Publishers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland have a legal obligation to send one copy of each of their publications to the 6 legal deposit (copyright) libraries which maintain the national published archive of the British Isles, as outlined in the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and the Copyright and Related Act, 2000. Even if you are a self publisher this requirement still applies.
These repositories are:
Publishers have to send copies to The British Library within one month of publication. However the remaining 5 have a right to claim items. In practice though most publishers will send copies without waiting for a claim to be made. Under the terms of the Act a 'publisher' is understood to be anyone who issues publications to the public, and the requirement to deposit your publication remains irrespective of the number of copies published, the price, or size of the publisher.
The principle that a national printed archive should be maintained by a legal requirement to deposit has been well established for almost four centuries. Publications held at these repositories are made available to registered users, are preserved for the benefit of future generations and they become part of our national heritage. Those publications deposited with the British Library are made available to users in its various Reading Rooms. You may be able to get a readers card and be able to access some of these libraries, most are connected with Universities.
They are also recorded in the online catalogues of all the repositories, which are available online, and 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, and is available in printed, CD-ROM and MARC Exchange formats, and has a world-wide distribution.
Although referred to as copyright libraries they have no actual relationship to copyright, copyright exists on anything you produce simply by producing it. There are no benefits to the author, photographer, publisher and is merely a way that these large libraries get free books.
How to Submit your Publication. Merely send a copy to the British Library and 5 copies to the Agency for the other 5 Legal Deposit Libraries with a delivery note giving details of the publisher address. An acceptance receipt will be returned. There are no fees to be paid. Irish Publishers should send their publications to the Irish Copyright Agency (contact details below).
For more detailed information on the Legal Deposit requirements see the British Library website at www.bl.uk