What are the legal problems associated with archiving of internet resources?

Archiving of resources

The archiving of resources is an extremely valuable tool in many different fields, for example the archiving of medical journals or legal cases is a must when wishing to develop in these areas. For society to function properly it is necessary that we have documentation of certain publications and records of the past.

When entering into specific educational institutions and certain libraries throughout the UK there will be huge amounts of space dedicated to specific archives.

The internet

Since the introduction of the internet the way which we receive and view certain kinds of information has changed dramatically. We are now able to access information which we would not have been able to do previously and have certain forms of information that is only published in this way.

The problem with archiving internet resources

The current problem which we see is that there is little basis in relation to how these resources will be archived and also certain legal problems which may be encountered. If this is to be the case then the information which is only contained on the internet may be lost. Due to the transient nature of internet content as it is often disappears from websites if there is no archiving system in place some valuable information may be lost.

The situation needs some improvement, which is currently being attempted by the UK Government with various proposals as to how to improve the existing situation.

Protection for Internet Resources

Written internet Content

Written internet content will be protected by copyright laws under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Other forms of internet content

Other forms of internet content such as music, film and databases will also be protected by copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and also the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 in relation to databases.

Legal Deposit in the UK

Under the laws of England and Wales specified in the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 certain libraries within the country such as the British Library have the right to receive one copy of every publication distributed in the United Kingdom.

Within the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act a publisher is defined as anyone who issues or distributes publications to the public. Therefore items which have been published or distributed in the UK are liable for deposit under the terms of the Act.

As this right also applies to items distributed in the UK it extends to anything which is published outside the UK but which has then subsequently been distributed in the UK.

What publications does this obligation extend to?

This obligation applies to anything which has been published, for example the following:

  • Books

  • Pamphlets         

  • Magazines

  • Newspapers

  • Sheet of letterpress or music

  • Map

  • Plan

  • Chart or table

  • Any other similar works

Does this also apply to electronic versions of the work?

There has been a voluntary code established between the deposit agencies and the publishing trade associations, publishers and distributors in the UK to send one copy of each of their microfilm and offline electronic publications within one month of publication.

The kind of publication which will be included in this are the following:

  1. CD-ROM

  2. DVD-ROM

Under this code it is not a requirement for a copy to be sent in, more a voluntary undertaking. The Code was first established in 2000 and has recently been updated in 2010.

What is the position in relation to online electronic works?

Cleary the above code does not apply to works which have been published on the internet. However, with the creation of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 a framework in which the Secretary of State may make regulations for the deposit of non-print works was introduced.

Furthermore, the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel (LDAP) was created in 2005 as an advisory non-departmental public body in order to provide assistance to the secretary of state in these matters.

Have any regulations been created?

Following on from this in December 2009 the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) launched a public consultation in relation to initial proposals created following the recommendations made by the LDAP – this was in relation to publications which are available free of charge on the internet and are referred to as free web materials.

Further proposals in relation to commercial and protected online publications are expected with both sets forming the basis for the regulations to come into existence.

Are there any legal issues involves with the archiving of internet resources?

The main legal issue involved with setting up potential internet archives is in relation to the copyright protection attributed to the work.


Currently under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 libraries are archives are able to make a copy from any item in their permanent collection for permanent copy and replacement.

The definition of a library is contained within Section 42 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act and includes all council and university libraries in the UK.

Does this right extend to internet publications?

Currently under the existing law this right does not extend to the archiving of internet publications, accordingly to make copies of information published solely on the internet appropriate licences would have to be gained by that person wishing to archive the materials.