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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - As I understand' it, the position is that, when a book is published, the author has inherent rights in it. If he wishes to obtain the full advantages of copyright, he goes before the Registrar, who, under this clause, would be entitled to examine his work, with a view to ascertaining whether it contained anything indecent, blasphemous, seditious, or libellous. Now, the Registrar may not be a member of the legal profession. It is not necessary that he should" be a lawyer, but, judged by the provisions- of this clause, he would require to be both a lawyer and a parson. He might know what was indecent, blasphemous, and seditious, because we all have our own ideas upon those subjects, but he would need to be a clever lawyer to know what was libellous. I do not see why this Parliament should erect the Registrar of Copyright into a censor of literature. I would suggest to the Minister that a competent Court, and not a solitary individual, should pronounce judgment upon any work which was deemed to be indecent, blasphemous, seditious, or libellous. A tribunal of that kind would be far more likely to mete out justice than would any single officer. At the present moment we do not know who the Registrar will be. He may be a man who has a very narrow range of vision, and who will regard as libellous statements which, in his earlier years, he would have passed over as trifling or harmless.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - Experience in the administration of copyright laws has proved that the apprehensions of the honorable member are entirely without foundation. We must place the Registrar in a position similar to that which he occupies in every other part of the British Dominions. I cannot conceive that the Registrar would refuse to register any book unless it contained something which was grossly immoral. If he did improperly refuse, the individual aggrieved would only require to apply to a Judge in Chambers to compel him to grant copyright.

Mr Fisher - What would that cost?

Mr GROOM - It would not cost very much. If the Registrar registers a book which is immoral, the mistake can be rectified. These matters generally come up for decision when there is an action for an infringement of copyright.

Mr Fisher - It seems to me that the clause is quite unnecessary.

Mr GROOM - We are only acting upon the experience of other countries. No substantial complaint has been made against the procedure.

Mr Conroy - This provision is not contained in the old English Act.

Mr GROOM - Yes, a similar provision is. Experience has shown that it does not work injuriously.

Mr. REID(East Sydney).- If the Minister had mentioned the provisions of clause 74 earlier in the discussion, he would have removed the objections which have been urged against this clause. Clause 74 gives ample protection to any person who is aggrieved by an erroneous decision of the Registrar. As the Ministerhas pointed out, an appeal can be made to the Judge in Chambers. There is nothing to prevent a person aggrieved by the refusal of the Registrar to copyright his workfrom bringing that officer before a Judge. Should the latter find that the book is not of an indecent, blasphemous, seditious, or libellous character, he can overrule the Registrar, and direct him to grant copyright. The object of the clause is to enable a test to be applied if such applications are made. It was necessary to impose a prohibition upon works of a certain description, so that the Registrar might be in a legal position to refuse to register them. Under this clause, he will be able to say to the author of any such work, " I have come to the conclusion that this is a blasphemous, indecent, or libellous work, and, inasmuch as the law lays it down that there is no copyright in such works, I refuse to register it. If the authorfelt that the decision of the Registrar was wrong, he would have a right to get the decision of the Registrar reviewed by a Judge. It is necessary to a copyright law that there should be some provision of this sort. It enables disputes to be brought" into a wellordered train. If seems to me that with] the safeguards contained in clause 74 there can be no objection urged against the clause.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 -

(1)   The copyright in a book means the exclusive right to do, or authorize another person to do, all or any of the following things in respect of it : -

(a)   To make copies of it :

(b)   To abridge it :

(c)   To translate it : {d) In the case of a dramatic work, to con vert it into a novel or other non-dramatic work :

(e)   In the case of a novel or other non- dramatic work, to convert it into a dramatic work : and

(f)   In the case of a musical work, to make any new adaptation, transposition, arrangement or setting of it, or of any part of it, in any notation.

(2)   Copyright shall subsist in every book, whether the author is a British subject or not, which has been printed from type set up in Australia, or plates made therefrom, or from platesor negatives made in Australia in cases where type is not necessarily used, and haS, afterthe commencement of this Act, been published in Australia, before or simultaneously with its first publication elsewhere.

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