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Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I wish to point out to the Committee that in this clause we are asked to extend the term of artistic copyright to a period that is quite unknown in any other country. I contend that the provision should have practically embodied the law at present in force in the different States. In New South Wales, the period of artistic copyright is limited to fourteen years. As a matter of fact, that is the term during which a patent is protected. In Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia a similar law prevails. We are now asked, without rhyme or reason, to extend the term of artistic copyright to forty-two years.

Mr Wilson - The clause is limited to works of art. Surely the honorable and learned member would not allow a work of art to be copied after fourteen years?

Mr CONROY - How can anybody reproduce an artistic work? Its sole value lies in the fact that it cannot be reproduced. Its very author cannot reproduce a work of exactly the same type and character. I defy anybody to make two paintings which are absolutely similar. One may possess a very high value, and the other mav be worthless from a purely artistic point of view. The term of copyright in paintings, drawings, &c, is fourteen years. In this clause we are asked to deliberately increase that period to forty-two years. I say that we ought not to make such a serious departure from the laws of the States without very good reason being advanced for our action. In the matter of photographs, the term of copyright in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia is three years. In Queensland and Tasmania, where the Acts of the United Kingdom apply, it is for the life of the author, and an additional seven years. That is an entirely different state of affairs from that which will obtain under this Bill. In four States, representing five-sixths of the population of the Commonwealth, the term of artistic copyright is fourteen years. We are asked, without any reason being assigned for the change, to suddenly increase it to forty-two years. Under this Bill one man may have registered a copyright for fourteen 3'ears and one month before the Act will come into operation. He will receive no protection whatever, whereas the individual who registered thirteen years and eleven months before the commencement of the Act, will have his term extended to forty-two years. I am bound to say that I regard this matter as of so much importance that I should like to see a quorum present. \Quornm formed."] Considering that the proprietors of patents, which represent the highest efforts of mechanical genius, are protected for only fourteen years, surely that is a sufficiently long term to apply to artistic copyrights ! I contend that in this Bill we are going too far, because we are lessening the rights of individuals. What would be thought if forty-two years had to elapse before we could take advantage of any patent? We must fix a reasonable period at which the public shall secure a return for the exclusive rights which they have conferred upon particular individuals. We are asked to regard this Bill as A formal one, and to pass it without discussion. The more I look into it, the more I am satisfied that we ought not to have been invited to agree to it in this hurried fashion. However, I do not intend to labour the question. These matters ought to be as much the concern of every other member of the Committee as they are mine. I move-

That the words " forty-two " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " fourteen."

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