Copyright Law, Readers and Authors in Colonial Australia


  • Sarah Ailwood
  • Maree Sainsbury


Australian literature, colonial copyright


This article explores the impact of imperial and domestic copyright law on Australian readers, authors and literary culture throughout the nineteenth century.  It investigates the effects of the Copyright Act 1842 on colonial readers, in terms of the cost and availability of books and the circulation of ideas, and uncovers Australian responses to the Foreign Reprints Act 1847.  It further explores the creation of domestic colonial copyright legislation and its links to an increase in the number of novels published as books in the 1870s and 1880s.  Drawing on recent empirical research exploring relationships between book publishing and the growth of a national literature, it argues that copyright law and policy are important considerations in fostering such histories of Australian literary culture.

Author Biographies

Sarah Ailwood

Assistant Professor
School of Law and Justice
University of Canberra

Maree Sainsbury

School of Law and Justice
University of Canberra