The Act which defines and establishes property in literary productions is the Act 5 & 6 Vic., c. 45. The three leading sections of the Act are:—
And be it enacted, that the copyright in every book which shall after the passing of this Act be published in the lifetime of its author shall endure for the natural life of such author, and for the further term of seven years, commencing at the time of his death, and shall be the property of such author and his assigns: provided always, that if the said term of seven years shall expire before the end of forty-two years from the first publication of such book, the copyright shall in that case endure for such period of forty-two years; and that the copyright in every book which shall be published after the death of its author shall endure for the term of forty-two years from the first publication thereof, and shall be the property of the proprietor of the author’s manuscript from which such book shall be first published, and his assignees.—Sec.3.
And whereas it is just to extend the benefits if this Act to authors of books published before the passing thereof, and in which copyright still subsists: be it enacted, that the copyright which at the time of passing this Act shall subsist in any book theretofore published (except as hereinafter mentioned) shall be extended and endure for the full term provided by this Act in cases of books thereafter published, and shall be the property of the person who at the time of passing of this act shall be the proprietor of such copyright; provided always, that in all cases in which such copyright shall belong in whole or in part for a publisher or other person who shall have acquired it for other consideration than that of natural love and affection, such copyright shall not be extended by this act, but shall endure for the term which shall subsist therein at the time of passing of this act, and no longer, unless the author of such book, if he shall be living, or the personal representative of such author, if he shall be dead, and the proprietor of such cop[y]right, shall, before the expiration of such term, consent and agree to accept the benefits of this Act in respect of such book, and shall cause a minute of such consent in the form in the book of registry hereinafter directed to be kept, in which case such copyright shall endure for the full term by this Act provided in cases of books to be published after the passing of this Act, and shall be the property of such person or persons as in such minute shall be expressed.—Sec. 4.
And whereas it is expedient to provide against the suppression of books of importance to the public: Be it enacted, that it shall be lawful for the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, on complaint made to them that the proprietor of the copyright in any book after the death of its author has refused to republish or to allow the republication of the same, and that by reason of such refusal such book may be withheld from the public, to grant a license to such complainant to publish such a book, in such manner and subject ot such conditions as they may think fit, and that it shall be lawful for such complainant to publish such book according to such license.—Sec. 5.
It is very important that printers should carefully observe regulations for the delivery to the British Museum, under the Copyright Act. The following are the official directions:—
According to the provisions of the Copyright Act (5 & 6 Victoria, cap. 45), it is enacted “that a printed copy of the whole of every book which shall be published after the passing of this act“ [1st July, 1842], together with all Maps, Prints, or other Engravings belonging thereto, finished and coloured in the same manner as the best copies of the same shall be published, and also of any second or subsequent whether the same shall be in letter-press, or in the maps, prints, or other engravings belonging thereto, and whether the first edition of such book shall have been published before or after the passing of this Act, and also of any second or subsequent edition of every book of which the first or some preceding edition shall not have been delivered for the use of the British Museum, bound, sewed, or stitched together, and upon the best paper on which the same shall be printed, shall, within one calendar month after the day on which any such book mortality, or within three calendar months if the same shall first be Kingdom, or within three calendar months if the same shall first be sold, published, or offered for sale in any other part of the United Kingdom, or within twelve calendar months after the same shall first be sold, published, or of[f]ered for sale in any other part of the British dominions, be delivered on behalf of the publisher thereof at the British Museum.
Also “That in the construction of this Act, the word ‘book’ shall be construed to mean and include every volume, part or division of a volume, pamphlet, sheet of letter-press, sheet of music, map, chart, or plan separately published.”
Also “That every copy of any book which under the provisions of this Act ought to be delivered as aforesaid shall be delivered at the British Museum between the hours of ten in the forenoon and four in the afternoon on any day except Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Christmas Day, to one of the officers of the said Museum, or to some person authorised by the Trustees of the said Museum to receive the same;” and such officer or other person is required to give a receipt in writing for the same.
By another clause in the Act a penalty of a sum not exceeding £5, besides the value of the copy which ought to have been delivered, is imposed for every default in delivering books pursuant to the Act.
Publications due to the British Museum under the Copyright Act are to be delivered at the Copyright Office only. No other delivery will be legal.
See also Stationers’ Hall.