and maintain a comprehensive record of our published heritage for future generations.

Legal deposit was first introduced in this country in the 17th century and requirements changed little during the monopoly of the printed word. However, publishing has evolved considerably over the past 20 years, with the rapid rise of digital publishing and the phenomenon of the internet revolutionising how information is made available. Legal deposit arrangements now need to address the UK’s digitally published output in order to maintain a comprehensive record and to avoid the scenario described by deposit libraries and the wider research community whereby such output is lost to a “digital black hole”.

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 was one of the first pieces of legislation worldwide to regulate for the deposit of non-print material. The regulations considered by the Committee today allow the full framework of legal deposit envisaged by the 2003 Act to be put into practice, and specifically for works published in a medium other than print to be preserved on a systematic basis for the first time. Following extensive consultation with the publishing and research sectors, the Government are now in a position to introduce the landmark extension of the legal deposit regime to cover non-print works. These regulations will enable the full range of this nation’s published intellectual and cultural output to be preserved and secured for posterity.

The regulations have been designed to allow a light-touch means of archiving non-print works which balances the needs of both publishers and deposit libraries. This has involved designing, on the one hand, a manageable and efficient system for the deposit libraries to build a comprehensive archive of digital content, and on the other, a clearly governed, practical system which does not impose any disproportionate burdens on publishers, offers potential to realise savings and protects the commercial interests of publishers and rights holders.

The regulations apply to both work published online, such as content from the internet and e-books, and work published offline, such as CD-ROMs and microfilm. The requirement for depositing offline works mirrors the existing requirements for printed works, namely that publishers must deliver a copy to the British Library within one month of publication and that the other deposit libraries can also request a copy of any offline work.

Generally, works from the internet will be collected by a process of web harvesting. Web harvesting uses computer software to search the internet automatically and copy content from targeted websites. Importantly, this process imposes no burden on publishers. In addition, where a book, for example, is published as an e-book and a print edition, the regulations allow the publisher to do away with depositing the print edition, with obvious cost savings to both the publisher and deposit library. Although the collection of work from the internet will generally be cost-free for publishers, the delivery of offline material such as CD-ROMs will have a small cost.

In line with government policy to avoid any disproportionate burden on the smallest businesses, new businesses and micro-businesses in the publishing sector will be exempt until April 2014 from the parts of the regulations that have the potential to impose a cost burden. This phased implementation is important as over 80% of publishers are micro-businesses, and their inclusion within scope is therefore essential to meet the objectives of the regulations in full.

Storing digital content will cost the deposit libraries money, but they will have the benefit of a shared archive and potential savings from no longer needing to archive a proportion of printed works. Reader access to non-print works will be limited to computer terminals on premises controlled by the deposit libraries. In order to mirror the level of access to printed publications, at each deposit library only one terminal will show the same material at any one time. Where it is reasonable, in the commercial interests of publishers, to prevent reader access to material, the regulations allow deposit libraries to embargo material for a specified period.

The draft regulations were welcomed by the majority of stakeholders in last year’s public consultation. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will provide guidance on the regulations, and the British Library and other deposit libraries are preparing a joint implementation policy explaining in more detail how the regulations will operate in practice. The Government have made a commitment to carry out a post-implementation review within five years of the regulations coming into force. The review will consider the extent to which the preservation of the UK’s non-print published output has been achieved by the implementation of the regulations.

Legal deposit arrangements remain vitally important in preserving and making available the published record of previous generations for the researchers of today and of the future. We must now ensure that the long-standing legal deposit arrangements are brought up to date for the 21st century. I commend the regulations to the Committee and I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the background to these regulations. We welcome the proposals before the Committee and echo the thanks made to all those who have helped to craft a set of significant but workable rules to capture the output of the digital age. This is indeed a landmark development.

It is all too easy to regard material on the web as somehow inferior to printed works, but I suspect that history will increasingly demonstrate that works of enormous substance and creativity have found an audience solely through the digital medium. There is clearly a balance to be struck between the interests of our nation in preserving texts for future generations and the burden on business to make such information available. Given the significant thought that has gone into these draft regulations over the past 10 years and the positive response to the Government’s consultation, I do not intend to challenge the judgment; it feels about right.

I also welcome the commitment to keep the implementation under review in the way outlined by the noble Lord so that practical issues can be addressed as they arise. However, I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that the operation of the embargo provisions will be kept under review to ensure that publishers are providing substantial justification for such requests. It would also be helpful if an assurance could be given that the copyright provisions will be kept under review to ensure that access is treated on par with that to printed material.

I have some specific questions with regard to audio-visual works. First, as the Minister will know, the British Film Institute already has a substantial national archive. These regulations include the concept of preserving “incidental” audio-visual works. Does the Minister agree that the logical recipient of such works should be the BFI National Archive and, as such, the regulations could be extended to list it as a beneficiary? Secondly, does the Minister accept that the preservation of web pages that include audio-visual works is outside the current specialisms of the six legal deposit libraries, and that therefore the BFI should have a more clearly defined preservation role in the regulations? Thirdly, now that we have a detailed plan for all other non-print works, does the Minister agree that there should be an urgent plan to extend the scope of the regulations to include audio-visual works which are, after all, a major aspect of our cultural heritage and will, no doubt, continue to be so? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for her warm and broad welcome for these regulations. I shall respond to the outstanding points that she raised.

On copyright restrictions, the Government recognise that the scenario of restrictions on access to content following the expiry of copyright is a concern for the research community. This is an important issue, but will arise only once the copyright term of 70 years has ceased, so in practice the issue will not affect legal deposit for many years to come. It is, however, an issue that will be kept under review and will be revisited as part of the post-implementation review of the regulations.

The noble Baroness raised embargoes. The regulations specify that an embargo may be imposed for a specified period of up to three years if a rights owner demonstrates that a reader viewing the publication within that period would unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the person making the request. Requests for further embargoes may be made for the same publication provided that, as before, the case for an embargo can be demonstrated at the same time. I reassure the noble Baroness that the operation of the embargo arrangements will be scrutinised as part of the post-implementation review of the regulations to ensure that they are working as intended and that embargoes, where imposed, are fully justified.

Audio-visual works are undoubtedly an important aspect of our cultural heritage. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked whether the BFI National Archive is a logical recipient of audio-visual works and, as such, whether the BFI should be a beneficiary under the regulations. The BFI would not be able to receive such works as it is not possible to extend the institutions entitled to receive works under legal deposit arrangements without changing the primary legislation. Furthermore, non-print works consisting solely or predominately of film or recorded sound, or both, are excluded from legal deposit arrangements under the primary legislation. Audio-visual content within non-print works will be collected only if the accompanying text is more than merely incidental to the audio-visual element. The definition of “incidental” in this case refers to audio-visual material being a feature of the main body of work rather than its main purpose.

The noble Baroness asked if the preservation of web pages is outside the current specialisms of the deposit libraries. I can reassure her that the British Library’s UK Web Archive project, which has been operational since 2005, has allowed for the successful selective archiving of approximately 6,000 UK websites. This initiative, in collaboration with the national libraries of Scotland and Wales, the National Archives and others has allowed the British Library to make inroads into web archiving and to develop the infrastructure required to preserve efficiently and securely web pages in anticipation of the regulations that we are debating today.

The noble Baroness also asked if legal deposit arrangements should be extended to all audio-visual works. Any extension to the types of work covered under legal deposit arrangements would involve changes to primary legislation. In relation to film, the Government’s view is that a statutory scheme may not be appropriate at this stage but they are exploring with the British Film Institute other ways to secure more films. One option may be for the BFI to work with public funders of UK film to make supply to the BFI archive a condition of grants. In relation to recorded sound, the British Library’s Sound Archive has built up an impressive archive through existing voluntary arrangements. While future arrangements for the legal deposit of audio-visual works are not to be ruled out, the Government would need to look carefully at the need for further statutory intervention. It is a question of finding the most appropriate means of securing the preservation of all these different types of media, important though they undoubtedly are. I reiterate that these regulations will ensure that the nation’s intellectual record and published heritage is preserved and maintained for future generations.

The Joint Committee on Legal Deposit, the collaborative forum for the deposit libraries and publishing trade associations, has worked with great success in developing and agreeing practical policies and processes to bring about the effective implementation of the regulations. The deposit libraries are well advanced in their preparations to begin archiving digital content at the earliest opportunity. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.