May 25, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)



No. The contention
was that the copyright Acts of 1842 and 1886 had effect in Canada without regard to any legislation of ours. I do not recall the year, but Sir John Thompson had a very protracted discussion with the Home authorities on that point in connection with the copyright measure that he desired to introduce. I do not know whether that discussion was ever published, but it certainly is very interesting. No conclusion seems to have been reached at that time, but in 1910 or 1911 the late Hon. Mr. Fisher went to England in connection with the copyright legislation which was then contemplated by the Imperial Government, and as the result, as I understand it, of his insistence along the line of argument which Sir John Thompson had developed, the Imperial Parliament passed this special enactment recognizing our authority to repeal that legislation.
Now, if I have not made it absolutely clear to the committee, I hope I have at all events conveyed some idea of what seems to me the very unsatisfactory condiiton in which we stand with regard to copyright legislation. Then, although this is a minor consideration, it has its importance. In the present condition of our legislation we stand as a sort of outsider in the general community of nations which have interested themselves in the subject of copyright. We are not in a position to give our final adherence to the amended Convention at Berne, and I may say that we have had at various times representations from the Powers that are parties to that Convention pressing upon us that we ought to come into the general community. In France and in England a great deal of interest is taken in this subject. I may say that the authors of France in particular find it difficult to understand why we are not willing to co-operate in the general movement for the protection of the rights of authors. In that country a very special importance seems to be attached to that right. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible for us to enact this legis-

lation. Of course, I do not ask or expect that hon. members who may find that there are grave defects should not seek amendment. I would ask, though, that as far as possible the importance of our getting a law passed which may form the basis of future improvement should he borne in mind. Since 1911 this matter has hung in suspense. In that year the late Hon. Mr. Fisher introduced into this House a Bill following very closely the British legislation and, consequently, in very large measure similar to this one. Since that time, if I am not mistaken, there have been at least two attempts at improvement. A Bill was passed through the Senate, I think, two years ago, it did not succeeed in passing this House. Last year we had a Bill before this House, but it seemed so difficult to get at any conclusion which could be reasonably expected to conciliate the contending interests that the matter had to be dropped. This session, I may say on behalf of the committee and on behalf of the special officer charged with this subject of copyright, very assiduous efforts have been made to bring about a measure which, if not absolutely meeting the view of all interested, may at least prove acceptable; and I myself have endeavoured to give what little aid I could in that regard. I therefore commend the measure to the considerate consideration of the committee.

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