Legal Deposit Libraries Bill
Mr Chris Mole (Ipswich, Labour)
Throughout the development of the Bill we have sought to ensure that, in practice, the principles of access to materials for readers in Wales and Scotland will continue to be the same as they are now.
In the mid-1990s, following pressure from the legal deposit libraries and other interested parties, the Government issued a Green Paper on legal deposit and the possibility of its extension to other types of material. A working group chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny concluded in 1998 that only a system of legal deposit would secure a comprehensive published archive. He stated:
"The Government believes that it is extremely important to ensure that material published in this country is incorporated into our national archive irrespective of the medium used. The arrangements for legal deposit, which are concerned primarily with published material in print form, underpin the nation's academic, research and educational sectors. We intend to ensure that these benefits extend also to material published in formats other than print."
"I believe the report makes a convincing case for moving towards legislation for the legal deposit of non-print publications on the basis of minimum burden on publishers and minimum loss of sales."—[Hansard, 17 December 1998; Vol. 3221, c. 682W.]
My right hon. Friend requested that, in the meantime, a code of practice for the voluntary deposit of non-print publications should be drawn up and agreed between publishers and the deposit libraries.
It was under that direction that the joint committee for voluntary deposits, with members representing publishers and deposit libraries, was set up. The JCVD oversees the operation of a draft code developed by it and endorsed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Publishers Association, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, the Periodical Publishers Association and the legal deposit libraries.
The voluntary code, in operation since January 2000, covers non-print publications in microform—basically on microfilm, as well as offline electronic media, such as CD-ROMs, DVDs and magnetic discs. To date, more than 100 publishers have signed up to the scheme and more than 1,000 monographs and 850 journals have been archived.
The purpose of the voluntary system was to plug the growing gap in the national published archive ahead of eventual legislation to introduce the statutory deposit of non-print publications. It was also intended to act as a pilot phase, during which matters of definition, procedure and control could be agreed by the publishers and libraries and any difficulties in implementation monitored.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, the then Secretary of State, said in response to the working party:
"I agree with the report's conclusion that a voluntary code will not be viable in the longer term and I believe the report makes a convincing case for moving towards legislation for the legal deposit of non-print publications."
The scheme proved useful in assisting in the process of drafting effective and workable legislation. The JCVD arrangements will continue for the collection of film and sound materials.
Despite the success of the voluntary code of practice between publishers and legal deposit libraries, well over half of electronically delivered publications—the fastest growing group of materials—and about a quarter of hand-held publications, such as CD-ROMs, are not currently deposited. They are typically materials used in long-term research, which are of cultural significance and are a vital part of the nation's published heritage.
Collecting, storing and preserving that material will present the legal deposit libraries with a major challenge. They are already working with other countries to identify the best ways of preserving electronic materials. New systems are being developed to allow information to be migrated to media that will be used by future generations, permitting materials to be accessed even when their original formats have become obsolete. No one expects easy answers, but solutions are evolving. The Bill sets out a framework to enable the Secretary of State to implement secondary legislation in the form of regulations addressing the exact ways in which new media material will be collected. That is necessary to make sure that the legislation remains future-proof—materials published by technologies currently in development and those that have not even been invented yet can, if necessary, be brought within the scope of the legal deposit.