The imperial effect: Literary copyright law in colonial Australia

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This article traces the application, operation and development of copyright law regarding literary works in colonial Australia. It examines the reception of the Literary Copyright Act 1842 (UK) and the Foreign Reprints Act 1847 (UK), exploring early (unsuccessful) attempts to liberalize the Australian book trade by allowing foreign imports of UK-copyright works. It also analyzes the development of colonial copyright legislation from the 1860s, using parliamentary debates and media commentary to explore contemporary attitudes to copyright policy. These inquiries reveal that the Australian colonies were unique throughout the empire in their insistence on toeing the imperial copyright line, in ways that were frequently contrary to the interests of colonial authors and readers.




Ailwood, S., & Sainsbury, M. (2016). The imperial effect: Literary copyright law in colonial Australia. Law, Culture and the Humanities, 12(3), 716–740.

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