The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 (c 28) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which regulates the legal deposit of publications in the United Kingdom. The bill for this Act was a private member’s bill. This Act was passed to update the legislation on legal deposit to reflect the digital age.

The previous provisions covering legal deposit in the United Kingdom were under the Copyright Act 1911. They covered published paper products of almost all types, excluding only ephemera such as diaries and bus timetables. By the beginning of the 21st century many publications appeared in electronic form, either exclusively or in addition to their print form. A voluntary set of rules for deposit had been drawn up a few years earlier but it was felt that the additional force of statute was required to ensure the British national published record remained complete.

As under the previous legislation there are six libraries entitled to printed works. The British Library is entitled to a copy of every printed work published in the United Kingdom. A publisher must send a copy to the British Library within a month of the work being published. The copy sent to the British Library must be of the same quality as the best copies published in the UK at the time.

The other five libraries, the Bodleian Library, the Cambridge University Library, the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, the National Library of Wales and the National Library of Scotland are not automatically entitled to be sent a copy of the printed works. However, the five libraries have the right to send a publisher a request for a printed work within twelve months of the publication of the work. The publisher must deliver a copy within a month of receipt of the request. The quality of works sent to any of the five libraries must be of the same quality as the largest number of copies of the work published in the UK at the time of the request. Trinity College Dublin is included in the Act despite it being outside the UK’s jurisdiction, as the Act continued the more ancient right bestowed on the college in 1801, when Ireland was part of the Union.

Each of these five libraries sends requests via the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries, who receives copies of the works and distributes them to the individual libraries. Publishers may also send copies to the Agency in advance of a request being submitted to them.

Individual authors who ‘self-publish’ with us will need to send copies to their respective countries libraries.