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The National Library of Spain and those appointed by the autonomous communities are responsible for the deposit of online publications and determine the priorities for preservation. Ley 23/2011 on Legal Deposit includes electronic publications among the publications subject to legal deposit.  Real Decreto 635/2015 regulating legal deposit of online publications identifies the entities required to make such deposits, the materials subject to and excluded from legal deposit, and the rules applicable to the management of the legal deposit of online publications.

I. Online Deposit Rules

Real Decreto (Royal Decree) 635/2015 regulates the legal deposit of online publications in Spain.[1] The Decree implements Ley (Law) 23/2011 on Legal Deposit providing that websites and online publications are subject to legal deposit in furtherance of the obligation to preserve bibliographic, sound, visual, audiovisual, or digital heritage pertaining to the cultures of Spain.[2]

The deposit of online publications is not entrusted to publishers, but to the National Library of Spain and those appointed by the autonomous communities within the scope of their competencies, who determine the priorities for preservation.[3]

Information or content of any nature circulated via a nontangible electronic medium, archived in a particular format that may be managed and differentiated, and that is subject to circulation is considered an online publication.[4] Websites are also considered to be online publications.[5] 

Real Decreto 635/2015 regulates the deposit of online publications, while deposit of electronic publications of tangible media publications like books, magazines, CDs, or DVDs are governed by provisions in Law 23/2011.[6] Under Law 23/2011, publishers domiciled or with their permanent business in Spain are responsible for the legal deposit of electronic copies of traditional publications, regardless of the printing location.[7]  In case the publisher does not reside or have a branch in Spain, the individual or company in charge of its printing or production with permanent residence in Spain is responsible to comply with the requirements.[8]  Publishers are subject to a fine in case of noncompliance.[9]  

Legal deposit of electronic publications has to be done in such a way that a password would not be necessary to access its content and with a manual and software that would enable access thereto for research and preservation purposes.[10]  When making the legal deposit, the responsible person is required to provide the information necessary for the transfer of data from the original format to the preservation support format.[11] Additionally, if the electronic publication has an expiration date, its content must be transferred in order to be accessed with no time restrictions.[12] 

Websites and publications contained therein are subject to legal deposit, regardless of whether access is free or restricted, provided they contain bibliographic, audio, visual, audiovisual, or digital Spanish cultural heritage and are published in any official language of Spain; are published or edited by an individual or company with residence or a permanent establishment in Spain; or have a domain name linked to the territory of Spain.[13]

Online publications excluded from legal deposit include mail and private correspondence, content hosted on a private network, and restricted-access files containing personal data.[14]

The editor or producer of a website where an online publication is hosted is required to facilitate legal deposit.[15]

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II. Management of Online Deposit

Conservation centers determine the websites and sources to be captured or deposited for preservation in order to facilitate their consultation, respecting the legal protection of personal data and intellectual property, and following the criteria of achieving better representation of the world of the internet and building a collection that is as complete as possible of publications such as electronic books and magazines.[16]

Conservation centers also inform the depository entity where the publisher or producer has its domicile, residence, or permanent establishment about any noncompliance with online deposit obligations.  The depository entity is then responsible for enforcing the deposit obligations and, when appropriate, applying the pertinent sanctions in cases of violations of the law.[17]

Online publications are not assigned legal deposit numbers.[18]

Conservations centers capture online publications in websites and publications contained therein that are freely accessible online through communication networks.[19]

In the case of online publications with restricted access, the publishers or producers of such websites and other online publications with restricted access are obliged to enable the collection of their publications, providing conservation centers with passwords that allow access to all the contents or websites.[20]

The editor or producer of online publications deposited according to the preceding rules is required to allow such publications to be consulted and reproduced in the future without any password requirement. In addition, the publisher or producer of online publications, with limited time availability, is obliged to let conservation centers access these publications permanently.[21]

Compliance with these requirements may not affect the legitimate interests of rights holders or the commercial exploitation they make of such material.[22]

Conservation centers are responsible for the preservation of those online publications with which they are entrusted.[23]

Users’ access to repositories containing restricted access material may only be done through the terminals installed at the headquarters of the National Library of Spain and conservation centers of the autonomous communities, in compliance with laws concerning the protection of personal data and intellectual property.[24]

Conservation centers have the power to reproduce, reformat, regenerate, and transfer resources in order to ensure their preservation while complying with intellectual property laws.[25] Holders of rights over works or services protected by technological measures are required to provide conservation centers with the necessary information to allow for the reproduction of those resources.[26]  Those responsible for providing information are required to provide the means necessary to allow the transfer of data from its original media to the preservation platform.[27]

The National Library of Spain and conservation centers designated by the autonomous communities may enter into cooperation agreements with public or private entities with distribution platforms for online publications and digital resources produced or edited by them, if considered safe repositories for preservation purposes.[28] In this case, the safe repository becomes the guardian of the resources instead of transferring it to the conservation center.[29]

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Prepared by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
July 2018

[1] Real Decreto 635/2015 por el que se Regula el Depósito Legal de las Publicaciones en Línea [Royal Decree 635/2015 Regulating the Legal Deposit of Online Publications], Boletin Oficial del Estado [B.O.E.], July 27, 2015,, archived at

[2] Id. art. 1; Ley 23/2011 de Depósito Legal [Law on Legal Deposit], B.O.E., July 30, 2011, buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2011-13114, archived at

[3] Real Decreto 635/2015, art. 6(1)–(2).

[4] Id. art. 2(e).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. art. 1(2).

[7] Ley 23/2011, art. 6.

[8] Id. art. 6.2.

[9] Id. arts. 18.a & 20.1.

[10] Id. art. 13.1.

[11] Id. art. 13.2.

[12] Id. art. 13.3.

[13] Real Decreto 635/2015, art. 3.

[14] Id. art. 4.

[15] Id. art. 5.

[16] Id. art. 6(2).

[17] Id. art. 6(3).

[18] Id. art. 6(4).

[19] Id. art. 7(1)–(2).

[20] Id. art. 8(1).

[21] Id. art. 8(2).

[22] Id. art. 8(4).

[23] Id. art. 9(1).

[24] Id. art. 9(3).

[25] Id. art. 9(4).

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Id. art. 10(1).

[29] Id. art. 10(3).

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020