Digital publications will now hold their place in history thanks to a private members bill, which became law on Friday, that allows the UK's six legal deposit libraries to demand copies of works published on CD, DVD and the internet.
Under legal deposit legislation passed in 1911, publishers in the UK and Ireland are required to lodge a copy of all items with the British Library within one month of their publication. The UK's five legal deposit libraries, which include the University library at Cambridge and Dublin's Trinity College library, have the right to claim copies of these works within their first year of issue.
But the Act has never been amended to include today's e-publications, meaning the libraries have no authority to demand duplicates of the growing collection of online publications. The number of electronic journals published between 2002 and 2005 is expected to quadruple from 52,000 to 193,00.
The bill, introduced back in 2002 by Chris Mole MP, finally received parliamentary assent last Friday.
"This new legislation means that a vital part of the nation's heritage will be safe and accessible as an important resource for businesses and education users in the future," said Mole.
The types of material that will be saved include records of key events on websites covering such topics as the millennium celebrations, the Queen Mother's death and the Queen's Golden Jubilee. All major CD-ROM or online directories will now be retained as well as news resources such as newspaper websites and online periodicals.
France, Norway and Denmark have also enforced similar schemes to enable libraries to store electronic publications, while Germany has operated a voluntary contribution scheme since March 02.
The British Library