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The Legal Deposit Act 19971 has nothing to do with having to pay lawyers a deposit for their fees. It is about preserving, and providing access to the national documentary heritage.

The Act, which is administered by the Minister of Arts & Culture, stipulates that a copy of every document published in South Africa must be lodged with certain libraries and archives – in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Pretoria.

For the purposes of the Act:2

  • a ‘document’ is any object which is intended to store or convey information in textual, graphic, visual, auditory or other intelligible format through any medium;
  • a document is ‘published’ when it is produced to be generally available in multiple copies, or locations, to any member of the public; and
  • a publisher means the person (or entity) which publishes and distributes the document; or authorises and accepts the financial risk for its production; or imports a document produced abroad, for a South African publisher or to make it generally available.
  1. A publisher commits an offence if it does not supply specified libraries with a copy of each publication, within 14 days of the publishing.3

  2. It is an offence also if the publisher does not supply the prescribed places the number of copies, and in the format and quality prescribed for each version and type of medium.4

  3. The cost of the deposits and supply of information must be born by the publisher, which would probably commit an offence if it passed the cost on to the author (or anyone).5

  4. It is also an offence not to supply the State Library with certain information pertaining to the document/publication.6

  5. Even if an exemption has been granted not to furnish the State Library with copies of publications, information relating to the document must still be furnished to the State Library and it is an offence not to do so.7

  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 57 of 1997. 

  2. See the definition in section 1 of the Act. 

  3. Section 9 read with section 2 and section 4. 

  4. Section 9 read with section 2(1). 

  5. Section 9 read with section 3. 

  6. Section 9 read with section 2(2). 

  7. Section 9 read with section 5(3).