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Physical & Digital Collections

Electronic Legal Deposit: eLD FAQs

What is legal deposit?
By law a copy of every UK print publication must be given to the British Library by its publishers, and the five other Legal Deposit libraries which request it. This system is called legal deposit and has been a part of English law since 1662.

What is provided by Electronic Legal Deposit? 
Since 6 April 2013 legal deposit has also covered material published digitally and online, so that the Legal Deposit Libraries can provide a national archive of the UK’s non-print published material, such as websites, blogs, ejournals, ebooks, and CD-ROMs.

The Legal Deposit Libraries are:

  • British Library
  • Cambridge University Library
  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Library of Wales
  • Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
  • Library of Trinity College, Dublin

Is there a difference between ‘non-print’, ’digital’ or  ‘electronic legal deposit’?
No.  The legislation and regulations refer to non-print legal deposit; the libraries have agreed to use the term ‘electronic legal deposit’.

What is available through Electronic Legal Deposit??

A mixture of content has been made available since 6 April 2013, including more than 1 million ejournal articles, a growing collections of ebooks from selected academic and non-academic publishers, maps and websites in the UK domain. Documents from the web, including those in PDF and MS Office formats, particularly official publications, will be added. 

Is anything excluded?
Audio-visual material consisting solely or predominantly of film or recorded sound is excluded, as are works containing personal data made only available to restricted groups. In addition, the content of pure video streaming sites, such as YouTube, also falls outside the legislation.

Will there be a print copy available as well?
No. The Library can only receive one format under these regulations. When a journal is received in digital format, the print equivalent will cease to be deposited from that date. The same will apply to ebooks. For the time being the default will be print, while the libraries negotiate with publishers about the transition from print to electronic format.

Will material behind pay walls and password barriers be collected? 
Yes, the intention is that this material is in scope.

Why is the service only available on a handful of computers? 
This service is currently only available on designated PCs with dedicated software. In the longer term we aim to expand the service more widely.

Is the material also accessible outside the main University Library? 
Yes, the service is available in the main University Library and most of its affiliated libraries.

Is the material accessible in the colleges? 
No. The terms of the regulations state that the content may only be viewed on library premises controlled by a legal deposit library.

Can I view this content on my own laptop or at home? 
No. The terms of the legislation prohibit the content from being viewed at home or on personal laptops.

Can I print out from the resources? 
Yes, printing within the terms of the legislation is available from designated electronic legal deposit terminals in the University Library main Reading Room and in many of the affiliated libraries. Please ask staff in the Reading Room for details. It is also possible to order printouts of a chapter or an article from material held as Electronic Legal Deposit. Further information can be found here: Request a printout of material held as Electronic Legal Deposit | Cambridge University Library

Can I save a chapter or an article to a memory stick? 
No. Downloading of this content is not permitted under the legislation.

Can I email a chapter or an article? 
No. This is not permitted under the legislation.

Can I take a photograph of the item on the screen?
No. Making digital copies of any kind is not permitted.

I want to look at a particular ebook or article, but I'm told that it's already in use. When will it be available for me to see, and can I book it? 
Only one person at a time in the University Library or its affiliated libraries can view each item, and there is no time limit set (within a day) for how long an item can be consulted. Once the person using it has finished, and closes down the item, it will become available for another reader to consult.  This replicates the conditions in the print environment and forms part of the regulations.

If I leave the PC, will I be timed out? 
Yes, the current time out period for inactivity is 5 minutes. This is to ensure other readers will be able to access the material.

What are the plans for the future? 
It is anticipated that the extent of the content available will grow over time. The conditions of the regulations remain in force forever, including after all intellectual property rights in the deposited material have expired.

Whom can I ask for further help? 
You are welcome to approach staff in the reading rooms for assistance and support. If you have any feedback for us, please email


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