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Wednesday, 23 October 1912


Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I have very much pleasure in indorsing many of the remarks made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in introducing this measure, and subsequent criticisms on it. There is no doubt that the Bill is going to achieve, at any rate, the main objects which are highly desirable; one is the uniformity of copyright with the Imperial Act, and the other is the reciprocity of rights between all those countries which are parties to the Berlin Convention. Another thing which is equally important is that authors are at last coming into their rights. There is no doubt that, in the past, publishers as a rule have had - there are honorable exceptions, of course - much the better of copyright legislation. Authors have materially suffered in the past, and are now being properly and materially protected by this legislation. So far as this scandal with regard to authors had gone, in the United Kingdom, a celebrated author, I think it was Johnson, parodied a line of Scripture with this very apt remark, " Now there was a publisher, and his name was Barabbas." That feeling has disappeared, and I congratulate the Government for assisting in both these directions. It is most extraordinary that it should ever have been considered that while the rights in real and personal property should subsist practically for all time, there was a doubt about giving to authors, so far as their works were concerned, anything like a right in property at all. Sergeant Talfourd began the battle in the House of Commons seventy odd years ago when he proposed, at last, to give to authors the right of copyright for sixty years. Unfortunately, Macaulay stood up in that House and for some reason or other which neither Macaulay nor anybody else was able to explain, he put in the period of forty years. That is the origin of the forty years' right for an author after his death. I make this interpolation to show how this legislation is thrown back upon itself. In this Bill we have come back, as regards the term of the right of copyright, to Sergeant Talfourd of seventy odd years ago. The measure which we are asked to adopt was carefully considered in the House of Commons after conferences at Berne and Berlin. It was introduced early last year by the President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Sydney Buxton, who made one or two remarks which I think may be useful in Committee in case of any fears about the general effect of the Bill. First, Mr. Buxton pointed out that the countries subject to this legislation were Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and so on. He mentioned that our representatives at the Conference of 1910 had stated their views, and that those views had been considered very carefully. In moving the second reading of the Bill he used these words -

The House will recognise that as far as the Dominions are concerned we have taken them into our confidence, and they have arrived at a more or less unanimous arrangement. Our first desire was unanimous that the Berlin Convention should be ratified with as few modifications as possible, thus combining national with Imperial uniformity, that there should be as much uniformity of copyright law throughout the Empire as possible...... Any self-governing

Dominions who desired could either adopt the Act in its entirety or adopt it in substantially identical terms subject to modifications and additions relating principally to procedure and remedies or necessary to adopt the Act to the particular circumstances of the Dominion, and such a Dominion would then come under the general operations of the Act." ..." The basis of the Imperial Conference and a Bill founded on its deliberations is that while we leave to the self-governing Dominions liberty to legislate for themselves, we offer to them the greatest possible inducements to accept the Imperial Act as a model, and to differ from it as little as possible by offering reciprocal advantages."

Further on he said -

The House will see that the Berlin Convention, by proposing uniformity of treatment in regard to this question of copyright, necessarily involves alteration in the laws of respective countries. Every other union country has already before the Berlin Convention and certainly since brought its laws into harmony on most points with the Berlin suggestions, but we ourselves have not done so.

That was the reason why the Imperial Parliament passed the measure which we are now asked to adopt, with certain modifications. I notice that in section 3 the Imperial Act attempts to give, and 1 think it will succeed in giving, to authors a valuable right. It provides that if, after a certain number of years, their works are being published, they may make an arrangement with the publishers to get the royalties which are accruing. That is an excellent provision. If we had had such a law in existence long ago the greatest and most famous of all our authors, Marcus Clarke, and his relatives, would have derived a handsome income. It has been from the want of such a provision that our authors, especially Marcus Clarke, have been robbed, in some respects, of their property. On the whole, I heartily agree with the Bill. Some amendments may be found necessary when we get into Committee.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 -

In the application of the British Copyright Act to the Commonwealth -

(b)   the reference in section four to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council shall be read as a reference to the High Court or a Justice thereof ;







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