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Legal deposit

The concept of legal deposit supports the collecting and preservation roles of state and national libraries around the world. Legal deposit is a statutory provision which obliges publishers to deposit copies of their publications in libraries in the country in which they are published. For South Australia, these libraries are the National Library of Australia in Canberra, the State Library of South Australia in Adelaide and the Parliamentary Library in Adelaide.


The South Australian Libraries Act 1982, section 35 requires a publisher to provide a copy of each published work to the State Library of South Australia and the Parliamentary Library within one month of publication. The Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 requires a copy of any work published in Australia to be deposited with the National Library of Australia within one month of publication. The requirements of legal deposit are set out within certain parameters and defined as follows:

A 'publisher' Legal deposit applies not only to commercial publishers but also to private individuals, clubs, churches, societies and organisations.

A 'publication' A work is deemed to have been published if reproduction of the work or edition has been supplied (whether by sale or otherwise) to the public.

A 'work' In South Australia, a work can be a book, newspaper, magazine, journal, pamphlet, single sheet item, map, plan, chart, table, printed music, record, cassette, compact disc, CDROM, software, film, video or audio tape, disk or other item, made available to the public to store and facilitate the reproduction of visual images, sound or information. The Libraries Act 1982, s.35 was amended in 1989 to include the deposit of non-print formats. This acknowledges the increase in the range and number of non-print publications, and the Library's commitment to comprehensively collect and preserve this material. However, non-print formats are currently excluded from Commonwealth legal deposit requirements for the National Library of Australia.

'Best copy' The copy of the material must be a copy of the whole material and must be the best copy of that material as published. For example, if both a hard-cover bound edition and a paperback edition are published, one copy of the hard-cover must be deposited.

Second and subsequent editions A copy of a second or later edition of a work in which copyright subsists does not have to be deposited unless it contains additions or alterations then the best copy of that edition must also be deposited. If a book is reprinted with a change to the title, or by a different publisher, it is considered a new edition.

Benefits of legal deposit

Legal deposit ensures that the works of authors and publishers will survive for future generations, because deposit libraries assume an obligation to preserve all material lodged with them. Records for legal deposit publications are also widely available through Trove, the online national catalogue produced by the National Library which is available to the general public as well as libraries. Trove lists books, newspapers, serials, audiovisual items and maps in addition to other materials.

Legal deposit in the State Library of South Australia

The State Library of South Australia preserves the published and unpublished words, voices, images and records of South Australia from pre-white settlement to the present day. Its collections are of international, national, state and local significance and can assist those interested in both contemporary and historical topics. As a preservation library, the State Library has a dual responsibility-to protect its original materials to ensure that material can survive for future generations, and to make its collections available to the current generation. The State Library has two categories of collection material: published and unpublished.

Published collections includes printed and non-print items which are made available to the public. This material is acquired by purchase, donation or legal deposit.

Unpublished collections includes personal, organisational or business material, pictorial material, oral history tapes, films and memorabilia. This material is largely acquired through donation. Prospective donors are encouraged to seek advice form staff to establish the significance of their items and whether the appropriate repository if the State Library or another agency.

The State Library receives, catalogues and houses material received on legal deposit. Should the Library require additional copies of an item received on legal deposit, then these additional copies are usually purchased. When a published item has not been received, the Library can claim the publication from the publisher. This ensures that the collecting of recent South Australian publications is as complete as possible and reminds publishers of the requirements of legal deposit.

Lodging material and/or enquiries about legal deposit at the State Library of South Australia:

Legal Deposit Collection Processing, State Library of SA, GPO Box 419, Adelaide SA 5001
Telephone (08) 8207 7261 Fax (08) 8207 7247 Email

Legal deposit in the Parliamentary Library of South Australia:

The Parliamentary Librarian, Parliamentary Library, Parliament House, Adelaide SA 5000
Telephone (08) 8237 9398 Fax (08) 8212 1797

Legal deposit in the National Library of Australia:

Legal Deposit Unit, National Library of Australia, Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone (02) 6262 1312 Fax (02) 6273 4492 Email


Legal deposit is not related to copyright. Copyright protection is granted automatically in Australia from the moment of creating a work. There are no formalities to be completed, such as registration or payment of fees. Publication is not necessary for copyright to subsist in the work except in the case of sound and television broadcasts and publishers' copyright in editions of works. However, library records and the legal deposit slip issued to the publisher by some legal deposit libraries may be used as evidence of date of issue. The Australian Copyright Council can provide advice to authors and publishers on copyright.

Legal deposit: extract from the Act

Extract from the Libraries Act 1982 as amended by the Libraries Act Amendment Act 1989

Section 35


Copies of material published in South Australia to be lodged with the Board and Parliamentary Library.

(1) The publisher of material published in South Australia to which this section applies shall, within one month after publication, deliver at his own expense a copy of the material -

(a) to the [Libraries] Board [of South Australia] and

(b) to the Parliamentary Librarian

(2) Where material to which this section applies is published in various forms of differing quality, the copies delivered under this section must be of the finest quality

(3) If a publisher fails to comply with this section he shall be guilty of an offence for which the penalty is a Division 8 fine

(4) A receipt shall be issued for material delivered under this section

(5) This section applies to -

(a) a book, or a part or division of a book;

(b) a newspaper, magazine, journal or pamphlet;

(c) a map, plan, chart or table;

(d) printed music; and

(e) a record, cassette, film, video or audio tape, disc or other item made available to the public, designed to store and facilitate the reproduction of visual images, sound or information, but does not include a second or subsequent edition of any such material that does not differ from a former edition published in South Australia or prescribed material, or material of a prescribed class.

End of extract.

Please note: A copy of all (except non-print) publications must also be deposited with the National Library of Australia, Canberra. (Commonwealth Copyright Act, 1968, Section 201).

For further information

Library visitors: Request assistance from Customer Service staff at the Information Desk
Telephone enquiry service: (08) 8207 7250 TTY (08) 8297 7251 Toll Free 1800 182 013
Facsimile: Customer Services(08) 8207 7247
Letter: Customer Services, State Library of SA, GPO Box 419, Adelaide SA 5001