Opinion Number. 430



Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION, s.Sl (xviii), (xxxix) : COPYRIGHT ACT 1905. s. 75

The Secretary to the Prime Minister

The Secretary to the Prime Minister has referred the following letter to me for consideration:

By sub-section (4) of section 75 of the Copyright Act 1905, it is enacted that one copy of each book delivered to the Registrar for copyright shall be forwarded by him to the Librarian. After some years' experience of the working of this section, 1 have found that it quite fails in its object, which was to insure that all Australian publications should auto-matically find a place in this Library. Most Australian books of value are not copyrighted at all, and a great proportion of those that are copyrighted are such things as race-cards and advertisements. 1 reported this to the Library Committee yesterday and the following resolution was passed:

That the Chairman approach the Prime Minister with the view of getting the Copy-right Act amended, so that a copy of all works published in the Commonwealth be de-posited in the Library.

The principle that copies of all books published must be deposited in a National Li-brary is not a new one. In Great Britain five copies of every work published must be given to the British Museum and four other specified Libraries, and a proposal is now before Parliament, to add a new Library in Wales to this list. While the United States and Canada only require the deposit of copyrighted matter, the fact that between them their writers appeal to a public of nearly 100,000,000 makes copyright so valuable that prac-tically everything published is copyrighted, and so secured to the National Libraries.

While on this subject I take the opportunity of mentioning that the limitation of com-pulsory deposit to books prevents this Library obtaining copies of works deposited for Fine Arts copyright. Although the Committee did not consider this point, I do not doubt that I shall have it with me in asking you if anything can be done to enable the Library to obtain such works.

In transmitting you the resolution of the Committee, I would ask you to give it im-mediate and favourable consideration with a view to legislation on the matter during the present session.

The question arises whether a provision such as suggested, that a copy of all works published in Australia be deposited in the Library, is incidental to copyright.

Of course if the deposit were made a condition of obtaining copyright, it would be incidental; but there are serious objections to this course; because the tendency throughout the countries forming the Copyright Union is to make copyright an absol-ute right of property flowing from authorship and publication, without compliance with any formality whatever.

After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion (though I do not think that the matter is beyond doubt) that if the Parliament, in consideration of the grant of copyright, imposes an obligation on the publisher to deposit copies of a work, and im-poses a penalty for breach of the obligation-notwithstanding that the breach does not affect the validity of the copyright-such a provision is incidental to copyright. It is an obligation of a kind which is commonly dealt with in Copyright Acts, and it can fairly be said to have some relation to copyright, as being a duty imposed in consideration of a right conferred.

[Matter omitted. ]

[Vol. 9, p. 136]