Thursday, 30 May 2013

Legal deposit of non-printed material

We don't have a copyright system that requires any form of deposit, of course, but there is a legal obligation on publishers to offer what they publish to the British Library, and if requested other institutions too. When I was editor of The Warwick Boar, now just The Boar, in or about 1976, we received a letter pointing out that we hadn't been sending them copies and alerting us to the substantial penalties that could be imposed if we remained in default. That was about my first experience of copyright law, albeit a rather peripheral bit of copyright law - that, and the problem we had when we used graphics cut from the Coventry Evening Telegraph for our "Spot the Ball" competition ... about which the less said the better: suffice to say that we did not copy the CET's photograph.

Nowadays, as editor of Motor Law, I send a copy of every issue of the newsletter to the British Library. I expect they find it a little more interesting than they used to find The Warwick Boar (though it has no "Spot the Ball" competition). If I am late getting the latest edition in the post, or if they just think I am (and given that, unlike most periodicals, the months named on the front cover are the months covered in the content, not the next month), they send me a letter asking where it is.

Increasingly, periodicals like Motor Law (and, no doubt, The Boar) are commonly distributed online. I find it much easier to upload a PDF to the website and send a link to subscribers, though yesterday it took me three goes to send a working link. But if this were the only channel by which such periodicals were distributed, the British Library would have nothing to put on its shelves (including virtual shelves), nothing for readers to consult. However, a solution to this problem is in hand: The Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013 no 777) entitles the deposit libraries to a copy of online publications. There is, happily, an exemption for for micro-businesses, which certainly includes Motor Law Publications Ltd.

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