UK Government to Archive Websites

The British government announces that it is going to create to encourage its depostiary libraries to create a massive web archive.

Websites get legal place in national archive:
Millions of website pages, online magazines and CDs will be saved for the nation under a private member's bill which became law last week.

Today, the MP who sponsored the bill predicted that Guardian Unlimited website pages would be preserved in the national archive.

The Legal Deposit Law puts the growing number of electronic publications on the same footing as printed newspapers, books and documents which have been collected by law since 1911 for the use of scholars by the British Library and five other deposit libraries.

The existing print legal deposit arrangements have enabled the British Library alone to collect and save, in perpetuity for the nation, more than 50 million items. In the past year, the library has acquired 95,286 books, 248,686 journal issues, 1,994 maps and 2,357 newspaper titles through legal deposit. But that is likely to be dwarfed by the scale of potential electronic deposits: a study last year forecast a massive increase in online publications, predicting a near quadrupling (from 52,000 to 193,000) in the number of electronic journal issues published in the UK between 2002 and 2005. There are nearly 3 million websites with “.uk” in their titles and although many are of merely passing interest, many will be fascinating to future historians – the websites that sprang up after the September 11 attacks but have not disappeared, for instance.

Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich, who introduced the bill in December, said he was thrilled. “This new legislation will now mean that a vital part of the nation's published heritage will be safe and accessible as an important resource for business and education users in the future.”

He said the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales; the University Library, Cambridge; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; and Trinity College Library, Dublin, would have to use their judgment in “harvesting” websites and electronic publications.

Publishers have negotiated reassurances from government that they would not be forced to disclose valuable information free of charge – for example short life financial forecasts will not be made available for three months, by which time they will no longer be commercially valuable.

Apart from websites, important local and national government documents, such as the Home Office series of online-only research reports and web-based government consultation papers, which are an important resource for lawyers and researchers in tracing the origin of legislation, and the minutes of the National Assembly for Wales, will be archived.

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