Literary Copyright Reform in Early Victorian England: The Framing of the 1842 Copyright Act

By Catherine Seville | Go to book overview

Appendix II
SUCCESSIVE VERSIONS OF THE BILL

Talfourd endured a great deal of public criticism during the copyright debates, some directed at his plans, but also a considerable amount directed at him personally. Parliamentary opponents and pamphleteers did not hesitate to mock his florid speeches and his partisan enthusiasm. Talfourd was left dispirited and frustrated by the many reverses his bill suffered, and Mahon's safe political hands were certainly welcome in the closing stages. It is easy to carry away from the contemporary squabbling an impression of Talfourd the 'bungling juggler', the warm-hearted but wrongheaded literary amateur. Yet this is to do Talfourd a great injustice.

Analysis of the various drafts of the bill makes it plain that Talfourd's knowledge of copyright law was practical and extensive. Many of the elements of modern copyright law were already in place by 1837, although not necessarily in statutory form. The various pieces of copyright legislation had been enacted piecemeal, in response to demands for protection from particular groups, and the results varied in coherence and quality. The absence of international copyright was an admitted and glaring problem. Talfourd's plans for revision and improvement were coherent and careful, though avowedly ambitious. These bills are not the work of an unbalanced fanatic with large ideals and no substance. They contained carefully drafted clauses intended to address various practical problems which had emerged from the existing web of statutory and case law protection. Of particular interest to a modern lawyer is Talfourd's far-sighted but unsuccessful attempt to include a statutory 'fair use' clause.

There were many versions of the original bill, which was very considerably modified.1 The changes were often the result of

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1
These were published in the House of Commons papers on the following dates; 6 June 1837, 27 February 1838, 6 June 1838, 12 February 1839, 11 February 1840, 29 January 1841, 4 March 1842, 23 March 1842, 21 April 1842. The 21 April version was reprinted unchanged after its first reading in the House of Lords on 28 April: HL Papers 1842 (88). A first batch of amendments was reported 14 June: HL Papers 1842 (133). Further amendments were made on 24 June, and the bill was passed and sent to the House of Commons. The complete list of amendments was printed in HC Papers 27 June 1842. These were agreed to and returned on 30 June. The Act received the royal assent 1 July 1842. For brevity, the House of Commons versions of the bill will be referred to by year, plus lower case letters where necessary.

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