profile considers legal (aka statutory) deposit schemes.
Those schemes aim to provide long-term access to print
and other publications through mandatory or voluntary
deposit in national libraries and other institutions.
This profile covers -
and state/territory regime) for print, film, audio and
Finland, Norway, Germany, Japan and The Netherlands
parts of the world - including Japan, Singapore and
- access to the publications of international bodies
It supplements the discussion in the Intellectual
Property and Publishing
guides elsewhere on this site.
of legal deposit have traced its history to the 1537 Ordonnance
de Montpellier of François I of France and
contemporary licensing schemes in England and other states
that obligated publishers to provide a free copy to one
or more repositories (eg a university or royal library)
as a condition for authorisation to publish.
In 2004 Legal Deposit - aka Dépôt Légal,
Statutory Deposit or Mandatory Deposit - obliges publishers
to deposit copies of publications in one or more libraries
in the nation of publication.
That obligation is generally embodied in the particular
country's national library or copyright legislation. It
has been an accepted in most nations for at least a century
- and indeed was the centrepiece of what would now be
regarded as the national information policy.
The rationale is that there is a public good in community
access, through particular institutions, to print publications.
Publishers and authors gain protection under copyright
law for their intellectual property. Their work is also
accessible on an ongoing basis through an independent
repository, obviating the need for them to maintain a
private archive of publications.
In return the state is able to provide citizens with access
to those publications in a way that does not serve as
a fundamental disincentive to investment or disrespect
the author's moral rights.
Statutory deposit has sometimes been associated with national
copyright registration regimes (eg protection of works
was dependent on each work being formally registered as
part of deposit with an institution such as the US Library
It has provided a basis for states to build a national
collection, thus strengthening national identity and addressing
such as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights
which identifies a "right to seek, receive and impart
information" (Article 19) and a "right to freely
to participate in the cultural life of the community,
to enjoy the arts, and to share in scientific advancement
and its benefits" (Article 27).
As with all intellectual property regimes, statutory deposit
reflects a calculus of perceived costs and benefits. Publishers
and authors forgo some revenue by giving rather than selling
their work to the institution. In return the institution
generally provides long-term access to that work, something
that involves appropriate cataloguing and preservation.
Deposit regimes have also had an evidentiary and surveillance
The Western Australian Newspaper Libel & Regulation
Act 1884 for example provides that a signed copy
of every newspaper published in WA must be deposited with
the State Library. An amendment of France's legal deposit
under Napoleon I in 1810 required routing of the Bibliothèque
Nationale's deposit copies via the Ministry of Police
to facilitate surveillance of the press. (France currently
requires that publishers deposit four copies with the
Bibliothèque Nationale and one with the Ministry
of the Interior. The unfortunate printer is additionally
required to deposit two copies with each of 30 authorised
libraries across metropolitan France's 22 regions.)
The legislation in most statutory deposit regimes, such
as Australia, centres on print publishing and reflects
different national circumstances, with variation evident
in regimes that require deposit of a single copy to a
national library or a copy to each of a handful of libraries,
differing coverage and penalties for non-compliance.
In some nations the legislation requiring the deposit
takes the form of a legal deposit act (eg in Sweden, France,
Greece, Indonesia, Peru and Norway) or a national library
enactment (eg in Canada, Japan and Nigeria). In other
nations the obligation is bundled with copyright legislation
(eg Australia at the federal level and the US). Some nations,
such as Chile and Cuba, have relied on an administrative
decree rather than a discrete enactment.
As noted above, legal deposit regimes have traditionally
centred on print publications - in particular books -
and have encompassed what has been characterised as 'library
materials'. Depending on the ambitions and resources of
particular institutions that material may include -
and other journals
and other printed ephemera
nations have sought to cover audiovisual publications
(in particular phonographic recordings, films and videos).
A handful have made explicit provision for electronic
publications. In most instances that provision is restricted
to physical format electronic publications (eg works published
on CD-ROM or floppy disk) and does not extend to provision
of electronic copies of static/volatile content.
Some nations have explicitly included film, video and
audio recordings in their legislation. In the EU article
5 of the 2001 European Convention for the protection
of Audiovisual Heritage and associated Protocol
on the Protection of Television Productions
provide - in principle - for compulsory legal deposit
of all moving image material forming part of an EU member's
audiovisual heritage, subject to international and national
rules on copyright.
Responsibilities vary from regime to regime.
In all legal deposit schemes the publishers are either
required or encouraged to provide one or more copies.
That provision is generally at their own expense; Japan
provides publishers with nominal compensation. The requirement
for free copies has been criticised by publishers with
small, high-cost print runs (reflected in provisions in
New Zealand that only one copy need be supplied if the
price exceeds NZ$1000 or the number of copies printed
is less than 100).
One EC study unsurprisingly commented that "publishers
are reluctant to acknowledge the benefits of deposit;
they tend to view it as an obligation which costs money
with little return".
Publisher and author concerns have been heightened by
moves to require deposit of online electronic publications,
with a 2000 IFLA study noting
that a single copy stored at a single location on the
Internet could serve the whole planet, it is understandable
that publishers need to know that their commercial interests
are respected by depository institutions
In some nations the institution is the national library
(eg Australia, UK, France and Lithuania). In other instances
it is that nation's parliamentary library (eg the US,
Israel and Japan). Some small states have required deposit
in the national archives (eg Antigua and Senegal).
It is common requirement for a copy to be provided to
a major university library (eg Oxford and Cambridge in
the UK) or institutions within particular provincial jurisdictions
(eg state libraries in Australia).
Particular media are often deposited with specialist institutions,
eg in France the Centre national de la cinématographie
et l'Institut national de l'audiovisuel deals with deposits
of audio-visual material.
Most statutory deposit legislation predates technologies
such as films, sound recordings and the internet. Challenges
associated with identification, storage (including preservation
copying and migration from one format to another) and
appropriate access to digital works mean that the development
of new deposit legislation is problematic.
Many nations are accordingly using voluntary deposit schemes
for handling digital publications (and works such as films)
outside legal deposit legislation. Those schemes are typically
developed by national libraries and major commercial publishers,
reflecting the Statement
on the Development & Establishment of Codes of Practice
for the Voluntary Deposit of Electronic Publications
by the Conference of European National Librarians and
the Federation of European Publishers and the 1996 guidelines
from UNESCO and the Conference of Directors of National
The absence of community pressure, institutional wariness
about additional responsibilities and commercial publisher
concerns about access mean that it is likely voluntary
schemes will continue to predominate for electronic publishing.
A valuable overview is provided by Jan Jasion's The
International Guide to Legal Deposit (Aldershot:
Ashgate 1991) and the 2000 study
by Jules Larivière on Guidelines for Legal