Massive web archive planned for libraries

Government to archive millions of websites

The UK government is fast-tracking new legal powers to allow the British Library to archive millions of websites.

The plan is to allow six major libraries to copy every free website based in the UK as part of their efforts to record Britain's cultural, scientific and political history.

The Guardian reports that Culture minister Margaret Hodge is pressing for the faster introduction of powers after six years of delays. The powers were established by an act of parliament in 2003.

Libraries have warned that they had now lost millions of pages recording events such as the MPs' expenses scandal, the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the Iraq war, and would lose millions more, because they were not legally empowered to "harvest" these sites.

The powers are very similar to copyright laws which require every publisher in the UK to provide the libraries chiefly the British Library and the NLS, but also the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian in Oxford, Cambridge University library and Trinity College Dublin with copies of every printed book, magazine, journal and newspaper.

Ministers predict the UK will host 15m websites by 2016 but under existing powers the British Library would be able to archive only 1 percent of them.

A consultation, due to end in March, would allow the libraries to copy and archive free sites using the .uk domain name — such as pcadvisor.co.uk — and all other UK-based sites.

However, paid-for websites will still be closed off to the copyright libraries.

Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, told the Guardian: "By 2020 more material will be published in digital format than in print; the British Library must collect, preserve and provide access to that material. I very much welcome this consultation which extends the principle of legal deposit to cover material published digitally and online."

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