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section heading icon     Europe

This page considers legal deposit schemes in continental Europe.

It covers -

     Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Under the 1969 Gesetz über die Deutsche Bibliothek German publishers are required to deposit two copies of print, microform and physical format electronic publications with Die Deutsche Bibliothek, ie the national library. The regime was extended to sound recordings in 1973. Guidelines for voluntary deposit of online content, under the auspices of the Task Group on the Electronic Deposit Library, were issued in 2000. Those guidelines currently rely on item by item agreements.

Deposit in some Länder (state) libraries is required under non-federal legislation.

In Austria the 2000 media legislation (PDF) broadens legal deposit provisions to include physical format electronic publications but does not cover the deposit of online and networked digital material. The Austrian Online Archive (AOLA) project, under the auspices of the Austrian National Library, is exploring periodic harvesting of publicly available websites.

Switzerland currently has no Federal legal deposit legislation for any type of published material.  Some cantons have separate legal deposit legislation, generally covering only print material.  


The French regime provides that publishers and printers deposit copies with the national and provincial libraries: publishers deposit four copies with the Bibliothèque Nationale, printers deposit two copies with each of 30 regional libraries across.

The Loi du 20 juin 1992 relative au dépôt légal (here), revising the legal deposit legislation, came into force in 1994. It requires legal deposit of printed, graphic, photographic, sound, audiovisual and multimedia documents, whatever the technical means of production, as soon as they are made accessible to the public by the publication of a physical carrier.

The legislation does not cover online electronic publications. Deposit of CD-ROMs has been enforced since 1994. Access policies restrict networking of those items. France's legal deposit advisory body, the Conseil scientifique du dépôt légal (CSDL) recommended in 2000 that the legislation be extended to include online content. The French online regime is discussed in Thomas Drugeon's 2005 A Technical Approach for the French Web Legal Deposit Project (PDF).


Denmark's Act on Copyright Deposit of Published Works (here), in effect from 1998, replaced the 1927 Copyright Deposit of Printed Matter to Public Libraries Act. The depository institution is the Royal Library of Denmark. It aims to cover all published material (including physical format electronic publications and static internet content) but does not cover dynamic online electronic documents. Archived internet content is viewable only on stand-alone devices in the Library and cannot be copied by users.

A new Legal Deposit law, authorising harvesting of the net, was passed in December 2004, with effect from 1 July 2005. It covers "materials made public", including -

  • works published in physical form, regardless of medium.
  • material made public via electronic communication networks, authorising harvesting of materials made public on dot-dk domains and content made public on non-Danish Internet domains that is aimed at a Danish audience
  • television and radio programmes, authorising recording of radio and television programmes broadcast by Danish broadcasters or broadcasts for a Danish audience by organisations domiciled outside Denmark
  • films produced for public exhibition and defined as 'Danish'.

The pre-2004 regime is discussed in Birgit Henriksen's 1999 paper on Legal Deposit on the Internet: A Case Study (PDF).

     Sweden, Finland and Norway

Sweden's 1993 Legal Deposit Act (here) covers print, audio-visual and physical format electronic publications. An earlier Legal Deposit Act, in 1978, also established the National Archive of Recorded Sound and Moving Images.

Amendments to extend the 1993 coverage to online content have not progressed. A special decree of 2002 instead authorises the Royal Library of Sweden to collect Swedish sites on the net, with public access to that content on its premises. The decree reflects the library's Kulturarw3 project, launched in 1996, centred on automated harvesting of those sites.

Finland's 1980 Legal Deposit Act covers printed and visual material. It was extended in 1981 to cover sound recordings. A 2000 report on revision of the Act called for extension to cover the legal deposit of physical format and online electronic publications.

The latter includes works considered to be 'true' electronic publications (eg electronic books and newspapers) - subject to a formal deposit arrangement - and content that would not involve deposit action by the publisher (ie would be collected automatically). Printers and publishers are currently required to provide with six copies of books and journals, two copies of newspapers and microforms, and two copies of "audio and visual recordings". Repositories include the Helsinki University Library and the Turku University Library.

A separate 1984 Act on Archives for Motion-pictures covers Legal Deposit of motion pictures, films and videos in the Finnish Film Archive.

In Norway the wide-ranging 1989 Legal Deposit Act (here), in effect from 1990, covers books and other printed materials, sound recordings, films and videos, and some digital publications. Publishers are generally required to provided seven copies of the publication. Physical format electronic publications and static internet content is covered by the Act through inclusion of any works "that can be read, heard, broadcast or transmitted".

     the Netherlands and Belgium

The Netherlands, as one of the few countries in the world without legal deposit legislation, relies on voluntary arrangements. Deposit is based on individual agreements with publishers under the auspices of the national publishers association. Most Dutch printed material is deposited with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB). A voluntary deposit scheme for physical format electronic publications such as CD-ROMs and magnetic disks commenced in 1996.

A 1999 general arrangement (PDF) for voluntary deposit of electronic publications extended that scheme to cover online and offline materials. Dynamic content is in principle covered by the agreement but will not be sought until technical problems are fully addressed. Access to electronic deposit publications is available from KB premises only.

Belgium's Legal Deposit law dates from 1965 and is essentially concerned with printed works. Amendment is currently under consideration. The law provides for deposit of a single copy in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, the federal library.


In Spain the 1971 Act regarding the Instituto Bibliografico Hispanico covers legal deposit of books, periodicals, sound recordings and motion pictures in the national repository. Particular provinces have enacted supplementary legislation.


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version of October 2005
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