Copyright records – Fact sheet 105

Administration of copyright in Australia

Between 1869 and 1899, all Australian colonies, with the exception of Tasmania, introduced legislation enabling authors and artists to copyright their literary, musical and artistic works. The colonial governments established agencies to administer the legislation and maintain registers of copyright. These records came under Commonwealth control from 1 January 1907 when the Copyright Act 1905 came into effect. Under the 1905 Act similar registration with the new Commonwealth Copyright Office was required to establish copyright, but this was discontinued under a new Copyright Act from 1968. 

Holdings of copyright records

Records of copyright registration are held by a number of National Archives offices. The records include applications for copyright (including in many cases a copy of the literary script, musical score, artwork or photograph for which copyright was sought), registers of copyright, and indexes to the registers. Some of the works registered include literary and dramatic works, publications, photographs and musical scores by noted authors and artists from Australia’s past.

A comprehensive listing of records about copyright held by the Archives can be found in the National Archives research guide, A Nation’s Imagination: Australia’s copyright records, 1854–1968. The guide is available for browsing in all reading rooms.

A selection of the record holdings relating to copyright is included in the table below. Unless otherwise indicated records are held in the National Office, Canberra.

Selected literary, dramatic and musical copyright records

Commonwealth

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesApplications for literary and dramatic copyright (with exhibits)1907–69A1336
SeriesRegisters of literary copyright1907–69A1957
SeriesPrinted copyright indexes1907–15A1960

New South Wales

Victoria

Queensland

South Australia

Western Australia

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesLiterary copyright files (first series)1889–95A1722
SeriesRegister of copyright, numerical series (records held in Perth Office)1891–1907K17
SeriesLiterary copyright files (second series)1897–1907A1723

Selected artistic copyright records

Commonwealth

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesApplications for artistic copyright (with exhibits)1907–69A1861
SeriesRegisters of fine arts copyright1907–69A1958

New South Wales

Victoria

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesRegisters of proprietors of copyright, C series1870–1910A1187
SeriesArtistic copyright, C series1871–1913A1719

Queensland

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesName index to copyright works of art (records held in Brisbane Office)1890–1908BP5/12
SeriesFine arts copyright files1892–1906A1715

South Australia

Western Australia

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesRegister of copyright, numerical series (records held in Perth Office)1891–1907K17
SeriesFine arts copyright files1896–1906A1721
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017