Sparked by a quick debate on a Yahoo comics group comes news that the British small press might be failing in its legal obligations by not sending copies of their magazines – however short the print run – to the British Library.
Publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have a legal obligation to send one copy of each of their publications to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication.
Paul Scott, editor of UK fanzines Solar Wind and Omnivistascope, reports he recently received a letter from the Agent for Legal Deposit Libraries in London demanding five copies of each issue of his comics “for various institutions”, as well as a copy for the British Library.
In addition to the British Library, there is a legal requirement to send copies to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the University Library, Cambridge, National Library of Scotland, Library of Trinity College, Dublin and the National Library of Wales.
While the Legal Deposit office offers no compensation the National Library of Scotland has, apparently, contacted Paul separately and has offered some payment for past issues.
The request has Paul steamed up on the Omnivistascope blog.
“The Cambridge and Oxford libraries should go on and get on with some real work instead of bothering me because they want the status of having all this crap in their basement,” he feels. “Birmingham University, the redbrick I went to certainly doesn’t care – they just want to know how much I’m earning so they can sell me a credit card.
“The National Libraries of Wales and Scotland I can understand [but] Trinity College in Ireland is completely beyond me – that’s a completely different country!
“Under the Legal deposit law of the UK the British Library should receive two copies of all publication published in the UK. Who knows why. Perhaps its for posterity, perhaps it’s just in case the government wants to know what you’re up to?
“If they are kept for the rare moment when someone wants to read the comic while I’m alive, then they should help to keep me in sugar free Red Bull and Caramacs and buy one,” he fumes.
Still, Paul wonders just what will happen if he doesn’t comply. “Perhaps they’ll send uniformed officers to comic conventions to seize these comics that have print runs in double figures,” he suggests. “I feel a Space Lord story coming on…”
The Legal Deposit Office make it clear on its advice page that, within the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, a ‘publisher’ is to be understood as anyone who issues or distributes publications to the public. Items published in the United Kingdom and in Ireland are liable for deposit, as are items originally published elsewhere but distributed in the United Kingdom and in Ireland.
The requirement for deposit remains, irrespective of the place of publication or printing, the nature and size of the imprint, or the extent of its distribution.
It also claims there are several advantages to pubishers, no matter how small, to fulfilling the requirrments.
- Publications deposited with the British Library are made available to users in its various Reading Rooms, are preserved for the benefit of future generations, and become part of the national heritage.
- Publications are recorded in the online catalogue, and will remain an essential research tool for generations to come.
- Most of the books and new serial titles are listed in the British National Bibliography (BNB), which is used by librarians and the book trade for stock selection, is available in printed, CD-ROM and MARC Exchange formats, and has a world-wide distribution.
It would certainly be interesting to hear if fanzine editors now plan to comply with the law and innudate the Deposit Office with their publications. You have to wonder what they’ll make of Solar Wind, FutureQuake, Zarjaz and Tozzer, to name but a few!
“These libraries would have to build a new wing if they took all of the small press publications produced in the UK in comics alone,” Paul Scott suggests.