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E-pubs to become part of UK heritage?

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A piece of UK legislation, the Legal Deposit Libraries Bill, has recently made its second step on the way to becoming law, writes Bob McDowall of Bloor Research. It will now go to the House of Lords and then back to the House of Commons for third reading and enactment.

This will ensure that non-printed material is subject to legal deposit at one of each of the UK's six legal deposit libraries.

Under legislation dating from 1911, one copy of all UK publications must be deposited in one of each of the UK's six legal deposit libraries, including the British Library. The current legislation only applies to printed material. In 2000 a Joint Committee on Voluntary Deposits was formed by the legal deposit libraries and publishing trade organisations to develop and supervise a voluntary code of practice for deposit of non-printed materials such as CD-Roms and microfilm/micro-fiche.

It did not extend its remit to online publications and web-sites. The voluntary agreement has worked well but the desire for statutory support has reflected a concern that "the early history and development of the UK electronic publishing industry is not lost".

It is estimated that over 60,000 non-printed items were published last year alone in the UK, excluding web-sites and non-commercial publications. How the processes for lodgement and legal deposit will work in practice, the fine print of the legislation, are being worked out at present. Details should be published in May.

This is the first serious legislative recognition of e-publications and their prospective posterity value and interest. Whether all this material will have historical and heritage value is open to conjecture but doubtless a history of the early years of electronic publications will be written at some point or at least a thesis will be published on the subject.

Maybe all that early web-site material will have historic and antique value. When shall we see some enterprise set up to trade in historic web site material? © IT-Analysis.com

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