Law Library Stacks

Back to Index of Digital Legal Deposit

Amendments to Australia’s Copyright Act that came into force in early 2016 extended the national legal deposit requirements to electronic publications, including both offline and online materials. Material that is published offline must be delivered to the National Library of Australia on the physical medium on which it was originally published. Online material must be provided to the Library if requested, including requests made through web harvesting software. If the material is not available on a public website, publishers can use the Library’s eDeposit service to deposit the material.

 The National Library collaborates with state library and heritage organizations to select and harvest Australian websites for the PANDORA Archive. Publishers of websites receive a “request” as part of the web harvesting process and are provided with a link to a notice regarding the statutory authority for the request. The harvested websites are publicly available on the PANDORA platform. The National Library also harvests all Australian government websites for inclusion in the Australian Government Web Archive.

 Other electronic publications deposited with the National Library are made available to the public depending on the commercial status of the publication. Access may be restricted to onsite users of the Library, who may only view but not download the publication, or a publication can be made available offsite but only in a read-only format, while noncommercial publications can be made freely available through the Library’s catalog and on Trove, the national online database aggregator hosted by the National Library.

  In addition to legal deposit at the national level, currently two Australian states and one territory apply their legal deposit requirements to born-digital publications. The National Library is also working with all state and territory libraries to develop a national eDeposit platform, which is expected to be launched in 2019. The system would enable publishers to deposit electronic publications once and fulfill both national and state or territory legal deposit requirements.

I. Introduction

The legal deposit system applicable to the National Library of Australia (NLA) is contained in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth),[1] and has been a feature of Australia’s copyright law since its colonial origins.[2] Prior to 2016, the legislation only covered print-based, Australian-published items in its definition of “library material” that needed to be deposited with the NLA.[3] Digital material was not covered. The NLA utilized voluntary methods for collecting some electronic material for a number of years, including permission-based web archiving procedures, but reported that it collected only a fraction of freely-available material published online.[4]

The Copyright Act was amended in 2015 to extend the legal deposit system to digital material.[5] The amendments came into effect in early 2016. The NLA website states that

[o]n 17 February 2016, the legal deposit provisions were extended to cover the online publishing landscape. This includes all Australian print and electronic books, journals, magazines, newsletters, reports, sheet music, maps, websites and public social media. Legal deposit applies to any Australian person, group or organisation that makes this material available to the public for sale or for free.[6]

Each Australian state, plus the Northern Territory, also have legal deposit legislation applicable to materials published in those jurisdictions. The laws contain different definitions of the material that must be deposited in state or territory libraries. Three of the jurisdictions currently require the deposit of born-digital material.

Australia’s nine national, state, and territory libraries are currently collaborating on a project to develop a national eDeposit platform, which is expected to be launched in 2019.

Back to Top

II. Digital Deposit at the Federal Level

A. Deposit of Digital Material

The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) now contains the following definition of “National Library material”:

A literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or an edition of such a work, (whether in an electronic form or otherwise) is National Library material if:

(a)  the work or edition is:

(i)   a website, web page, web file, book, periodical, newspaper, pamphlet, sheet of music, map, plan, chart or table; or

(ii)  prescribed by the National Library Minister for the purposes of this subparagraph; and

(b)  copyright subsists in the work or edition under this Act; and

(c)  the work or edition is not primarily audio-visual; and

(d)  in the case of an edition:

(i)   the edition contains additions or alterations in the text or other reading matter, illustrations, drawings, engravings, photographs or audio-visual elements; and

(ii)  the content of at least one of those additions or alterations was not contained in any earlier edition; and

(e)  the work or edition is not prescribed by the National Library Minister for the purposes of this paragraph.[7]

The NLA has produced a guide for publishers on the deposit of electronic publications.[8] It states that, “[f]or the purposes of the Act, electronic library material is either ‘available online’ or ‘not available online’. Material ‘available online’ is communicated on (or via) the internet. This material has different deposit requirements to material not available online. The National Library will refer to ‘not online’ materials as ‘offline’ material.”[9] The guidance document then further explains these terms:

a)   Electronic material ‘available offline’ is distributed on a physical format carrier and supplied to the public (i.e. in a published form), whether for sale or free, by a person in Australia who is the publisher.

b)   Electronic material ‘available online’ is material made available to the public in Australia whether for sale or free, via the internet or some other platform. This includes:

i.    Material published on a website within the ‘.au’ top level domain name; or

ii.   Material published on a website where the domain name is owned or licensed by an Australian resident;

iii.  Material accessible online on a website within Australia, where the Director-General of the Library or delegate considers the material should be included in the national collection; or,

iv.  Material published on the internet, other than websites, in Australia or by an Australian resident.[10]

1. Offline Electronic Material

Offline material, which includes printed items and “electronic publications published on a hard-drive, USB flash-drive, CD, DVD, or any other physical electronic media,” must be delivered to the NLA within one month of publication.[11] Such media is only accepted “if that is how the item was originally published and made publicly available.”[12]

The NLA guidance also states that,

[i]f a work is published so that it is available both offline and online, the offline version should be deposited within the mandated time (one month from publication) unless the Director-General or delegate has requested the online version be deposited within the required delivery period for the offline version.[13]

2. Online Electronic Material

The Act authorizes the Director-General of the NLA to request, in writing, a publisher to deliver material that he or she has made available online, where the Director-General “considers that a copy of the material should be included in the national collection of library material.”[14] Online publications for which a request has been made must be deposited with the NLA within one month of the publisher receiving the request.[15] Publishers who do not receive a request may still deposit their works voluntarily.[16]

The legislation enables the NLA to request the deposit of a publication through the use of a web harvesting robot.[17] The guidance material explains that,

a)   If the material is freely available on a website, the publisher must not do anything which would prevent the National Library from automatically collecting (with a robot harvester) the material from that website.

b)   If the material is available on a website but is not freely accessible, the publisher must deliver the material through the edeposit service or other means as agreed with the Library, within one month of being requested.

c)   If the material is not available on a website but is online material, the publisher must deliver the material through the  edeposit service or other means as agreed with the Library, within one month of being requested.[18]

The eDeposit service on the NLA website enables the deposit of online materials, such as “ebooks, electronic journals, magazines and newsletters.”[19] In terms of technical formats, the NLA website states that

[t]he edeposit service accepts epub, PDF or mobi files for books, journals, magazines, newsletters and music scores. Files must be under 500MB. If you publish in more than one of these, our preference is epub.

The service accepts PDF, GeoPDF, TIFF, or GeoTIFF files for maps.

We do not accept Word documents. If you publish in a different format, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss options with you.[20]

B. Web Archiving

The NLA operates two platforms for archived Australian websites: the PANDORA Archive (an acronym of “Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia”) and the Australian Government Web Archive.

With regard to the PANDORA Archive, the NLA states that,

[s]ince 1996, the Library in collaboration with state libraries and other heritage organisations has been selecting, collecting and archiving copies of Australian web sites and online publications through a program know [sic] as the PANDORA Archive. The objective of this program is to ensure long-term access to this important form of Australia’s documentary heritage. In recognition of its significance the PANDORA Archive was placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register in August 2004.[21]

There are currently nine partner agencies, in addition to the NLA, with each writing their own selection guidelines and “establishing the portion of the national collection for which it will take responsibility.”[22] Publishers of Australian websites or online documents, or members of the public, can notify the NLA of a website in order for it be considered for preservation in the PANDORA Archive.[23]

The NLA has published a notice, issued by the Director-General, regarding the legal deposit of online materials, which supports the automated request for materials made by web harvesting software. The user-agent authorized by the NLA for the harvest (currently software operated by the Internet Archive) provides a link to the page containing the notice.[24]

Users can search and access content in the PANDORA Archive as follows:

The full text of archived content in indexed and selected titles are catalogued and included in the National Bibliographic Database. Both the full-text index and catalogue records are searchable through the Library’s national single search discover service (Trove[[25]]).

The PANDORA collection can be browsed through subject and alphabetical listings on the PANDORA Home Page.[26]

The Australian Government Web Archive (AGWA) is a newer public interface, released in 2014, that complements the PANDORA Archive. It provides access to a collection of archived Commonwealth (i.e., federal) government websites, which were specifically added starting from June 2011, although earlier content from previous harvesting activities is “progressively being added” to the site.[27] Harvests are conducted at least once annually and are undertaken in accordance with whole-of-government arrangements that permit the NLA to “collect, preserve and make accessible web materials published by non-corporate Commonwealth entities subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.”[28] Limited content is also collected from websites of Commonwealth corporate entities pursuant to specific agreements.[29]

The NLA notes that “[t]he AGWA is also the first publicly released service arising from the Library’s objectives to work with the tools and infrastructure required for the large scale—as distinct from selective—collection of websites and to deliver a modern web archive discovery portal.”[30]

The NLA has also partnered with the Internet Archive since 2007 to select, collect, and archive copies of certain Asia-Pacific websites through the Archive-It service.[31]

C. Preservation and Access

1. Preservation and Security

The NLA has preservation responsibilities for several digital collections, including websites gathered as part of its web harvesting programs and Australian digital publications either deposited directly or on physical carriers.[32] It states that the NLA “has a mandate and commitment to preservation and has been active in developing infrastructure to collect, manage, preserve and keep our digital collections available into the future. This is recognised as core business for the Library and is critical to its future relevance.”[33]

The NLA released the fourth edition of its Digital Preservation Policy in 2013, which sets out the purpose, objectives, challenges, directions, and implementation principles for preserving its digital collections.[34] It has also published statements of preservation intent for different aspects of the digital collections.[35] Furthermore, it “[h]as a long-standing program of projects to develop tools, procedures and infrastructure to manage the preservation of its digital collections. Currently this development has focused on the DLIR (Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement) Project,” and also states that it “[h]as a long-standing commitment to working with others in developing ways to address its own digital preservation responsibilities and to share information about digital preservation.”[36]

In terms of security, the NLA states that

[t]he National Library of Australia stores its digital collections securely and preserves them forever. Our IT security standards are based on those specified in the Attorney-General’s Protective Security Policy Framework, the Australian Government Information Security Manual, the ISO 27000 Standards and recommendations of the Australian National Audit Office.[37]

2. Access to Electronic Publications

The commercial status of electronic publications is identified by publishers at the time they deposit the publication. A publisher can allow basic access as permitted by the Copyright Act, meaning that NLA users will only be able to view, and not download or copy, a commercial publication in the NLA reading rooms.[38] Noncommercial publications with basic access as permitted under the Copyright Act will be available as read-only in Trove.[39]

If a publisher allows a publication to be made freely available, then “[a]nyone will be able to download and save deposited electronic publications to their computer or mobile device via a link in the National Library’s online catalogue and Trove.”[40]

Publishers can also apply an embargo period of twelve months for books, music scores, and maps, or a period of six months for journals, magazines, and newsletters. During this period only basic access as permitted under the Copyright Act will apply, and after the embargo period ends the publication will be made freely available.[41]

When depositing an electronic publication, publishers can also specify that the publication has a Creative Commons license, and select the one that applies.[42]

Back to Top

III. Digital Deposit at the State and Territory Level

The association of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA), which is made up of the NLA, National Library of New Zealand, and Australia’s eight state and territory libraries, states that “[s]everal NSLA libraries have legislation in place to cover this born-digital legal deposit material, and most are reviewing or amending existing legislation to extend to digital publications.”[43] The three subnational jurisdictions identified as currently having legal deposit requirements for born-digital publications are Northern Territory, Queensland, and Tasmania.[44]

A. Northern Territory

The Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT) requires the publisher of an “internet publication” for which no printed version is published to “advise the CEO [of the Northern Territory Library] of the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) of the publication on the publisher’s website” within two months after it is first published.[45] The CEO is authorized to copy an internet publication and, “if  it  changes,  may  take  further  copies  of  the  publication  from  time  to  time  as  the  CEO  considers appropriate.”[46] If the publication is protected from being copied by technical means, the publisher must either provide an electronic copy of the publication on request, or provide the means to capture an identical copy from the internet.[47]

B. Queensland

Although the Libraries Act 1988 (Qld) does not explicitly refer to electronic publications in requiring publishers in Queensland to give a copy of published material to the State Library and Parliamentary Library, the language appears to be broad enough to encompass such publications.[48] The State Library of Queensland states that electronic publications must be deposited, and that if a publication “is produced in both electronic and print formats the electronic version should be deposited, providing it is in either a PDF or Word (.doc) format. Otherwise the print copy is acceptable for deposit purposes.”[49]

The State Library further explains that it “is able to save and preserve electronic publications in the Library’s digital repository. One of the options available to people depositing e-publications is a deposit wizard.”[50] Other options for depositing such material are forwarding it by mail on a disc or USB, sharing a Dropbox folder, or using other file-sharing services.[51]

C. Tasmania

The Libraries Act 1984 (NT) also does not explicitly refer to electronic publications in its legal deposit provisions or the definition of a “book” to which those provisions apply.[52] The website of LINC Tasmania, the state library service, lists eBooks among the publications that must be deposited, and states that “[i]f a work is published in both digital and hard copy format only a digital copy is required to be deposited unless the hard copy is different in layout or content.”[53] Electronic publications can be submitted using LINC Tasmania’s “web-based document archive” called STORS (Stable Tasmanian Online Repository System).[54]

Back to Top

IV. National eDeposit Network

The Ned.gov.au website has been established to host the National eDeposit system, which is expected to be launched in 2019. The site currently states that “National edeposit is an innovative online service for the deposit, archiving, management, discovery and delivery of published electronic material across Australia” and is an exciting collaboration between Australia’s nine National, State and Territory libraries, responding to the major challenge of providing the digital documentary history of Australia for the future.”[55] It further states that publishers will be able to deposit their publications once, using the system, and fulfill both their state/territory library and NLA legal deposit responsibilities. It appears that, once deposited, materials will be included in discovery services, including Trove and the catalogs of state/territory libraries and the NLA.[56]

A poster session at the Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018, to be held in August 2018, will provide information about the “evolving journey and collaboration of Australia’s nine national, state and territory libraries” in addressing the challenge of collecting, describing, preserving, storing, and making available digital publications through the National eDeposit network (NED).[57] The session description further states that “NED comprises people, governance and policies and technological infrastructure to collect, preserve and provide access to Australia’s digital publications. It is a joint digital platform that streamlines deposit for Australia’s publishing industry and improves access for Australian people.”

Back to Top

Prepared by Kelly Buchanan
Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Division I
July 2018


[1] Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), pt X div 3, https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2017C00414, archived at https://perma.cc/L3X3-URQA.

[2] Civil Law and Justice Amendment Bill 2014: Explanatory Memorandum, Attachment A (Extending the Legal Deposit Scheme to Digital Material: Regulation Impact Statement (2014)), https://www.legislation.gov.au/ Details/C2014B00229/Explanatory%20Memorandum/Text, archived at https://perma.cc/5WBT-EFNB.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Civil Law and Justice Amendment Bill 2014, Parliament of Australia, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_ Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s980 (last visited Apr. 18, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/TV3Q-8PCF; Civil Law and Justice Amendment Act 2015 (Cth) sch 7, https://www.legislation. gov.au/Details/C2015A00113, archived at https://perma.cc/3FJK-Y29W. See Kelly Buchanan, Australia: National Library to Implement Digital Legal Deposit from January 2016, Global Legal Monitor (July 13, 2015),http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/australia-national-library-to-implement-digital-legal-deposit-from-january-2016/.

[6] What Is Legal Deposit?, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/what-is-legal-deposit (last visited Apr. 18, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/ERT7-62MU.

[7] Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), s 195CE.

[8] NLA, Deposit of Electronic Publications with the National Library of Australia (June 2016), https://www.nla.gov.au/sites/default/files/deposit-of-electronic-publications.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/7FVP-6RNK.

[9] Id. at 5–6.

[10] Id. at 6.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Deposit of Electronic Publications with the National Library of Australia, supra note 8, at 8.

[14] Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), s 195CC.

[15] Legal Deposit Frequently Asked Questions, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit-faq (last visited Apr. 23, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/SE6Q-UE2M.

[16] Id.

[17] Deposit of Electronic Publications with the National Library of Australia, supra note 8, at 7.

[18] Id. at 8.

[19] How To Deposit, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/how-to-deposit (last visited Apr. 23, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/5ZGJ-2EB9; Legal Deposit, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit (last visited Apr. 18, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/82YL-ZWC8; Edeposit, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/edeposit/ (last visited Apr. 18, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/329E-54KQ

[20] Legal Deposit Frequently Asked Questions, supra note 15.

[21] Archived Websites, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/what-we-collect/archived-websites (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/B43A-2RNE.

[22] PANDORA Partners, PANDORA: Australia’s Web Archive, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/partners.html (last updated Nov. 23, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/FYT7-GUM8.

[23] Notification Form for Suggesting Websites and Online Documents for Inclusion in the PANDORA Archive, PANDORA: Australia’s Web Archive, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/registration_form.html (last updated July 25, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/MB3S-SSVR.

[24] Notice to Publishers of Online Materials, PANDORA: Australia’s Web Archive, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/crawl.html (last updated Feb. 16, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/A95U-UQDM. See also Notice to Publisher of Online Materials, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/request (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/5TN9-P3SB.

[25] See Archived Websites (1996 – Now), Trove, https://trove.nla.gov.au/website?q (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/E2WR-WCTW.

[26] PANDORA Overview, PANDORA: Australia’s Web Archive, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/overview.html (last updated Mar. 10, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/3GWB-H4KT.

[27] Australian Government Web Archive, Australian Government Web Archive, http://webarchive.nla.gov. au/gov/ (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/6SQV-T55G.

[28] About the Australian Government Web Archive (AGWA), Australian Government Web Archive, http://webarchive.nla.gov.au/gov/about (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/8BLC-NCJ2.

[29] Id.

[30] Archived Websites, supra note 21.

[31] Id.

[32] Our Digital Collections, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/content/the-nature-of-the-library-s-digital-collections (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/Z7GB-FQKQ.

[33] Digital Preservation, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/content/digital-preservation (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/3AVZ-CDGY.

[34] Digital Preservation Policy 4th Edition (2013), NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/policy-and-planning/digital-preservation-policy (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/CM3M-N32P.

[35] Statements of Preservation Intent, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/content/statements-of-preservation-intent (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/HW7U-4YB6.

[36] Digital Preservation, supra note 33.

[37] Access to Electronic Publications, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/access-to-electronic-publications (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/6XY8-V4SK.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.

[41] Id.

[42] Creative Commons and Electronic Communications, NLA, https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/creative-commons-and-electronic-publications (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/95TD-3DMV.

[43] Legal Deposit in Australasia, National and State Libraries Australasia, https://www.nsla.org.au/legal-deposit-australasia (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/CNQ3-36CF.

[44] Id.

[45] Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT), s 13(1), https://legislation.nt.gov.au/Legislation/PUBLICATIONS-LEGAL-DEPOSIT-ACT-2004, archived at https://perma.cc/MR6F-RFJX. “Internet publication” is defined in section 5, id. See also Legal Deposit, Northern Territory Department of Tourism and Culture, https://dtc.nt.gov.au/arts-and-museums/northern-territory-library/library-collections/legal-deposit (last updated Nov. 28, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/NYB6-6AHV.

[46] Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT), s 13(2).

[47] Id. s 13(3).

[49] Legal Deposit, State Library of Queensland, http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/resources/publishers/legal-deposit (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/U8NM-Z6DN.

[50] Id.

[51] Legal Deposit – Deposit Wizard, State Library of Queensland, http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/resources/publishers/legal-deposit/wizard (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/WWP7-CSDG.

[52] Libraries Act 1984 (NT), ss 3 & 22, https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/whole/html/inforce/current/act-1984-109, archived at https://perma.cc/9GRA-43MU

[53] Legal Deposit, LINC Tasmania, https://www.linc.tas.gov.au/how-to/Pages/legal-deposit.aspx (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/7BJL-9CDF.

[54] Id. See also Stable Tasmanian Online Repository System (STORS), LINC Tasmania, https://digital.linc.tas.gov. au/deposit/action/start.do (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/P52H-9L77.

[55] National eDeposit, NED, https://ned.gov.au/ (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/888D-EKRF.

[56] Id.

[57] Collaborative Innovation: Australia’s National eDeposit Network (NED), Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018, https://aplic.alia.org.au/content/collaborative-innovation-australia%E2%80%99s-national-edeposit-network-ned (last visited Apr. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/9FUW-J4N6.

Back to Top

Last Updated: 08/06/2018