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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) .- I move-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

This is a measure which contains but very few clauses, and which deals with difficulties that have arisen in connexion with copyright. It will doubtless be recollected that many years ago - in 1885 - a Conference, at which many European countries were represented, was held at Berne for the purpose of bringing about reciprocity in respect of copyright. England, France, Germany, and many other countries were represented at that gathering ; but there were countries such as America, Austria, and Russia, which were not represented. As the result of that Conference a Convention was agreed to and signed in September, 1886, under which a reciprocal arrangement was made for the protection of copyright in all the countries so represented. Great Britain being one of those countries, and Australia being a Dependency of the Empire, we came under that arrangement. But the legislation which has been passed in Great Britain in respect of copyright has been of so fragmentary a character that it is not only very difficult to understand, but it presents obstacles to those who desire to avail themselves of it. As early as 1836 legislation of this kind was enacted by the Imperial Parliament, and I am sure any modern legislator would be amused if he read the form in which the different sections of that legislation appear. He would probably read something like this : " Whereas any book, copy, leaflet, or lithograph," &c, and a dozen other combinations of that description would figure in the list. The words, " whereas," " nevertheless," " whatsoever," " wherefore," would intervene, and the same articles would then be repeated over and over again. When the Commonwealth was established it passed a Copyright Act in modern language. That Act, I think, is a piece of legislation of which Australia may very well be proud, and which other countries might copy with advantage, not only to themselves, but to those desiring to obtain copyright. Obviously our Copyright Act could not embrace everything which was absolutely necessary in connexion with the protection of copyright, and consequently it has been found necessary - not on account of omissions in Com monwealth legislation, but on account of omissions in Imperial legislation - to pass an amending Bill for the purpose of extending the same protection to works of art that it extends to other articles of copyright which are included in the different British Copyright Acts. In connexion with those Acts, there have been omissions even of portions of the Empire itself, and this Bill is intended to cover those omissions. Then there are countries which were not represented at the Berne Convention, and with which we desire to enter into a state of reciprocity. All countries are at liberty to come under our copyright by proclamation. A proclamation can be issued when we are in a position to make an arrangement with any country which will grant the same facilities to our authors or artists as we are prepared to grant to them. The only difference between countries which have not been included in the Berne Convention, and those which have been included, will be that the term of the copyright will be the shortest term in any of the countries which wish to get the benefit of our legislation. There are great benefits to be obtained from the Commonwealth Act. If honorable senators will refer to Part V., they will find that those who wish to protect themselves in Australia can do so in the easiest possible manner. They have only to make a declaration, or to write a letter to certain persons in Australia, and action will be taken on their behalf. Consequently, they have no difficulty in protecting themselves. The Bill repeals Part VI. of the principal Act, which includes sections 62 and 63, and introduces five provisions. I believe that when this alteration in our law is made, the conditions in connexion with the protection of authors and artists in the civilized world will be as complete as it is possible for us to make them.

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