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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 98, August 2021

Special topic: Legal Deposit System

An Overview of Japan's Legal Deposit System

By the Legal Deposit Section, Acquisitions Administration and Bibliographic Control Division, Acquisitions and Bibliography Department, National Diet Library, Japan

Japan's National Diet Library Law stipulates that the National Diet Library (NDL) is the sole deposit library in Japan and is responsible for managing a comprehensive collection of all material published in Japan. This article presents an overview of the history of such systematic acquisition as well as of recent trends toward expanding the range of acquisitions.

The collection of printed publications under what is known as the Legal Deposit System began in 1948.1 Subject to collection under this system were books, pamphlets, serials, musical scores, and maps, as well as texts, images, sounds, or programs recorded by electronic, magnetic, or other means not be directly readable by humans.
The Legal Deposit System remains a significant means of acquiring library materials even today. In FY2020, 76% of the books, serials, and newspapers acquired by the NDL came via the Legal Deposit System.

The obligation of a publisher to submit its publications will vary depending on whether the publisher is part of the national government, a municipal government, or a private publisher, including individuals. Private publishers are required to submit a single copy of each publication to the NDL to be catalogued and preserved as a cultural artifact. Publishers who do so are reimbursed half the retail price to cover the cost of printing plus the cost of shipping. In addition to publishers, organizations of publishing agents are allowed to submit on behalf of publishers, in order to promote efficient delivery.
On the other hand, public entities that are part of the national or a municipal government as well as private publishers that issues publications on behalf of a public entities are required to submit multiple copies to the NDL without compensation. These copies are both for official use as well as for exchange with other governments or other international organizations. There are NDL branch libraries at the majority of national public agencies, through which publications are submitted to the NDL.

As the use of digital publications increased at the end of the 20th century, the NDL began to consider means for their systematic acquisition. The Legal Deposit System Council—which until 1999 was known as the Legal Deposit System Research Council—comprises researchers, lawyers, publishers, and other experts knowledgeable about the publishing industry and was established to conduct research and to deliberate on issues affecting the Legal Deposit System.2
As a result of its deliberations, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, and other packaged electronic publications were included for submission to the Legal Deposit System starting in 2000. With regard to the acquisition of digital information distributed via computer networks, however, the Council cited concerns over infringing upon freedom of expression and copyright protection should the NDL finalize such content, in determining that digital information distributed via computer networks should be acquired by some means outside the conventional Legal Deposit System.3 For this reason, the NDL Legal Deposit System is essentially limited to the acquisition of tangible printed publications.

The NDL also began to archive digital information published on the Internet—so-called Internet materials—from websites for which the copyright holders granted permission in 2002. Systematic acquisition of material published via the Internet by public agencies was started in 2010 without permission from the copyright holders, since there were no concerns over infringing on freedom of expression.4 This was made possible by the simultaneous revision of both the NDL Law and the Copyright Law with newly established provisions on copyright restrictions. In cases where automated acquisition is not possible, content can be sent individually in either electronic or tangible format.
When an archived website also contains digital books, digital serials, or other conventional publications, such as, major items are selected for cataloging as individual materials.
In cases where the publisher has granted permission, archived websites and digital materials can be browsed on the premises at the NDL as well as via the NDL website.

In 2013, the NDL started to collect digital information made available to the public by private publishers, which we considered to be equivalent to books or serials (online publications), because their content is finalized through an editorial process. Digital information stored with specific codes (ISBN, ISSN, DOI) or with specific formats (PDF, EPUB, DAISY) is considered suitable for acquisition. Deliberations by the Council on compensation for submission via the Legal Deposit System were inconclusive, so a 2013 revision of the NDL Law permitted the acquisition only of online publications that are free of charge and not subject to Digital Rights Management (DRM).

After five years of practical experiments and deliberation on the acquisition, preservation, and use of online publications, the Council finally reached a conclusion in March 2021, and the NDL is at last on the verge of acquiring online publications that are available for a fee or protected by DRM. In general, reimbursement of publication costs is not required, acquisition will be done without DRM, and online publications archived by private repositories for the purpose of long-term preservation fall outside the scope of acquisition. In response to this, coordination with publishers and rights holders' organizations has been accelerated, and final preparations are underway to amend the NDL Law and to start acquisition by March 2023.

< Summary of the Material Collection on the basis of the National Diet Library Law >


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