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Research Guides

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

Fine arts copyright

The records

The following records are the heart of the Archives' copyright collection because they contain over 60 years of copyright registrations. To make the best use of them, it is sometimes necessary to do careful cross-searching. The registers and indexes recording the applications unfortunately give no hint of items deposited – whether retained or returned – or of the wealth of original correspondence to be found in the associated exhibits series. All surviving exhibit items for both literary and artistic rights are listed on RecordSearch at item level.


Registers of Fine Arts Copyright, 1907–69

The series contains 11 large registers into which the information from A1861 has been transcribed. The entries are ordered numerically from 1–8415 (with gaps). There are some chronological anomalies in the registrations (1912 registrations in 1907 and so on), which suggests that an initial application was submitted some years prior to formal registration of the works.

Among the information recorded are numbers and dates; names and addresses of authors and copyright owners; dates of first production of the work; publishers' details; assignment information; fees paid, dates and particulars; and remarks. Notations in the entries for the first two volumes indicate that application fees and certified copies cost 1 shilling. From volume 3 onwards the fees are not recorded.

There is some variation between volumes in the other details recorded and the layout, but the essential information remains the same. There are significant time gaps in the registrations recorded in the last four volumes, which were bound after the pages were filled in and contain a mixture of typed and handwritten entries. There are chronological anomalies and gaps here as well, and occasionally registrations have been bound out of numerical order.

In the early years, material was often transferred to colonial registers because the date of publication or creation pre-dated the Commonwealth legislation. Some numbered sections have pencilled notes indicating transferred registrations, cancellations and other notes, or are blank.

The note 'Not registerable' should not be taken to indicate that material is not present for that registration number as in many cases a corresponding registration form and exhibit are present. It is possible to find information on the items in these 'blank' sections by checking in A1960, A1965, A1963, A6778 and A8356. A specific number search in the item lists or on RecordSearch under A1861 will reveal all surviving files and, frequently, whether exhibits still exist.

Some registrations are for quite unexpected items. A1958, 95 (by Hester Gray Hirst and Amy Denton Hirst) is described as a:

Book. Bridal Autograph consisting of two outside covers fastened together by silk cords having on the front cover an opening cut for the insertion of a picture and containing within a number of handpainted leaves arranged for bridal party's autographs, and depending from cover two painted paper butterflies.

Many works were created to commemorate the visit of the American Fleet to Australia in 1908. One of the more unusual of these is A1958, 557. Designed by Max Julius Simon, it is described as a:

Watercolour sketch of a transfer onto table glassware such as tumblers, wine, champagne, jelly, custard glasses, jugs re of the American eagle and the Australian and American flags and the shield.

Of the dozens of registrations for photographs of the Fleet's visit, the largest set by far is by George Rose (stereographs, A1958, 669–678). George Rose was also responsible for stereographs of the Grampians and the Blue Mountains (A1958, 860–921). These stereographs were typical of the large numbers of photographs of these and other mountains, caves and scenery from all over Australia and overseas.

Howard and Shearsby of Barren Jack (better known as 'Burrinjuck') Dam created many sets of photographs (A1958, 1392–1404).

Continuous faces drawing and [an] optical illusion for the heading of an advertisement (A1958, 2357) by Alfred Blount Fry had two specific assignments made on it – in 1913 for use in Western Australia and in 1921 for use in Victoria.

The artistic registrations also contain their fair share of the distasteful and the bizarre. For example, A1958, 3266 is one of several photographs of a cockfight, and A1958, 2281 is a photograph of Cardinal Moran (always a popular subject) in his coffin. Registrations of material based on war themes also feature prominently.

The examples listed below are from some of the earliest registers, but they are an accurate reflection of the range of work submitted throughout the life of the Copyright Act. Although the registers are listed on RecordSearch, the entries within them are not. These items can be ordered (where they still exist) from A1861.

Series: A1958
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1907–13 Copyright Office [1] (CA 555 [4]); 1913–30 Copyright Office [II] (CA 556); CA 555 [5] (1930–69 Copyright Office [III])
Register of Fine Arts Copyright, registration nos 1–1000, 1907–09

Among the entries in this volume are the following:

  • Photographic work of Lithgow, Ward and Farran (registration no. 1), 1907 (5 feet in length);
  • Medallion of Madame Melba, Minnie Ella Smith (plaster of Paris, registration no. 218), 1907; and
  • Tasmanian Tigers Beaumaris Hobart, William Williamson (photographic print, registration no. 944), 1909.
1958, volume 1
Register of Fine Arts Copyright, registration nos 1001–2000, 1909–11

One of the entries in this volume is for a woodcut registered by Morris and Walker Pty Ltd entitled Choice Mildura Muscatels (registration no. 1068, 1 of 4), 1909.

A1958, volume 2
Register of Fine Arts Copyright, registration nos 2001–3000, 1911–13

Among the entries in this volume is a 'sculptured marble or stone cross (3) Celtic design', Frederick William Commons (registration no. 2420), 1911.

A1958, volume 3
Register of Fine Arts Copyright, registration nos 3001–4000, 1913–18

One of the entries in this volume is for a Gum Leaf Brooch with Seed Pods Hanging Down, Margaret Chapman (registration no. 3056, work of artistic craftsmanship), 1913.

A1958, volume 4
Register of Fine Arts Copyright, registration nos 4001–5002, 1918–23

This volume contains an entry for a scene from Gate of the Gods, a set of drawings, Clifford Oswald Hamey for a drama (registration no. 4358), 1919.

A1958, volume 5
Register of Fine Arts Copyright, registration nos 7501 to 8000, 1950–62
An entry in this volume is for 'Mr Squiggle', Norman Hetherington (registration no. 8027), 1962.
A1958, volume 10
Register of Notations for Commonwealth Fine Arts Copyright, 1936–53

This series contains a (mostly unused) single volume of notations for fine arts registrations. Registrations are listed from no. 6751 (1936) to no. 7610 (1953). A note above the first entry says that it is the 'start of new system'. There is nothing to indicate why the registrations ceased or what the previous system was.

Information recorded includes the application number, date of lodgement, name of applicant and agent, application fee, the date lodgement was advertised, miscellaneous fees, and nature and date of registration. Only assignments have been recorded so no indication is provided of the title or nature of the work lodged. The register is listed on RecordSearch, but the entries it contains are not. More information about these entries can be found in A1958.

The following are examples of entries in the register:

  • Novelty Card Co., 1943
  • Greenhalgh, R J, 1945
  • Perth Newspapers Ltd, 1948
  • Formosa Knitting Mills, 1953

Series: A11828
Quantity: 0.05 metres
Recorded by: Copyright office [III] (CA 555 [5])


Name index to holders of copyright in Fine Arts, 1907–08

This series consists of a single volume, a name index to holders of copyright in fine arts, numbers 1–1000. The index is arranged alphabetically, but is incomplete. The entries are handwritten and record names, subjects (types of work), titles and numbers. No dates or addresses are given, but dual owners of copyright are cross-indexed. A more complete index of this material, with entries that contain addresses, can be found in the annual indexes in A1960 and A1965.

The entries in this index correspond to entries nos 1–621 (for 1907–08) in the first volume of A1958 and the corresponding registration forms and exhibits in A1861.

The index is on RecordSearch, but its contents are not. The individual items to which the entries refer may be found, where they still exist, in A1861.

The following are examples of entries in the index:

  • Collins Bros and Co. Ltd ( Miss Nellie Stewart, photograph (one of a set of 17).
  • Wright, H H ( Looking for new worlds to conquer, cartoon, 1907.
  • Henderson, E C ( for phonograph record boxes, 1907.
  • Goodhart, J C ( Broken Hill Dust Storm,chalk drawing, 1907.
  • Wilson, C G R ( of Swimming, 1907.
  • Murray, D and W (Ltd),( Boys Suit 1C, fashion sheet, 1907.
  • Gibb, F ( Eleven 1907/8.
  • Lloyd, Herbert Charles ( Coming, painting, 1908.

Series: A6778
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: Copyright Office [1] (CA 555 [4])
Name and subject matter – (copies of) index of applications for registration of Artistic Copyrights, 1916–36
Canberra, (Adelaide)

This series contains a single volume, a name and subject index of applications for registration of artistic copyrights. It provides an index to fine arts items in A1958 and exhibits in A1861 registered between 1916 and 1936.

Entries are arranged alphabetically and provide the applicant's name (ie the copyright owner) and the title of the work. The item number is also recorded. Where the author is not the copyright holder, their name is usually given after the title (often in brackets), and dual owners are cross-indexed. Pen-names are also noted.

Titles are not cross-indexed by keyword nor are they always given in their proper order. Frequently titles will appear under their most likely keyword, eg 'Gum Blossoms – A Cluster of' (registration no. 5910).

Individual items do not have dates, and addresses of owners are not given. The listings are ordered alphabetically by the first two letters only – eg 'Hordern, Hollowood, Howarth, Holland, Hoyles, Holt', etc – so thorough checking is required in both sections of the index.

Please note that the numbers in the list below refer to entries in A1963. The individual items to which they refer can be found (where they still exist) in A1861. The series is listed in item lists and on RecordSearch.

The following are examples of entries found in the index, by name of copyright owner, Item and page number:

  • Margetts, John Harold, Rabaul and Blanche Bay (photo). 4015, p. 103
  • Ellen, Melville Morris, Invitation Feather (book of art). 5071, p. 55
  • Case Color Advertising Co. Ltd, There is Sunshine in Australian Butter (poster). 6254, p. 37
  • Board of Governors, etc, of South Australia, Red Gold, painting by Hans Heysen – one of many registered by the Art Gallery. 6278, p. 13

By title:

  • Sinn Fein badge, Peter Elias O'Dwyer, drawing. 3906, p. 148
  • Australian Bird songsters, William Henderson, series of prints. 4457–4468, p. 15
  • Figurette of Amy Johnson, Victor H Wager, sculpture. 6058, p. 62
  • Egyptian vase, William Otho Hewett, vase. 6391, p. 57

Series: A1963
Quantity: 0.09 metres (0.09 metres)
Recorded by: Copyright Office [II] (CA 556); Copyright Office [III] (CA 555 [5])

Registration forms and exhibits

Applications for Artistic Copyright (with exhibits), 1907–69

This series was recorded when the Copyright Office operated independently of the Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Office. The material contained in this series covers a large range of material, often held in sets. Items include photographs (from portraits to panoramas), paintings, drawings, cards, panels, lithographs, bromides, postcards, prints, posters, designs for labels and advertising, zinc etchings, statues, models and other artistic works. For registrations such as paintings and sculptural works, the exhibit is often a photograph, sketch or model of the original.

The series is divided into three types of items. Files contained in the series generally contain exhibits as well as registration documents, including an examiner's report and related correspondence. The examiner's reports display a certain pedantry, sometimes understandable when requiring occupation and date of making to be inserted, at other times less so (see p. 92 for the example of the cartoonist, Rafty).

The series also contains numbered exhibits that are generally outsize and in different forms, necessitating their separate storage. These items are fragile and subject to conservation requirements for viewing. This series also contains unnumbered exhibits, for which the direct links to their registration documents have been lost.

Series: A1861
Quantity: 77 metres
Recorded by: 1907–13 Copyright Office [III] (CA 555 [4]); 1913–30 Copyright Office [II] (CA 556); 1930–69 Copyright Office [III] (CA 555 [5])
Post Office, Narrabri at flood time, 1910

Hamey Bros, Gunnedah, 1910. This item epitomises the great extremes of the Australian climate. With the Namoi River flowing through its heart, Narrabri is a town often flooded, yet it was at Narrabri that the most devastating drought scenes for the film The Breaking of the Drought, first screened in 1920, were shot.

A1861, 1498
Image 15: Post office, Narrabri, during a flood, 1910.

Image 15: Post office, Narrabri, during a flood, 1910.
NAA: A1861, 1498
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Poster, cricket match, Combined Varsity v NSW test match, 1910

Among the outsize items in this series are several billboard posters including this one of a poster advertising a cricket match.

A1861, 1983
Postcard, Headless Man Riding a Pig, 1910

This item is discussed in Chapter 2

A1861, 2006
Poster, Polite Vaudeville Entertainers, 1911

This is a poster copyrighted by Vincent M Beebe.

A1861, 2128
Photograph, Guglielmo in his steel skin acrobatic act, 1913

Vaudeville and circus performers such as Guglielmo, who performed with a large circular saw buzzing just above his body, have contemporary counterparts such as the Spanish troupe La Fura dels Baus whose employment of chainsaws in theatre is every bit as heart-stopping.

A1861, 2939
Drawing, Australia, 'Black Swan Forming Map of Australia', registration and exhibit, 1917

This drawing was by Minnie J Rowe, who contrived her names into something far more exotic – and misleading – 'Miro'.

A1861, 3894
Sculpture, Woman Standing on a Pedestal Holding Pillow Supports in Hands, 1928 A1861, 5741
Work of craftmanship, A Little Bit of Australia, exhibit, 1928

This exhibit is a plaster map of Australia, which is painted in green and brown. It features kangaroos and landscape features in relief.

A1861, 5823
Print of painting, Willaura, by Arthur Streeton, 1929–31

This file also contains correspondence from 1931.

A1861, 6197
Photograph, Roy Rene in makeup of his character, 'Mo', 1933

This photograph of Roy Rene (Harry Van der Sluice) was taken to copyright the makeup of his character 'Mo'.

A1861, 6443
Series of comic sketches, B L B Australian Services Cartoons (Bluey, Lofty and Blinker), 1940

Cartoonist Anthony Rafty was requested to change the description from 'cartoons' to 'series of comic sketches' for a printed sheet of individual coloured drawings with dialogue, related only by their appearance together and a theme of wartime larrikinism. It is not immediately obvious where the examiner made his distinction between 'cartoon' and 'comic sketch'.

A1861, 6972
Photograph of drawing, Honour Roll, 1941

This photograph by L G Petrie features an empty board, with defence forces insignia and other designs in place, waiting for the names to march down it.

A1861, 7008
Photograph of a show card, The Mansion House, London, 1840, 1942

This is a cardboard show card advertising 'Peter Jackson' cigarettes; McLaren and Co. Pty Ltd.

A1861, 7043
Drawing (cartoon), Wanda The War Girl, 1943

Wanda, a busty red-head, takes on the Germans and shows her underwear at the same time; K O'Brien and C W Brain. This item may be viewed as a digital image.

A1861, 7093
Cinematograph film, Creatures of the Dawn, 1958

This is a two-reel nature film by H A Polluck.

A1861, 7758


Chapter 3
Commonwealth Copyright