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BRITISH IMPERIAL COPYRIGHT BILL OF

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 129 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BRITISH IMPERIAL COPYRIGHT BILL OF 1910 The consolidation of the British copyright law, not only in the United Kingdom but in the Dominions, and its amendment so as to include the recommendations of the Berlin International Convention of 1908, were the objects of a government bill introduced into parliament by the president of the Board of Trade on the 26th of July 1910, discussion on which was reserved for a later period in the year. The passing of this bill, though the date of it was uncertain owing to the peculiar circumstances of English politics at the moment, was practically assured by the facts that, apart altogether from the crying need for a re-vision of the English law, the draft had previously been considered and accepted, not only by a Board of Trade Committee which reported unanimously in favour of the recommendations of the Berlin Convention, but also by an Imperial Conference. The bill for the first time brought British copyright entirely under statutory law and consolidated and amended all previous enactments; it adopted the suggestions of the Imperial Conference (attended by representatives of Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland, other interests being covered by home representatives of the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial Office and Board of Trade) as to providing for its extension by their declaration to the Dominions; and with its enactment a great simplification of the British law of copy-right came in sight, though for historical reasons the details given above of the law as unamended must still remain of value. Briefly, the new points of importance, apart from the placing of all copyright on a purely statutory basis and the inclusion of literary and artistic copyright within one arrangement, were as follows. All compulsory formalities of registration were abolished. The length of the period for which copyright lasted was extended to the life of the author and 50 years after. This reform was qualified, however, by a clause intended to protect the public from its abuse, and providing that after the author's death, if the work was withheld from the public or published at too high a price, or if the reasonable requirements of the public were not satisfied, a licence might be granted to publish or perform it. These changes applied to all the subject-matters of copyright, which were now put on the same level and treated uniformly. In certain cases, already discussed above, protection was extended: e.g. translations and lectures, original adaptations and arrangements, works of artistic novelty, including architectural designs; and the right to dramatize a novel or " novelize " a drama was conferred in each case on the author. Musical works were protected against unauthorized reproduction by mechanical means without payment; but protection was also extended to the mechanical record when authorized. In including all sorts of intellectual product the bill followed the recommendation (resolution 6) of the Imperial Conference as to the definition of copyright (Parl. Paper Cd. 5272): " the Conference is of opinion that, subject to proper qualifications, copyright should include the sole right to produce or reproduce a work, or any substantial part thereof, in any material form whatsoever and in any language, to perform, or in the case of a lecture, to deliver, the work or any substantial part thereof in. public, and, if the work is unpublished, to publish the work, and should include the sole right to dramatize novels and vice versa, and to make records, &c., by means of which a work may be mechanically performed." As to architecture and artistic crafts the Conference recommended (resolution 9) that " an original wort of art should not lose the protection of artistic copyright solely because it consists of, or is embodied in, a work of archi tecture or craftsmanship; but it should be clearly understood that such protection is confined to its artistic form and does not extend to the processes or methods of reproduction, or to an industrial design capable of registration under the law relating to designs and destined to be multiplied by way of manufacture or trade." As to the application of the new period of copyright to existing works, the Conference recommended (resolution Io) " that existing works in which copyright actually subsists at the commencement of the new act (but no others) should enjoy, subject to existing rights, the same protection as future works, but the benefit of any extension of terms should belong to the author of the work, subject, in the case where he has assigned his existing rights, to a power on the part of the assignee at his option either to purchase the full benefit of the copyright during the extended term, or, without acquiring the full copyright, to continue to publish the work on payment of royalties, the payment in either case to be fixed by arbitration if necessary." The Conference was also of opinion (resolution 4a) that, under the new Imperial Act, copyright should subsist only in works of which the author was a British subject or bona fide resident in one of the parts of the British Empire to which it extended; and that copyright should cease if the work were first published elsewhere than in such parts of the Empire. The sensible basis on which the new bill was framed, and the authority it represented, commended it, in spite of many controversial points, to the acceptance both of the public and of the various parties concerned. But nobody who had ever wrestled with all the difficulties of international copyright, as complicated by the law in the United States, would suppose that it was the last word on the subject. What the bill did was to bring British legislation into better shape, and to amend it on certain points which had worked unjustly. The great distinction between the requirements for British and for American copyright still remained, namely, the American manufacturing clause. Perhaps the most notable innovation was the clause enabling a licence to be granted for the publication of a copyright work where the owners of the copyright had not exercised it for the " reasonable requirements" of the public. Some such clause was clearly called for when the period of monopoly was being extended; but the interpretation to be put upon the occasions which would justify such interference might well be difficult. It may perhaps be suggested that this innovation pointed to a reconsideration of the true relations of " publishers " and " authors " (in the widest sense) in respect of copyright, which sooner or later might be approached from a different point of view. The new clause was intended for the protection of the public from the mishandling of an author's work after his death, while greater protection was given him during his life. From a purely business point of view, the question might well be whether a publisher or other party not the author should have a copyright at all, and whether equity would not be satisfied if copyright vested solely in the author and his family, with liberty to any one to " publish " on fair terms, consideration being had to an original publisher's reasonable claims and existing contracts. The advisability of any such advance on the principle now asserted must depend rather on experience of actual business and the working of the clause; but even under the procedure provided by the bill of 1910 it would equally be imperative for a publisher who owned a deceased author's copyright to show that he had given or was giving the public valuable consideration for his monopoly, in order to uphold it against any one willing, on payment of a reasonable royalty, to serve the public better.
End of Article: BRITISH IMPERIAL COPYRIGHT BILL OF
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