Second Reading of the National Library Board (Amendment) Bill Opening Speech By Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information at the sitting of Parliament on 9 July 2018

Mr Speaker,

I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time.”


2. The National Library Board Act establishes the National Library Board (“NLB”) and sets out its functions and powers.

3. The NLB Act was last amended in 2012 to incorporate the National Archives function. It allows NLB to collect and preserve the rich body of written and creative works of Singapore for posterity. These resources are widely consulted by researchers, historians, authors and curators, and frequently used for exhibitions, or cited in books and articles. Collectively, all these help to nurture Singapore’s heritage and culture, and allow current and future generations of Singaporeans to reflect on our shared history and identity.

4. Today, NLB has the mandate to be the repository of all library materials published in Singapore. This collection is referred to as the Legal Deposit, and it has more than 1 million items covering the published history of Singapore. Some interesting examples of Singapore publications in the Legal Deposit include magazines from 1961 that vividly depict Singapore life in a different era. If I may give you some examples, “Malayan Penfriends” for letter writing pen pals, and “The Scooterist: the magazine for all scooter riders”. There are also publications that have endured the test of time, such as the first edition of “Her World” from 1960, and newspaper collections such as The Straits Times that date all the way back to 1845. So it is a rich and important collection, and part of our collective heritage.

5. To effectively build the Legal Deposit collection, the NLB Act stipulates that every publisher is required to deposit with NLB two copies of library material published in Singapore. The Act also allows NLB to acquire materials which may not have been first published here but nevertheless speak about us and Singapore. However, the current legal mandate only covers materials that are in the printed form or are contained in some other physical form, such as music in a CD.

6. The NLB Act therefore has to be updated to keep pace with technological change.

Importance of Preserving Digital History

7. With the Internet and other advancements, there is a vast and growing amount of written and creative work that is produced, distributed and published only in the electronic form, such as e-books and e-magazines. As recently as April this year, Mediacorp announced that 8-Days and i-Weekly, its popular magazines on local entertainment, are moving to a digital-only format.

8. More and more content is also being generated and published only on the Internet. For instance, there were more than 179,000 websites in the .sg domain as at June this year and this number is growing rapidly. Such electronic and online materials are important resources which capture the stories and collective memories of Singapore. If such digital material is not systematically collected in a timely manner, we will lose a significant part of Singapore’s published heritage.

9. ;Therefore, we propose to amend the NLB Act to give NLB the powers to collect Singapore-related material in the electronic form. This will ensure that such material remains accessible for reference and research even after an e-magazine is no longer available in any digital repository online, or long after a once popular website ceases to operate. The systematic collection and preservation of such digital resources will allow future generations of Singaporeans to better understand and appreciate the evolution of our society.

10. Others have already taken steps to do this. The United Kingdom (UK), Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are examples of countries that have amended their legislation to allow their national libraries to collect and preserve electronic materials and websites.

11. In preparing this Bill, NLB conducted a public consultation last year to gather feedback on the amendments. In addition, NLB consulted publishers, academics, researchers, writers, librarians, and bloggers through various stakeholder engagement sessions. Overall, there was broad support for the proposed amendments.

12. Mr Speaker Sir, let me now elaborate on the proposed amendments to the Act.

Allowing NLB to collect electronic material, and online material made available on websites in .sg domain (Sections 2, 7 and 10)

13. The first set of amendments expands the definition of “library materials” beyond the printed form to include the electronic and online material. The definition of “library materials” in Section 2 of the NLB Act will be amended to include materials in the electronic form such as e-books. The definition of “library materials” relating to films, videos, sound recordings and other similar materials will also be broadened to include electronic forms, including streamed content.

14. The expanded definition of “library materials” will also include any online material that is made available on what is called a “Singapore website”, which is defined as a website under

the .sg domain. A Singapore website or electronic service that is not under the .sg domain can also be included in this definition, if it is determined by NLB to be associated with Singapore; for example, where there are non .sg sites that have content that is considered to hold significant cultural or heritage value.

15. The second set of amendments pertains to web-harvesting. At present, NLB has to seek the written consent of website owners before making copies of online content that is of historical value to Singapore. This is cumbersome, and typically only a small percentage of the website owners respond, perhaps because they are unaware of their websites’ significance to Singapore’s history and heritage. To address this, Section 7 of the NLB Act will be amended to empower NLB to make copies of any online material published on a Singapore website through automated web-harvesting, without requiring NLB to seek written consent from the owners or producers.

16.In line with international practice, NLB will only collect material from websites that are publicly accessible; material will not be collected from websites that are password-protected or restricted to members or subscribers.; Most websites will be web-harvested once a year, although Government sites will be archived more regularly in order to capture major developments in national policies or programmes. Other selected sites may be harvested more frequently, during periods in which they showcase events of significance to Singapore, such as official websites for National Day or the South East Asian Games. NLB will also archive more frequently websites which contain content on current affairs and are read by many Singaporeans, such as

17. These amendments are similar to web-harvesting legislation in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, the British Library is empowered to harvest online works available to the public through websites with domain names relating to the UK or to a place within the UK, or works which have been created or published within the UK. The national libraries of New Zealand and Australia have similar powers.

18. The third set of amendments provides for an electronic legal deposit. The current legal deposit scheme requires publishers to deposit with NLB two physical copies of library materials that are published in Singapore. Going forward, Section 10 will be amended to require publishers of library materials in electronic form to also deposit a copy of these with NLB within four weeks of the date of first publication. The copy deposited must be free of any technological protection or access restrictions, such as password protection, to enable NLB to digitally preserve the content for posterity and provide access to researchers at the library premises.

Consequential amendments to the Copyright Act to allow NLB to copy online material made available on a Singapore website (New Section 49A, Section 113A, Section 113B and amendment to Section 116 Copyright Act).

19. With the proposed amendments to the NLB Act, there will be consequential amendments to the Copyright Act to permit NLB to copy any online material made available on a Singapore website, for the purpose of performing NLB’s statutory function of acquiring and maintaining a comprehensive collection of library materials relating to Singapore. Although the content is already available to the public on Singapore websites, current copyright laws generally require obtaining the consent of the copyright owner of the content on the website prior to copying the content.

20. A new Section 49A will therefore be created in the Copyright Act to allow NLB to make copies of online literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. A new Section 113A and an expanded Section 116 will provide likewise for online sound recordings and cinematograph films, and published editions of literary, dramatic, musical and/or artistic works, respectively. These amendments are necessary to make clear that NLB is not infringing any copyright laws while web-harvesting Singapore websites to collect and preserve them.

21. The Copyright Act will also be amended, via an expansion of Section 45(7A) and a new Section 113B, to allow the web-harvested content of Singapore websites to be made available on computer terminals within the premises of libraries and archives in Singapore. This is to make the preserved content accessible for research and reference within libraries and archives, where there are safeguards to prevent users from further copying or distributing the work.


22. Mr Speaker, in summary, the proposed amendments will allow NLB to more effectively fulfil its mandate to collect, preserve and make accessible our nation’s published heritage in both print and electronic forms. This is important so that today’s Singapore stories will be kept alive for future generations of Singaporeans.

23. Mr Speaker, I beg to move.