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Digital legal deposit starts in UK

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From 6 April six major libraries in the UK and Ireland will have the right to collect, preserve and provide long-term access to a copy of every UK electronic publication. This moves brings the same legal deposit conditions to blogs, e-books and websites that has existed for print publications such as books, magazines and newspapers for several centuries.

The legal deposit libraries are the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Library Dublin.

The principle of extending legal deposit beyond print was established with the Legal Deposit Libraries Act of 2003. Access to non-print materials, including archived websites, will be offered via on-site reading room facilities at each of the legal deposit libraries. While the initial offering to researchers will be limited in scope, the libraries will gradually increase their capability for managing large-scale deposit, preservation and access over the coming months and years, say the libraries.

By the end of this year, the results of the first live archiving crawl of the UK web domain are expected to be available to researchers, along with tens of thousands of e-journal articles, e-books and other materials.

The UK's culture minister Ed Vaizey MP said: 'Legal deposit arrangements remain vitally important. Preserving and maintaining a record of everything that has been published provides a priceless resource for the researchers of today and the future. So it’s right that these long-standing arrangements have now been brought up to date for the 21st century, covering the UK’s digital publications for the first time. The Joint Committee on Legal Deposit has worked very successfully in creating practical policies and processes so that digital content can now be effectively archived and our academic and literary heritage preserved, in whatever form it takes.'