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The Netherlands does not have a mandatory legal deposit requirement. Both printed and electronic publications are submitted on a voluntary basis and the conditions are laid down in several agreements with the Netherlands Publishers Association and individual publishers. The mandate of the National Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB) includes establishing and maintaining a national digital library. Electronic publications are submitted via an e-book platform, manually uploaded by the publisher on the KB’s website, or submitted via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) transfers. In 2007, the KB started archiving selected Dutch websites. It adopted an opt-out approach for web harvesting, meaning that implicit or tacit permission is assumed if a website owner does not respond to the harvest request within a specific time frame.*

I. Introduction

The origins of the National Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB) date back to 1798.[1] The KB’s legal status and functions are determined by the Higher Education and Research Act[2] and the Public Library Provisions Systems Act.[3] Moreover, the Non-Departmental Public Bodies Framework Act also applies to the Library.[4] The Public Library Provisions Systems Act, which entered into force on January 1, 2015, merged the Sector Institute Public Libraries (Sectorinstituut Openbare Bibliotheken), the Library Foundation (Stichting Bibliotheek.nl), the Digital Library for Dutch Literature (Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren), and the National Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) under the umbrella of the National Library of the Netherlands.[5]

The KB’s objectives are defined in the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act and in the Public Library Provisions Systems Act. These Acts obligate the KB to provide access to Dutch knowledge and culture of the past and present to the general public and task the KB with creating and maintaining a national collection and coordinating with other academic libraries in the country.[6] The Public Library Provisions Systems Act extended the KB’s mandate, inter alia, to the management of digitalization. This includes the duty to establish and maintain a national digital library (landelijke digitale bibliotheek).[7]

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II. Current Legal Deposit Regime and Collection Mandate

Unlike other European jurisdictions, the Netherlands has no legislation on mandatory legal deposits.[8] Since 1974, a voluntary deposit system has developed, which is laid down in an agreement with the Netherlands Publishers Association (Nederlandse Uitgeversverbond).[9] In general, publishers may decide for themselves whether they provide publications originating in the Netherlands to the KB. The KB, however, encourages all publishers to provide a single copy for deposit free of charge. Under certain circumstances the Library will pay for deposit copies, in particular when production costs are high.[10] In order to establish the national digital library, the KB is entitled to purchase works on behalf of the Netherlands and receives an annual amount earmarked for that purpose.[11] According to the KB’s website, 90% of all Dutch publications can be found in the Deposit Collection.[12]

Certain publications are not collected by the KB. These include

  • certain physical works, namely provincial, regional, or local government reports, advisory letters, university term papers, publicity material, internal business information, and free local papers;[13]
  • electronic application programs and games;[14] and
  • dynamic databases, due to practical reasons, as they are frequently changing.[15] The KB and publishers, however, are looking into ways to store and make them accessible in the future.[16]

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III. Collecting and Accessing Digital Publications

In 1996, a voluntary program for e-publications such as CD-ROMs and magnetic disks was launched. In 1999, the KB and the Netherlands Publisher’s Association concluded an agreement on depositing all electronic publications with a Dutch imprint at the KB.[17] The agreement provided that the publishers would generally provide electronic publications free of charge.[18] Deposited material may only be accessed on-site by authorized users, meaning staff members of the KB and library pass holders.[19] The KB abides by the terms of delivery of the respective publisher.[20] Remote access to deposited publications is only provided if expressly authorized by the publishers.[21] Printing a small part of the work or some articles for one’s own use is permitted in accordance with copyright legislation, meaning a maximum of 10,000 words from each publication.[22] Since the library monitors the visitors’ fee-based printing, abuses can be prevented.[23]

In 2002/2003, bilateral agreements were concluded with Elsevier and Kluwer Academic—international publishers with a head office in the Netherlands—to submit all journals electronically.[24] The Library is still continuing this arrangement and has enlisted the support of preservation services provider Portico to preserve e-journals from these publisher and several other major international publishers.[25] In 2006, the KB supposedly had the world’s largest digital archive for scientific, technical, and medical publishing, which is called the e-Depot.[26]

According to the KB’s strategic plan for 2015–2018, one of its priorities is “to realize the national digital library.”[27] This involves combining the digital collections in the Dutch public libraries with the one in the national library.[28] In addition to that, the KB aims to digitally preserve all publications from or about the Netherlands already held and store all magazines from the Directory of Open Access Journals by 2018. The KB’s digital repository will then comprise 95% of the articles of the large publishers. They will be made available for on-site use at the KB.[29]

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IV. Submitting Electronic Publications

Currently, there are three ways in which publishers can deposit digital publications in the KB’s e-Depot system:

  • Firstly, e-books are being stored in the KB’s e-Depot via an e-book platform. The KB’s partner for this purpose is the company Central Bookhouse, which is the largest distribution center of books and e-books in the Netherlands. Central Bookhouse includes the ISBN and separately delivers all metadata of e-books with ISBNs. Publishers are asked for permission before the KB stores these e-books.[30]
  • Secondly, the KB offers a web-based application form. Publishers can upload their digital e-books and digital magazines together with the metadata. This platform is intended for smaller publishers who are not connected with Central Bookhouse and for foundations, associations, and individual authors.[31]
  • Thirdly, for larger (international) publishers the KB offers the possibility of File Transfer Protocol (FTP)-transfer where the KB automatically receives the scientific journal articles from the publishers’ databases together with the necessary metadata.[32]

Scientific electronic publications from Dutch universities and other scientific research institutions do not need to be deposited as they are automatically retrieved (harvested) by the KB from the repository of the institution concerned on the basis of the above-mentioned mutual agreements.[33]

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V. Web Crawling

In 2007, the KB started archiving selected Dutch websites. As of January 2018, the Library had harvested 13,200 websites totaling 32 terabytes (TB) of data, preserved them, and made them accessible to readers on the KB’s premises.[34] The Library mostly selects websites with cultural and academic content, but also includes ones that are innovative, popular, or relevant for Dutch society, like sports pages.[35]

The KB points out that as there is no mandatory legal deposit requirement in the Netherlands, copyright owners may not always agree to have their websites harvested and made available on a permanent basis by the KB.[36] To cope with these issues, the KB enlisted the Center for Law in the Information Society (Centrum voor Recht in de Informatiemaatschappij) at Leiden University to study the legal issues involved under Dutch law.[37] The study concludes that from the point of copyright law, the KB is not entitled to harvest a website without the prior permission of the respective right holder. The authors of the study state that the opt-out practice envisaged by the KB might violate Dutch copyright law, but that Dutch courts could possibly deviate from this view because of the new developments of a modern, digitalized society.[38]

The KB has adopted the following approach to archiving websites:

  • Website owners are notified before the Library harvests the respective site and are granted the opportunity to make objections (opt-out approach).
  • If such objections are not made within a specified time frame, the KB assumes implicit or tacit permission for harvesting.[39]

By asking permission, the KB hopes to prevent legal action.[40] The KB is aware that this pragmatic approach might be problematic and is therefore looking into the idea of introducing mandatory legal deposit that is primarily focused on web archiving.[41]

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VI. Statistics

As of 2016, the physical collection comprised over 7 million printed items. In addition, 2.6 million digital articles and 2,500 e-books were loaded, and 1,800 new websites were stored.[42] As of March 2018, the KB manages approximately 431,509,000 files. The number of files is not equivalent to the number of electronic publications.[43] The current total storage volume of electronic publications is approximately 34.68 TB.[44] In the fourth quarter of 2017, a total of 3,008 requests were made from the e-Depot system.[45]

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Prepared by Jenny Gesley
Foreign Law Specialist
July 2018


* At present there are no Law Library of Congress research staff members versed in Dutch. This report has been prepared by the author’s reliance on practiced legal research methods and on the basis of relevant legal resources, chiefly in English, currently available in the Law Library and online.

[1] KB in a Nutshell, Koninklijke Bibliotheek [KB] [National Library of the Netherlands], https://www.kb. nl/en/organisation/organization-and-policy/kb-in-a-nutshell (last visited Apr. 10, 2018), archived at http://perma.cc/3GZ7-746J; History of the KB, KB, https://www.kb.nl/en/organisation/organization-and-policy/history-of-the-kb (last visited Apr. 10, 2018), archived at http://perma.cc/5DA6-6VCJ.

[2] Wet op het hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek [WHW] [Higher Education and Research Act], Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden [Government Gazette of the Kingdom of the Netherlands] [Stb.], 1992, No. 593, Oct. 8, 1992, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0005682/2018-02-01, archived at http://perma.cc/5847-SWF5.

[3] Wet stelsel openbare bibliotheekvoorzieningen [Wsob] [Public Library Provisions Systems Act], Stb. 2014, No. 471, Dec. 5, 2014, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0035878/2015-01-01, archived at http://perma.cc/5UUA-UL5B.

[4] Kaderwet zelfstandige bestuursorganen [Non-Departmental Public Bodies Framework Act], Nov. 30, 2006, Stb. 2006, No. 587, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0020495/2015-01-01, archived at http://perma.cc/FGC5-UEQT.

[5] Jos Debeij, New Legislation for Public Libraries in the Netherlands & the New Role for the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Aug. 14, 2015), http://library.ifla.org/1277/1/200-debeij-en.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/8TWU-SX33.

[6] Higher Education and Research Act, art. 1.5, para. 2; Public Library Services Act, arts. 4, 5, 9.

[7] Public Library Provisions Systems Act, art. 9, let. b.

[8] Ingeborg Verheul, Networking for Digital Preservation: Current Practice in 15 National Libraries 145 (2006), https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/publications/ifla-publications-series-119.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/GGC4-B9KN; Deposit Library for Dutch Publications, KB, https://www.kb.nl/en/organisation/for-publishers/deposit-library-for-dutch-publications (last visited Apr. 10, 2018), archived at http://perma.cc/LL3Y-6HHQ.

[9] Verheul, supra note 8,at 145; Deposit Library for Dutch Publications, KB, supra note 8.

[10] Depositing Publications, KB, https://www.kb.nl/en/organisation/for-publishers/depositing-publications (last visited Apr. 10, 2018), archived at http://perma.cc/7DPN-JRRA.

[11] Public Library Provisions Systems Act, art. 18.

[12] Deposit Library for Dutch Publications, KB, supra note 8.

[13] Selection Criteria National Deposit Collection, KB, https://www.kb.nl/en/organisation/for-publishers/depositing-publications/selection-criteria-national-deposit-collection (last visited Apr. 10, 2018), archived at http://perma.cc/T3M2-HD93.

[14] Arrangement for Depositing Electronic Publications at the Deposit of Netherlands Publications in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek 3 (June 10, 1999), https://www.kb.nl/sites/default/files/docs/overeenkomst-nuv-kb-en.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/6WE8-9QA4.

[15] Id. at 3.

[16] Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, Account Manager, Collection Department, National Library of the Netherlands, to Johannes Jaeger, Foreign Law Intern, Law Library of Congress (Mar. 26, 2018) (on file with author).

[17] Arrangement for Depositing Electronic Publications at the Deposit of Netherlands Publications in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, supra note 14.

[18] Id. at 2 (“The government’s financing of the KB assumes that the publishers will, in principle, hand over their publications ‘gratis’.”).

[19] Id. at 2, 4.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.; Auteurswet [Copyright Act], Sept. 23, 1912, Stb. 1912, no. 308, art. 16b, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR00 01886/2017-09-01, archived at http://perma.cc/8VCE-2Z6U, unofficial English translation at https://www.ivir.nl/ syscontent/pdfs/119.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/6WY4-FZS8.

[23] Arrangement for Depositing Electronic Publications at the Deposit of Netherlands Publications in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, supra note 14, at 4.

[24] Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, supra note 16.

[25] Press Release, KB, National Library of the Netherlands – Portico Partnership (May 28, 2015), https://www.kb. nl/en/news/2015/national-library-of-the-netherlands-portico-partnership, archived at http://perma.cc/643P-RF3F; Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, supra note 16.

[26] Verheul, supra note 8, at145–48.

[27] KB, The Power of Our Network. Strategic Plan 2015–2018 at 2, https://www.kb.nl/sites/default/files/docs/ strategicplan-2015-2018.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/U9J8-F5H5.

[28] Id. at 14.

[29] Id. at 17–18.

[30] Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, supra note 16. For the e-book platform provided by Central Bookhouse, see https://www.cb.nl/en/, archived at http://perma.cc/8LYK-DJ8R.

[31] Id.; Depositing Individual Digital Publications, KB, https://www.kb.nl/en/organisation/for-publishers/depositing-publications/depositing-individual-digital-publications (last visited Apr. 9, 2018), archived at http://perma.cc/2WVK-A9L4.

[32] Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, supra note 16.

[33] Id; Depositing Individual Digital Publications, KB, supra note 31.

[37] Annemarie Beunen & Tjeerd Schiphof, Legal Aspects of Web Archiving from a Dutch Perspective. Report Commissioned by the National Library in The Hague (Oct. 4, 2006), https://www.kb.nl/sites/default/files/ docs/KB_Legal_Aspects_WebArchiving_EN.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/Y53U-NSGS.

[38] Id. at 17.

[39] Legal Issues, KB, supra note 36.

[40] Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, supra note 16.

[41] Id.

[42] KB in a Nutshell,KB, supra note 1.

[43] Email from Gert-Jan van Velzen, Account Manager, Collection Department, National Library of the Netherlands, to Johannes Jaeger, Foreign Law Intern, Law Library of Congress (Mar. 29, 2018) (on file with author).

[44] Id.

[45] Id.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020