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Guidelines for Legal Deposit Legislation

Jules Larivière
Law Library
University of Ottawa

A revised, enlarged and updated edition
of the 1981 publication by Dr. Jean LUNN
IFLA Committee on Cataloguing

United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization

Paris 2000

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1 - Nature and Role of Legal Deposit

    Chapter 2 - History of Legal Deposit

    Chapter 3 - Legal Issues Related to Legal Deposit

    Chapter 4 - Elements of a Legal Deposit Scheme

    Chapter 5 - Object of Legal Deposit

    Chapter 6 - Legal Deposit of Electronic Publications

    Chapter 7 - Legal Framework for a National Legal Deposit Scheme

    Chapter 8 - The Future of Legal Deposit

    APPENDIX - Bibliography


    The role of national libraries in ensuring universal and equitable access to information continues to be a cornerstone in the development of a knowledge society. A national library faces many challenges in ensuring that the published heritage of its country is acquired and preserved for all to use. An important vehicle in assisting national libraries meet this responsibility is legal deposit. The 1981 Guidelines for Legal Deposit Legislation prepared by Dr. Jean Lunn proved useful to many countries in developing their own legislation.

    However, the advent of new formats, including digital publications, has raised new issues. It is imperative that information made available to the public in digital format be included as part of a national library's heritage collection. It is hoped that this new and enlarged edition of Dr. Lunn's work, which in particular addresses the issue of electronic formats, will similarly assist countries as they develop, update and revise their legal deposit legislation.

    Sincere appreciation is due to UNESCO, which, through IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), provided the financial support for this research work, and to the National Library of Canada for directing the project.

    Marianne Scott
    Former National Librarian of Canada
    and Chair of the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL)
    Advisory Committee on the Revision of the Guidelines

    The disignations employed and the presentation of the material do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO.

    This text is also available in English and French on the Web site of UNESCO under:

    Readers are invited to send comments, suggestions or requests for additional copies to:

    Mr Abdelaziz Abid, Information Society Division, UNESCO, 1, rue Miollis, 75015, Paris, France.



    The author wishes to express his sincere thanks to Marianne Scott, former National Librarian of Canada, who chaired the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) Advisory Committee on the Revision of the Guidelines, to Ingrid Parent, Director General, Acquisitions and Bibliographic Services, National Library of Canada, and to Paul McCormick, Director General, Information Resource Management, National Library of Canada. Their expertise and wisdom as well as their patience in reading numerous drafts have been highly appreciated. Their comments and advice have been extremely useful.

    The author also wants to express his gratitude to the members of the CDNL Advisory Committee: Celia Ribeiro Zaher from the Biblioteca Nacional of Brazil, Alix Chevallier from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Dr. Peter J. Lor, Acting National Librarian of South Africa, Noritada Otaki from the National Diet Library, Japan, and Bendik Rugaas, Director of the National Library of Norway, who took the time to read and comment on the draft and to provide sound advice.

    Finally, the presentation of this study would not have been possible without the professionalism and efficiency of Mary Régimbald from the University of Ottawa Law Library.

    Ottawa, Canada
    July 2000


    In 1981, UNESCO published a study prepared by Dr. Jean Lunn from Canada entitled Guidelines for Legal Deposit Legislation. Resulting from a recommendation of the 1977 International Congress on National Bibliographies held in Paris, the study had as its purpose to "draft a model legislation for legal deposit, which would serve as a basis for Member States in attaining national bibliographic control." Dr. Lunn was to look at existing legal deposit legislation and to take into consideration present and future requirements in relation to the objectives of legal deposit, as well as examine the relationship between copyright and legal deposit.

    Most of the issues related to legal deposit were looked at in detail, and numerous examples were used to illustrate the proposed model legislation. Dr. Lunn's analysis was prepared mainly using legislation from Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United States. While there are occasional references to other countries such as Austria, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway, Romania and the USSR, there is no mention of African, South American or Asian legislation.

    Dr. Lunn primarily studied the issues in relation to print material; as far as non-book material was concerned, she limited herself to microforms and audio-visual material. Only 17 lines were devoted to what was called at that time "machine-readable data files". Significantly, however, this area was already being referred to as a future issue for legal deposit.

    Dr. Lunn's study is now almost 20 years old and since it was published, many jurisdictions have amended or significantly rewritten their legal deposit laws (Germany, Indonesia and Norway in 1990, France in 1992, Sweden in 1994, Canada in 1995, South Africa in 1997, Denmark in 1998, and Japan and Finland in 2000). Others are on the verge of doing so (Australia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). As well, the forms of intellectual and artistic expression have evolved. New publishing media have been developed and electronic publications are now an integral part of many national published heritages.

    The work of Dr. Lunn needs to be updated in order to review the application of the guidelines to a wider range of jurisdictions and to incorporate new forms of publishing such as electronic publications. This new environment brings a variety of fresh challenges, some being of a legal or administrative nature, but many that are purely technical. Considering the incredible expansion of electronic publishing, the approach to legal deposit legislation must be re?examined in order to maintain the original characteristics of the system, the main one being to be as comprehensive as possible. On several occasions, the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) has pointed out the necessity to review the guidelines in order to adapt them to the new publishing environment. In 1998, the Second International Conference on National Bibliographic Services, held in Copenhagen, produced a specific recommendation to this effect.

    This study is a completely revised and enlarged edition of Dr. Lunn's original work, with more emphasis on electronic material.

    The purpose of the project is to provide useful and up-to-date guidelines to assist in the development and implementation of new legal deposit legislation or to revise legislation already in place. The guidelines are intended for those engaged in the drafting or revision of legislation on legal deposit. It must be clearly understood that this publication contains only suggestions, and these suggestions would need to be adapted to each individual jurisdiction. There is no one model of legal deposit legislation. The guidelines are presented as minimum standards and should not be considered as strict rules. They should also not be viewed as an inseparable set of rules. Each one should be looked at and applied individually, depending on the needs and circumstances of each country. As options are discussed, it is up to each jurisdiction to choose the type of legal provisions most appropriate to its internal situation.

    On a practical note, the style of citation used is based on Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation/Manuel canadien de la référence juridique, 4th edition, published by Carswell in 1998.

    The content of this publication is the opinion of the author only and does not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), UNESCO or the National Library of Canada. The National Library of Canada did, however, play an instrumental role in the co-ordination of the project.

    1. Jean Lunn, Guidelines for Legal Deposit Legislation (Paris, Unesco, 1981) at i.
    2. Recommendation 16 reads as follows: "IFLA should support revision of existing sets of guidelines to make provision for all new and future forms of publication."


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