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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I do not think that we should give forty-two years' protection for a lecturing right. This is going further than the English law.

Mr Groom - The English law gives protection for a long period.

Mr CONROY - This is a much longer period, and altogether too long a period, considering the nature of a lecture. We are making it possible for actions for infringement to arise after the generation which first heard the lecture had passed away. I ask the Minister, even at this late stage, to consider the advisability of putting the Bill aside for the present, seeing that the Committee is not in a fit state to consider it. A lecturing right is absolutely different from a right in a book or in a dramatic work, and I assume that a protection of forty-two years was given only because the attention of the Senate was not drawn to the matter.

Mr Groom - It is a common law right, and is protected by statute.

Mr CONROY - Yes; but we are going to grant it for forty-two years. Practically no right Has existed in the past.

Mr Groom - Oh, yes !

Mr.CONROY. - It is hardly right to ask us to make such sweeping changes as are involved in the clause. This provision affords another reason why we should postpone the consideration of the measure, because if we once granted this right we could not take it away: No such right exists in any other part of the world.

Amendment agreed1 to.

Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-

That the words " and no," in the last line, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " whichever shall last the."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 18 to 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 (Encyclopaedia, and similar works).

Mr Groom - That is all provided for elsewhere.

Mr CONROY - The more I look at this Bill, the more it seems to me that it should not have been brought forward at this stage. I am perfectly sure that the Senate, despite the fact that they are said to have carefully considered the measure, have conferred rights to which honorable members would not agree. If the author of a work desires to transfer the copyright, let him do so.

Mr Groom - There is nothing novel" in this provision.

Mr Spence - Let us pass an amending Bill next session.

Mr CONROY - That is a nice suggestion. Are we to enact faulty laws merely for the sake of placing on record the fact that we have passed a certain measure? Why should we not deal with these matters in a comprehensive manner, and have done with them?

Clause agreed to.

Clause 22 (Copyright in articles published in periodicals).

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa).- I should like to know what this clause means.

Mr Groom - It allows a perfect freedom between the publisher and the writer. The writer can sell or assign his rights if he chooses.

Mr CONROY - But he has the power already.

Mr Groom - But we are now dealing with copyright in articles appearing in periodicals.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 23 (Copyright in articles published in periodicals without valuable consideration).

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa). - This clause entirely changes the existing law.

Mr Groom - It provides that if you write an article, and do not get paid for it, you will be entitled to the copyright.

Mr CONROY - Yes. But very frequently the great object the writer has in view is to obtain publication in a certain periodical.

Mr Groom - In that case an agreement can be entered into as to the copyright.

Mr CONROY - As the law stands, the writer knows that he parts with the copyright unless he expressly reserves it. But now the law is to be entirely reversed.

Mr Deakin - It gives the author another chance.

Mr CONROY - That is not the point. An absolute reversal of the present law is being attempted, and that fact should have been pointed out to the Committee.

Mr Groom - It is pointed out most clearly.

Mr CONROY - I do not think so. Every Bill to which I have raised the objections I am now urging against this measure has since been the subject of amendment, and I am quite sure that a similar result will follow in this case.

Mr Webster - Is that not invariably the case in regard to initial legislation ?

Mr CONROY - It ought not to be. We should change the law in such a manner as to fully accomplish our purpose. Not one argument has been adduced to show that this change is necessary. The old law may have been a bad one, but we have heard of no complaints against it; and we have certainly heard nothing to show that the proposed change is a good one. We should not pass legislation of this kind without serious debate.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 (Copyright and other rights to separate properties).

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa). - I admit that there is some difficulty in this case. For instance, a man publishes a book, with a very good plot, and immediately three or four others set to work Bo dramatize it, and the author is shut out from the advantage which should accrue to him from the product of his own brain.

Mr Groom - Clause 13 provides for the protection of the author. This clause is intended to give separate rights, so that they can be assigned1. It is merely a reprint from the proposed Imperial law.

Mr CONROY - The provision is notin the Imperial Act.

Mr Groom - No, but it is in the Bill which was passed by the House of Lords

Mr CONROY - It appears that by clause 13, we have given to every author of a novel the sole right to convert it into a drama. An author may never dramatize his book, and no one else will be entitled to make any use of his plot for the purposes of a drama for forty-two years. Therefore, in view of the multiplicity of novels that are springing up, the dramatic writer will not know where he is. How are we to define what is a dramatic representation? We know that the English Courts have recently been engaged in dealing with the rights of dramatists in regard to the use of novels. We are now proposing to confer upon a novelist the right to go to a dramatist and tell him that he must not proceed with his work, because he has adopted a plot similar to that contained in the novel. Under this provision, he may be subjected to heavy penalties, because it may be urged that he has dramatized some work of which he has never heard. Ought we to impose such disabilities upon dramatic authors? Personally, I consider that the provisions of clause 13 are altogether too wide. In its present form, it is a distinct hindrance to dramatists. Of course, most of the plays produced in Australia, are written by the dramatists of older countries, and consequently, the cases which will arise under this provision, may not be numerous. I object to rendering dramatists liable to penalties, because it may be alleged that they have dramatized stories of the very existence of which they may have had no knowledge.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 26 to 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 -

(1)   Unless the reporting of a lecture is pro hibited by a notice as in this section mentioned, the lecturing right in a lecture shall not be infringed by a report of the lecture in a newspaper.

(2)   The notice prohibiting the reporting of a lecture may be given -

(a)   orally at the beginning of the lecture; or

(i)   by a conspicuous written notice affixed, before the lecture is given, on the entrance doors of the building in which it is given or in a place in the room in which it is given.

(3)   When a series of lectures is intended to be given by the same lecturer on the same subject, the notice only need be given in respect of the whole series.

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