Legal deposit in Australia

What is legal deposit?

Legal deposit is a statutory obligation which requires that any organisation, commercial or public, and any individual producing any type of documentation in multiple copies, be obliged to deposit one or more copies with a recognised national institution.
UNESCO Guidelines for legal deposit legislation, 2000

In Australia, legal deposit requires publishers to deposit publications with the National Library of Australia and the state or territory library where the publisher is based.

In New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, publishers are also required to deposit publications in parliamentary and university libraries. Further, all material of particular relevance to South Australia, must be deposited with the State Library of South Australia.

‘Publishers’ include commercial publishers, government publishers, schools, societies, organisations, clubs, churches, associations and private individuals.

Why legal deposit?

Legal deposit ensures that material published in Australia is preserved for current and future generations. It enables libraries to provide access to a complete collection of the nation’s published heritage. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Statement on Legal Deposit includes the following benefits of legal deposit:

  • By ensuring that copies of all national publications in every kind of media are provided to trusted custodians, legal deposit enables and ensures the comprehensive collection of a nation’s documentary heritage
  • Legal deposit permits comprehensive, standardised cataloguing and recording of publications, to the benefit of libraries, booksellers, publishers, scholars and the general public; and it enables the custodian to serve as the national reference and information centre for study and research on all facets of its national documentary heritage
  • Legal deposit supports preservation, contributing to the long-term survival of a nation’s documentary heritage
  • Ultimately, legal deposit is fundamental to freedom of information and to the perpetuation of an informed citizenry

What should publishers do?

Publishers must deposit materials with the National Library as well as the state or territory library where they are based within a specified period, usually within 1-2 months of publication. The specific requirements for legal deposit vary widely. Publishers can also arrange to deposit earlier publications. For specific information about legal deposit requirements in your state or territory, see what are my legal deposit obligations?.

Do publishers need to deposit electronic material?

Increasingly, publications that come under the definition of legal deposit material are being produced and published in electronic form. Most national, state and territory libraries, including the National Library of Australia, have legislation in place to cover this electronic legal deposit material, and others are reviewing or amending existing legislation to extend to electronic publications.

NED member libraries encourage publishers to deposit their electronic publications, where it meets legal deposit criteria.