Few colonial novels have permeated Australia’s literary psyche to the extent of Marcus Clarke’s convict novel, His Natural Life. Yet, in spite of the popularity of this tale, it is often said that Clarke was unable to exploit its success financially due to the copyright laws in force in the colonies and the British empire at that time. In this paper, I analyse those colonial copyright statutes and illustrate the confusion that both Clarke and contemporary publishers experienced when dealing with copyright and how this affected re-publication of the story. I subsequently evaluate four issues with respect to colonial and imperial copyright and the protection of His Natural Life: the subsistence of copyright in the original serial version; the ownership of that copyright; and copyright protection for the subsequent 1874 Robertson and 1875 Bentley book editions, in the colonies and the United Kingdom respectively.
Date of this Version
Catherine Bond, "‘Curse the Law!’: unravelling the copyright complexities in Marcus Clarke’s His Natural Life" (November 2010). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2010. Working Paper 50.