Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 23 October 1912


Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I think that the Government are to be commended for bringing in this Bill, because its enactment will be a distinct gain to the Commonwealth. In the British Copyright Act it is recognised that that Act in its entirety may not be applicable to local conditions in the self-governing Dominions, and therefore section 25 provides for alterations being made in case of the Act being adopted by any of those Dominions. It reads as follows : - (1.) This Act, except such of the provisions thereof as are expressly restricted to the United Kingdom, shall extend throughout His Majesty's dominions : Provided that it shall not extend to a self-governing dominion, unless declared by the Legislature of that dominion to be in force therein either without any modifications or additions, or with such modifications and additions relating exclusively to procedure and remedies, or necessary to adapt this Act to the circumstances of the dominion, as may be enacted by such Legislature.

This Bill is intended, of course, to make such modifications as will make the British Act suitable to our own circumstances. It can be recognised at once from its framework that the British Act is not entirely applicable to the self-governing Dominions. I do not think that sufficient consideration has been given to the fact that large numbers of copyright works produced originally in Great Britain are circulated in selfgoverning Dominions such as Australia. The practice is for the buyers representing local houses to purchase works in London and ship them to Australia for sale. For instance, if the author of a work produced in Great Britain were given by the Act an indivisible copyright for the whole of the British Empire, Australian buyers would be at no disadvantage seeing that they would pay the royalty when they bought the work in London, and that such payment would frank the work over the whole of the Empire. We have to recognise that the copyright granted by the British Act is not indivisible, but may be the subject of partial assignment. For instance, the author of a popular song may assign the Australian copyright to A, the Canadian copyright to B, the New Zealand copyright to C, and so on, while retaining for himself the British copyright. The effect of this provision, if not modified, would be that if a local house ordered 1,000 copies of a song from the publisher in London, and paid the required royalty there, he might find, when the consignment arrived in Australia, that the author had made a partial assignment of the Australian copyright, and the owner of the local copyright might prevent the sale of the copies purchased in England, or , possibly, exact a large royalty. I think that this result has been unlocked for, but it would arise from the adoption of the British Act. That is emphasized, I think, by clause 10 of our Bill, because it provides - (1.) Copies made out of the Commonwealth of any work in which copyright subsists which if made in the Commonwealthwould infringe copyright, and as to which the owner of the copyright gives notice in writing by himself or his agent to the Comptroller-General of Customs, that he is desirous that such copies should not be imported into the Commonwealth, shall not be so imported and shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be deemed to be prohibited imports within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901-1910.

The result of that provision, it seems to me, is to practically give a monopoly to a man who chooses to buy the copyright of a song, so far as Australia is concerned. Take, for example, the importer of 1,000 copies of a popular song. When his consignment reaches Australia, he may find that he can not get delivery through the Customs, and the song will be destroyed as a prohibited import. I do not think it was intended by the amendment of the Copyright Act to create in any way a monopoly. It seems clear that it was intended to prevent pirated goods being introduced into the British Dominions ; for instance, to prevent well known songs, or records thereof, being produced or made in some country where no copyright law existed and brought into the British Dominions in derogation of the rights of the owner of the copyright, and the fact of a partial assignment in. the

Dominions themselves appears altogether to have been overlooked. If some modification is not made to adapt the British Act to the Commonwealth, an opportunity will be offered to persons in the music trade to practically corner the sale of popular music here. As soon as a musical piece has achieved a popular hit in London, a local firm will probably buy, for a small sum, the Australian copyright, and so prevent the sale of that piece in Australia except through that firm, which, of course, in some circumstances, can exact whatever terms it likes. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to consider my suggestion, because it would be a very serious thing, especially with regard to records for gramaphones and instruments of that sort, not to make some modification of the provision in the British Act. I have circulated in print one or two amendments which, I think, may very well be inserted in this Bill. Sub-clause 6 of clause 10 reads -

This section shall have effect as the necessary modification of section 14 of the British Copyright Act.

To that provision I desire to add these words - but shall not apply to copies which have been purchased or made in some other part of His Majesty's dominions to which this Act extends without infringement of the rights of the owner of the copyright there.

I think that if a royalty is paid by a man in London, he should not be called upon to pay a second royalty when the work comes here. On page 4 of the Bill some remedies are provided, but these are summary only. No such thing as a civil remedy is provided, and, therefore, I shall ask the Minister to agree to the addition of the following subclause to clause 14 - (4). In any civil proceedings for infringement of copyright or in any summary proceedings under this Act, or the British Copyright Act, in Australia in respect of the sale of any copies of any musical work or of any records perforated rolls or other contrivances by means of which sounds may be mechanically reproduced it shall be a complete defence if the defendant shall prove that the alleged infringing articles were purchased or made in some other part of His Majesty's dominions to which this Act extends without infringement of the rights of the owner of the copyright there.

That provision, I think, will protect all parties. Taken on the whole, this is a very good Bill. It is quite right to bring our law into line with the British Act, and it will be an advantage to make the two amendments which I have circulated. That would prevent a person from creating a monopoly with regard to a work, and compelling people to pay a great deal more than they ought to be asked to pay. Without these alterations, a man might purchase the copy* right of a certain piece, with the express purpose of preventing it from being introduced here at all. If he did not want it to come into competition with something else, he could prevent the public from having the advantage of listening to a piece, however much they might desire to do so. For this reason, while I support the second reading of the Bill, I hope the Minister will see his way to accept the amendments I have circulated. I believe that if they are made they will certainly improve the measure.







Suggest corrections