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Research Guides

A Nation's Imagination: Australia’s Copyright Records, 1854–1968

2 Colonial Copyright

Prior to Federation and the enactment of the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1905, the Australian colonies administered copyright separately. All colonies49 wrote elements of the United Kingdom Copyright Act 1842 into their literary and artistic copyright legislation, with the exception of Tasmania, which did not establish its own copyright legislation. Searches in the records of the most likely alternative colonies for registration – New South Wales and Victoria – have not located any indication that Tasmanians registered their works elsewhere. The colony may have elected to remain under the auspices of British copyright or it simply may not have addressed the issue. Publications dealing with Australian copyright also omit Queensland.

When looking for exhibits within series it is mostly true that the numbers in the register and index, and on the registration form, correspond to the exhibit number. However, anomalies may occur where the original registration was for unpublished material and copyright was subsequently assigned to a person other than the author, and the assignee made a separate registration of copyright for all or part of the work and then published it. An example of this is the registration for Euterpe – An Ode to Music, which can be found on p. 38 of this guide under literary, dramatic and music copyright.


Chapter notes | All notes

49 The Colony of New South Wales enacted Australia's first copyright legislation in 1852 (replaced in 1879 by other legislation), followed by Victoria (1869), South Australia (1878), Queensland (1887) and Western Australia (1895).


Chapter 2
Colonial Copyright