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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr REID (East Sydney) - The honorable member for Wide Bay has done well to raise this question. There are several ways of looking at the matter. From one point of view, it would be a good thing if blasphemous, indecent, seditious, and libellous publications were copyrighted, to prevent them from being given an extended circulation. The object of the clause cannot be to permit the copying and republishing of works of this kind without let or hindrance, by preventing the copyrighting of them. What I understand is aimed at is to prevent rights of property from being acquired in such works. The more direct way of dealing with the matter would be to prevent works of this kind from being registered.

Mr Groom - The registrar could refuse registration to any works which could not be the subject of copyright.

Mr REID - Is there a clause enabling the registrar to refuse to register any book for which copyright is applied?

Mr Groom - Without any express provision to that effect, he could refuse to register anything which was not the proper subject of registration.

Mr REID - He should have power to refuse copyright to blasphemous, indecent, seditious, and libellous publications. No doubt there are publications so flagrant that he would have no difficulty in determining that they should not be registered, and, where he had any doubt on the subject, he would be able to secure the advice of the law officers of the Crown. His own common sense (would lead him, in certain cases, to refuse copyright, but he should have statutory power conferred upon him to decline to register infamous publications.

Mr Groom - I think he has authority under the Bill, even although it is not expressed.

Mr REID - If it is not expressed in the Bill, it will take a very clever Judge to find that the registrar had the power to refuse copyright. I cannot conceive of a copyright office being opened, unless power is given to the registrar to refuse copyright to infamous publications.

Mr Groom - But he has the power.

Mr REID - Where?

Mr Groom - A person can register only that which is the subject of copyright.

Mr REID - But this clause, by implication, allows other works to be copyrighted.

Mr Groom - Copyright subsists in all written books communicated to the public, but protection cannot be obtained without registration. The Bill provides that nothing of a blasphemous or seditious character shall be the subject of copyright.

Mr REID - Surely copyright is not conferred in the absence of an express application.

Mr Groom - Yes, that is the law; but if an author wants protection, he has to register.

Mr REID - I donot know of any law in the Commonwealth-

Mr Groom - That is the Victorian law.

Mr REID - That is not a Commonwealth law. I understood that the effect of the Bill would be to repeal the States laws.

Mr Groom - The Bill will override the States laws, so far as they conflict with it.

Mr REID - Has every State a copyright law at present?

Mr Groom - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia have copyright laws. The Queensland copyright law rests upon the Imperial Statute.

Mr REID - Then the Bill will leave all the States Acts intact to the extent to which they are not inconsistent with the Commonwealth law. This is not a codifying Bill.

Mr Groom - It unifies the principle. We have dealt with this subject in the same way as with patents. This clause is intended1 to prevent the right of property in any copyright in cases such as have been referred to.

Mr REID - Are there similar provisions in other Acts?

Mr Groom - Similar provision exists in the Imperial law, and. I believe also in the States law.

Mr REID - If the States laws did not enable the Registrar to refuse to copyright objectionable matter, and the Bill failed' in the same respect, no common law provision would give him such authority. He would be simply set up as a person without statutory power to decide the moral quality of a publication.

Mr Crouch - The common law provides that copyright shall not exist in libellous, immoral, obscene, or irreligious publications.

Mr REID - If that be so, there is no need for the clause.

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