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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - The desire is to pass an Act which will apply throughout the Commonwealth. Copyright is never allowed to subsist in publications of a libellous, immoral, obscene, or profane nature. As soon as a book is published and communicated to the public copyright exists. We are now dealing with Australia only, and we are denning the publication in Australia. As soon as a_ book is printed in Australia, and published, copyright subsists.

Mr Reid - Is there any common law which gives right in that sense?

Mr GROOM - No. As the honorable and learned member knows perfectly well, copyright is purely the creation of statute law. If a book were obscene or immoral, no copyright would exist, and if the Registrar were of opinion that a book was not the subject of copyright, he would be entitled to reject it. It would afterwards rest with the Courts to say whether he had rightly or wrongly exercised his functions. Clause 74 provides that if the Registrar wrongly enters a publication on the register, the entry can be expunged. An action might arise out of the reprinting of a book which was immoral in its tendency, and it would then be for the Court to determine whether there was any property in it.

Mr Reid - That gives us what we want.

Mr. FISHER(Wide Bay).- I am in some doubt as to the necessity for this provision. Would it not be as well to provide for the. registration of works of an objectionable character, so that the responsibility for their publication may be fastened on the right shoulders? It appears to me that the Registrar will occupy a position of greater importance than the High Court.

Mr Groom - No, his action will always be subject to the review of the Courts.

Mr FISHER - The point is that the laws relating to libel and sedition are not always the same. Moreover, opinions differ very widely as to what is blasphemous or indecent. I consider that it is proposed to give the Registrar too much power, and that the scope of the provision is not defined with sufficient clearness.

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