A Shifting Empire
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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’.
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Chapter 2: New Zealand and the Imperial Copyright tradition

Geoff McLay


Since the Copyright Act 1913, New Zealand has not strayed far from the United Kingdom copyright model. While there had been a bill drawn up to revise New Zealand’s somewhat old 1842 copyright law before the 1911 Imperial conference,2 that impetus had been lost. After the conference it took some urgings from the Colonial Office to force New Zealand parliamentarians to finally act in 1913.3 The major emphasis for reform in New Zealand at the higher political levels remained the adoption of copyright reform in the United Kingdom in 1956 and again in 1988 and the desire to stay with an international mainstream of copyright law. This desire led to the introduction of new copyright statutes in New Zealand in 1962 and 1994 respectively. The 1994 adoption of the copyright pro- visions of the United Kingdom Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 was motivated by New Zealand’s desire to be compliant with the TRIPs Agreement,4 and subsequent reform in 2008, the much delayed Copyright (New Technologies) Act 2008, was largely motivated by the desire to finally implement the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Copyright Treaty.5 There is a continuity from New Zealand’s desire in 1913 to essentially maintain its position within an imperial system, to its recent reforms to stay compliant with the World Trade Organization system: copyright reform is a worthy enterprise, but only a necessity as part of some wider international aspirations. New Zealand has, on occasion, had interesting copyright debates.

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