The British Library has called on the Government to act during this Parliament to ensure that non-print publications will be stored in the national archive.
A proposal drawn up by a working party chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny, chairman of the British Library board, has been sent to the Department of National Heritage. It calls for an extension of the legal deposit requirements of the Copyright Act 1911.
Legal deposit is a statutory provision which obliges producers of publications to deposit works in designated institutions so that the national archive is maintained.
Sir Anthony said: "The recent growth of publication in microfilm and electronic media means that the system needs reform.
"Already, a large amount of non-print material has slipped through the net, and may be permanently lost to the national archive, because of the anachronistic nature of the 1911 legislation."
The BL has worked closely with the five other legal deposit libraries - the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, the national libraries of Scotland and Wales and the library of Trinity College Dublin - and the British Film Institute to provide a coherent argument for the legislative change.
The 1911 Act, amended in 1972 to take account of the creation of the BL, makes no provision for the statutory archiving of films, published sound recordings, microfilm publications, digital publications or other non-print material.
At present, the BL's National Sound Archive and the BFI's collections rely on purchase and voluntary deposit. The proposal would put these on a solid legal footing.
The BL recognises that many other repositories have extensive experience of maintaining non-print collections. It proposes that a government minister take responsibility for specifying where each category of material is to be deposited so as to use this experience and save money.
It also calls for the creation of an independent body which would advise in cases of doubt about the suitability of items for deposit, rather than attempting to cast in stone a comprehensive definition of "publication".
Sir Anthony said: "Reform here is urgent and the BL hopes fervently that new legislation can be introduced before the end of the present Parliament."