The National Library Board (NLB) will no longer need to seek written consent from owners of local websites before making copies of online content deemed to be of historical value to Singapore.
These powers, to collect material from such sources as e-books, online magazines and streamed content, are set out in the NLB (Amendment) Bill that was passed by Parliament yesterday.
The reason for the move is that it is cumbersome to get permission and only a small percentage of such website owners respond to requests, said Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran.
He said the changes are needed as there is a growing amount of digital content being produced, with websites in the .sg domain numbering more than 179,000 as of last month and still growing.
"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," he added.
The changes will also provide for the systematic collection of digital resources, so future generations may understand and appreciate the evolution of society, he said.
Other countries such as Britain, Australia and South Korea have amended legislation to allow their national libraries to collect and preserve electronic materials and websites.
Mr Iswaran, replying to Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) on the scope of the Act, said the automated "Web-harvesting" applies only to .sg domain sites - Singapore websites. This means material on social media such as Facebook and Instagram will not be archived.
For non-Singapore sites, NLB will approach site owners for consent before collecting material from them, said Mr Iswaran.
To make clear that NLB is not infringing on any copyright laws while Web-harvesting Singapore sites for material, including online sound recordings and cinematographic films, the Copyright Act will be amended as well, he said.
In line with international practice, NLB will not collect material from sites that are password-protected or restricted to subscribers. While most sites will be Web-harvested once a year, exceptions will be made for those with content on current affairs and read by many citizens, he said.
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.
MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION S. ISWARAN, on the NLB (Amendment) Bill passed yesterday.
Mr Iswaran, in reply to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) on the rights of publishers, said that even as the Copyright Act is amended for Web-harvested content to be available on computer terminals in libraries and archives, for a start, only two concurrent users may view these items at the National Library building. Downloading, copying or printing will not be allowed.