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A Short Guide to Legal Stuff for Australian Authors

Updated: Mar 19

So, You wrote a book! Awesome … now what? Did you know you have legal requirements?

Australian law requires authors and publishers to deposit published works with national, state and territory legal deposit libraries. Legal deposit laws aim to make sure that publications are preserved and kept accessible for future generations of Australians. And importantly, according to National edeposit (NED) “legal deposit is fundamental to freedom of information and to the perpetuation of an informed citizenry”. Depositing your book through legal deposit contributes to collections that capture what we are thinking, imagining and writing about over time. Legal deposit libraries keep books archived – collections generally can’t leave these libraries however can be accessed when visiting in person. Unlike a lending library, legal deposit libraries will not discard books if they aren’t frequently requested.

Legal deposit applies to print and electronic publications that have been made available to the public for free or for sale. 

If you are working with a publishing company, ask to make sure they are looking after your creations. For Indie/Self-Published authors, the responsibility is yours. 

For all Australian authors, you must deposit publications to the National Library, along with your local state or territory library, preferably within 1-2 months of publication. 

Print publications can be posted to the national and relevant state or territory library.

If your publication has been made available to the public electronically, you can deposit through NED: 

Easy, right? 

When depositing electronic publications, you can choose different levels of access ranging from accessible only on computers within national, state and territory libraries, right up to openly available on the internet – you can change these access conditions by contacting your NED member library (this is decided by where you live) as your needs change over time.

Depending on your location, some states and territories also require physical copies if your book is available in that format. As per the NED website, “Depositing material through the NED deposit processes does not remove a publisher’s obligation to deposit publications with these libraries.” And further requirements apply depending on if you are writing government or non-government materials. 

Case study - NSW Authors with both print and electronic versions of a publication are required to deposit with

  • The National Library of Australia (ebook via NED);

  • The State Library of NSW (ebook via NED this happens simultaneously with the NLA deposit & one physical copy via post);

  • Additional requirements for publishers in NSW are detailed on the State Library of NSW website and can include deposits for:

    • The Parliamentary Library of New South Wales – contact them to see if your work is required for deposit in their collection.

    • The University of Sydney Library – contact them to see if your work is required to be deposited in their collection.

    • The Western Sydney University Library requires NSW Government publications to be deposited.

If this all seems confusing, it can be worth reaching out to your state or territory library for advice on requirements for your publication.

When you are preparing to publish you can consider registering your book through the Prepublication Data Service (PDS)

As per the PDS website, this is best explained as: “The Prepublication Data Service (formerly Cataloguing in Publication) is a free service offered by the National Library of Australia. This service is for Australian publishers and self-publishing authors who want the details of their upcoming publications made available to Australian libraries, library suppliers, and other members of the book industry for acquisition purposes.” 

And lastly, while anything written in Australia is automatically covered by Copyright at the time of creation, legal deposit is a great way to ensure your work is recorded and attributed to you, the creator. 

Happy writing! 

Further information available via: 

Disclaimer: This is not to be taken as legal advice, please check with your State or Territory for your individual obligations. All links and information are correct at the time of publication.

I'd like to thank Lynda and the team from the National Library for their assistance in ensuring the information in this blog is correct.

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