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Estonia’s Legal Deposit Copy Act, effective from January 1, 2017, requires publishers to submit to the National Library digital files used for the production of publications and films made accessible to the public in Estonia. Moreover, the National Library uses a web harvester to download and archive websites on the national domain and other websites essential to Estonian culture.

I. Legal Deposit Copy Act

The National Library of Estonia started collecting digital files from public agencies and newspaper publishers on a voluntary basis in 2006.[1] By 2014, all newspapers published in the country were being deposited digitally with the National Library.[2] In 2016 the Estonian legislature passed a new Legal Deposit Copy Act, which came into effect on January 1, 2017.[3] The Act covers all publications regardless of their form and means of distribution.[4]

The National Library has also developed and launched the Publishers Portal, an electronic deposit system for handling all communications with publishers who can use it to notify the National Library of newly published books and upload e-books and output-ready files of other publications. The Legal Deposit Copy Act makes it unnecessary to separately digitize publications and films because digital source materials are handed over together with the completed publications.[5] Following the launch of the Publishers Portal the volume of deposited files reportedly grew by around 70% and the average size of a deposited file increased by some 30%.[6] The owner or publisher decides on access rights.  Access can be provided via a computer terminal with no copying or saving capabilities, or the publication can be made accessible on the web without restrictions.[7]

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II. Web Publications

The Act requires archiving at the National Library of any web publication that has been made publicly accessible

  • in the “.ee” domain or another top-level domain geographically linked to Estonia;
  • in another top-level domain where the publication is essential to Estonian culture; or
  • by a citizen or a resident of Estonia, or a legal person registered in Estonia, where the publication is essential to Estonian culture.[8]

The Act does not apply to real-time streaming of web publications or to web publications requiring an unreasonably large amount of data for preservation.[9]

The National Library archives freely accessible web publications with a web harvester by downloading the website together with the elements required for display and recording it in the Library’s archives.[10] If web archiving is not possible, the National Library asks the depositor to submit a copy through the electronic deposit system.[11] Such a copy must be submitted within twenty days after the relevant request has been filed.[12]

Access to personal data contained in a legal deposit copy of a web publication must be terminated upon a justified request.[13] If the National Library is not able to verify upon web archiving whether the web publication contains personal data, such publication must be made accessible to the public with the application of technical restrictions that do not allow the search and retrieval of archived web publications by using a person’s name or surname.[14]

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III. Output-Ready Files of Print Publications 

The Act also applies to output-ready files, which are defined as digital datasets used for the production of publications published, distributed, or made accessible to the public in Estonia.[15] The depositor of an output-ready file of a printed publication is the producer or the issuing body if the latter has reached an agreement with the producer.[16]

The output-ready file of a printed publication published for the first time in Estonia must be submitted to the National Library through the electronic deposit system as a file of the output-ready file of the printed publication or a copy of an equivalent file.[17] If the printed publication has been published as a translation of a publication first published in a foreign state and it is not possible for the issuing body to submit the output-ready file of the printed publication due to its contractual obligations, then four additional copies of the printed publication must be submitted, one of which will be used by the National Library of Estonia to prepare a digital legal deposit copy.[18]

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IV. Output-Ready Material of a Film

The Act also applies to the output-ready material used for preparing a presentation copy of a film (output-ready material of a film) that is produced or co-produced and distributed or co-distributed by a citizen of Estonia or a legal person registered in Estonia and is essential to the Estonian culture. The depositor of the output-ready material of a film is the producer or co-producer of the material.[19]

The output-ready material of a film must be submitted to the National Archives through a storage medium containing the output-ready file or by transmission of a copy through the electronic deposit system.[20] The output-ready material of a film must be submitted within one year after the film was initially publicized in Estonia.[21]

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V. Preservation and Use 

The National Library is responsible for preserving legal deposit copies of web publications and output-ready files of printed publications. The National Archives is responsible for preserving the legal deposit copies of output-ready materials of films.[22] The depositor is required to provide information on the name or title of the issuing body, producer or co-producer, descriptive metadata, right of use, structure, and technical metadata.[23] 

If the copyright holder of a web publication or output-ready file decides to make the legal deposit copy accessible to the public, an authorization must be issued.[24] The legal deposit copy of a web publication or an output-ready file of a printed publication may be used at an authorized workplace,[25] i.e., at a computer terminal designed for the in-house use of a digital legal deposit copy that makes recording to external data carriers impossible by technical or physical means.[26] Computer terminals dedicated to the use of mandatory legal deposit copies have been established in five major libraries throughout the country. 

During the first five years after submitting a web publication through the electronic deposit system or an output-ready file of a printed publication, the issuer of the submitted material has the right to receive a free deposited copy in preservation format from the National Library, or from the National Archive in the case of a film.  After five years, a fee may be charged for this service.[27] 

A legal deposit copy is not subject to destruction or deletion in the event of a court decision ordering the deletion of the web publication or the destruction of a publication or output-ready file. However, access to such a copy must be restricted by the preserving institution.[28] 

Failure to comply with the requirements of the Act may result in a monetary penalty in the amount of up to €1,500 (approximately US$1,800).[29]

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Prepared by Nerses Isajanyan
Foreign Law Consultant
July 2018


[1] Raivo Ruusalepp, Preserving Digital Legal Deposit – New Challenges and Opportunities 2 (June 26, 2017), available at http://library.ifla.org/1677/1/210-ruusalepp-en.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/2Q3Z-CBFC.

[2] Id.

[3] Säilituseksemplari Seadus [Legal Deposit Copy Act], Riigi Teataja [Official Gazette] RT I, July 7, 2016, No. 1, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/107072016001 (in Estonian), archived at https://perma.cc/VNX7-8S9T, English translation available at https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/514092016001/consolide, archived at https://perma.cc/3BLE-XZJU.

[4] The Storage Copy Act Improves the Availability of Publications, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia (Sept. 15, 2016), http://www.kul.ee/en/storage-copy-act-improves-availability-publications, archived at https://perma.cc/P867-6XBB.

[5] Id.

[6] Ruusalepp, supra note 1.

[7] Publishers Portal – a New Communication Channel between Publishers and the National Library, National Library of Estonia (Feb. 8, 2017), https://www.nlib.ee/en/publishers-portal-a-new-communication-channel-between-publishers-and-the-national-library/, archived at https://perma.cc/7KE7-C3VL.

[8] Legal Deposit Copy Act § 2.

[9] Id. § 3.

[10] Id. § 7.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. § 9.

[13] Id. § 15.

[14] Id.

[15] Id. § 1.

[16] Id. § 5.

[17] Id. § 7.

[18] Id. § 8.

[19] Id. § 5.

[20] Id. § 7.

[21] Id. § 9.

[22] Id. § 12.

[23] Id. § 11.

[24] Id. § 14.

[25] Id.

[26] Id. § 16.

[27] Id. § 14.

[28] Id.

[29] Id. § 21.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020