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 7: Shades of grey: uncovering the century old imperial imprint on Jamaica’s modern Copyright Act

Dianne Daley


Those of us who view the law essentially as an instrument for the development of our own people, and related to the circumstances of our locality and our times, and a fundamental part of our problem-solving mechanisms, may well wonder how it is that in 1993, thirty-one years after our achievement of national status in Jamaica, our Copyright Legislation is still the United Kingdom Act of 1911. Therein lies the story of the historical journey.1 The Imperial Copyright Act 1911,2 which came into force in the United Kingdom on 1 July 1912, made its grand entrance into Jamaica’s ‘Hall of Statutes’ through automatic extension in like manner with the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean who were at that time part the dominions of His Majesty King George V.3 Proclamation by His Majesty’s Governors gave the 1911 Act the force of law in Jamaica simultaneously with its coming into force in the UK.4 Jamaica’s first domestic copyright statute, the Copyright Act 1913, which came into force exactly a year later, incorporated provisions on copyright offences and sanctions under the 1911 Act which otherwise would only have applied in the UK.5 Notwithstanding the repeal of the 1911 Act in the UK together with the sweeping changes made to British copyright law through the UK’s enactment of the Copyright Act 1956, the 1911 Act continued to apply in Jamaica. The 1956 Act did not automatically extend to His Majesty’s dominions as did the 1911 Act and for various reasons explored below, Jamaica did not adopt the 1956 Act.

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