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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - I do not agree with the Minister, that we should pass the clause as it stands. Australian authors under any circumstances must have a hard row to hoe, because of the comparatively small number of readers in the Commonwealth ; but their position is made still more difficult by reason of the large quantity of English and American books which are imported here without let or hindrance. It is true that an American author who is not registered under the Imperial Act cannot obtain copyright in Australia until he complies with the provisions of this clause, but registration under the Imperial Act is a merely nominal affair, and. gives copyright throughout the whole Empire. I think that we should take the matter into our own hands, and do what we can to secure reciprocity between Australia and America. An Australian author cannot register in America until he has gone to the heavy expense of getting his book printed in type set up in the United States, and I think that the American author should not be protected here until he has acted similarly. If we have the constitutional power to make an amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corio, I think that it should be made; but the matter could be dealt with in another way, namely, by imposing a duty on American books, which would place on American authors a disability equivalent to that now placed on Australian authors who wish to register in America.

Mr Conroy - Inasmuch as our people wish to buy and to read American books, we should be punishing ourselves by doing that.

Mr WEBSTER - The course I suggest is necessary to secure fair play in America, and to do justice to Australian authors.

Mr Conroy - Such action would not compel the Americans to alter their law.

Mr WEBSTER - The people of the United States have kept out of the Berne Convention, preferring to play a lone hand in this matter, and allowing their publishers to pirate the works of authors in other countries.

Mr Conroy - We cannot force them to act reciprocally.

Mr WEBSTER - I think we can, by letting them know that if they will not give reasonable conditions to Australian authors, they will not be able to obtain copyright in Australia under reasonable conditions, I trust that if the Minister cannot see his way to accept the amendment, he will endeavour, next session, to adopt measures which will place Australian authors upon a better footing.

Mr Crouch - Canada has done what I propose.

Mr WEBSTER - Not all that the honorable member proposes. I should not be satisfied with the half-measures adopted by Canada. I think that Australian authors should be protected by means of a special duty, or in some other way, against piracy on the part of American publishers.

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