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What is Legal Deposit?
One of the National Library of South Africa's important roles is to serve as a place of Legal Deposit, both at the Pretoria and Cape Town campuses. Other places of Legal Deposit in South Africa are the Mangaung Public Library, Msunduzi Public Library, Library of Parliament and the National Film, Video and Sound Archives (for audiovisual material).

Legal deposit is a statutory requirement that any organisation, commercial or public and any individual, producing any type of documentation in multiple copies, deposit one or more copies to the designated Legal Deposit institution (Lariviere, 2000:11). In most countries, the national library is the designated Legal Deposit institution. Also in most countries, including South Africa, the depositor status is given to publishers and producers (commercial or public), private organisations, individuals, clubs, churches, societies and academic institutions within the country.

Legal deposit started in France in 1537 when King Francis I issued a royal decree, ’Ordonnance de Montepellier’ which forbade the sale of any book printed in France without first deposing a copy to his Royal Library which later became the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BnF). King Francis’s objective was to safeguard every printed book published in France from being lost to prosperity.

Legal deposit has since been accepted and practiced in most countries to preserve and make available the nation's published documentary heritage. Legal deposit was in effect in 52 countries by 1938 and in 139 countries by 1990 (Turner, 2008: 2). During the early 1990s, many countries revised their legal deposit laws to cover all other library material such as electronic publications. In South Africa, for example, legal deposit was introduced in 1842 during the second British Occupation (1806-1901), when the British Copyright Act of 1709 was extended to the entire British Empire. This was followed by the Legal Deposit of Publications Act of 1982 which was later revised in 1997 to become the current Legal Deposit Act, 54 of 1997 which covers all other library material.

Apart from the original objective of King Francis I, new objectives were added during the 20th century, namely, the availability of a collection of the nation’s published material for research, the production of a national bibliography and the development, promotion and optimization of public information (Manzoni, 1994: 82; Kawalya, 2009: 2).

Methods of depositing publications differ from one country to the other as specified in their laws. In South Africa, the Legal Deposit Act, 54 of 1997 requires publishers to deposit not more than five copies of published material (except official documents where more than five may be deposited) within 14 days of publication. In United Kingdom, the Legal Deposit Libraries Act of 2003 requires publishers to deposit one copy within one month of publication to the British Library. Other depository libraries may claim in writing before publication or after, but not later than twelve months.

Harry Nkadimeng, Collections Management



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