A Shifting Empire

A Shifting Empire

100 Years of the Copyright Act 1911

Edited by Uma Suthersanen and Ysolde Gendreau

The 1911 Copyright Act, often termed the ‘Imperial Copyright Act’, changed the jurisprudential landscape in respect of copyright law, not only in the United Kingdom but also within the then Empire. This book offers a bird’s eye perspective of why and how the first global copyright law launched a new order, often termed the ‘common law copyright system’.

Chapter 6: The Imperial Copyright Act 1911 in Singapore: copyright creatures great and small, this act it made them all

Ng-Loy Wee Loon

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law


Singapore was famously founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. Sir Raffles, on landing in Singapore, estimated that the island would be a useful port for the trade activities of the British Empire. At that time, Singapore belonged to the Sultanate of Johore. In 1824, Singapore was ceded to the British and put under the administration of the East India Company.1 There were three ways in which an English law could become part of the law of colonial Singapore. First, it could come into Singapore under the doctrine of ‘general reception’ via the Second Charter of Justice 1826. Second, it could become part of the law of Singapore by virtue of its status as an Imperial statute. Third, it could come in under the doctrine of ‘specific reception’ via section 6 of the Civil Law Ordinance. Each of these modes of reception had an impact on the history of copyright in Singapore, and they will be dealt with in the following sections. The modern administration of justice system of Singapore began in 1826 when King George IV issued the Second Charter of Justice2 to establish the Court of Judicature in the Straits Settlements comprising the three British territories in South-east Asia, namely, Singapore, Penang and Malacca. This brought an end to the ‘legal chaos’ that existed in Singapore between 1819 and 1826 when disputes were resolved by the respective clan leaders of the ethnic groups (the indigenous Malays, the migrants from China and from India) according to their own customary laws.

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