HL Deb 12 May 1915 vol 18 cc976-7


Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a Bill which has been introduced in the interests of the trustees of the British Museum, and the necessity for it arises through hasty legislation in the Copyright Act of 1911. That Act abolished registration at Stationers' Hall, which up to that time had been necessary to ensure copyright, and enacted that the publisher of every book published in the United Kingdom should send a copy, under penalties for failure to do so, to the British Museum. But by a section of that Act an advertisement is held to be included in the definition of a book, and therefore advertisers are entitled under the Act to send to the British Museum all their advertisements or labels or other things which they annex to their goods, and to require in each case a written receipt signed by the head of the department for each such advertisement so sent. One great drug firm has intimated that it will send 10,000 of these leaflets, pamphlets, and other advertisements every year. Each one of these has to be separately acknowledged, entered, and stored; and if other firms should act in a like manner your Lordships will see that great labour and expense would be caused to the trustees of the British Museum. Under this Bill the trustees will be protected. The Bill amends subsection (1) of Section 15 of the Act of 1911 by adding a proviso empowering the Board of Trade, on the application of the trustees of the British Museum, to make Regulations exempting from the provisions of the subsection publications wholly or mainly in the nature of trade advertisements. These Regulations would have to lie on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for a period of twenty-one days on which Parliament was sitting, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House within that period praying that any Regulation should be annulled, His Majesty in Council may declare the Regulation void.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Strachie.)


My Lords, as one who has been for more than thirty years a member of the Standing Committee of the British Museum I may, perhaps, be allowed to say a word in support of this Bill. It is indisputable that something of this kind is necessary. As regards the question of storage, the matter is a relatively small one. The difficulty is in cataloguing, arranging, and acknowledging these documents, which reach down to the actual labels which are stuck on various articles. It is a reductio ad absurdum that the rule that books should be sent by their publishers to the British Museum should include advertisements, pamphlets, and labels. The intention of this Bill is not in the least that the British Museum should evade such responsibility as it ought to have, but this amendment of Section 15 (1) of the Act of 1911 does prevent a use of that enactment which was never contemplated. I therefore venture to hope that your Lordships will agree to the passing of this Bill.


My Lords, I have myself brought forward Bills in former years having the same object as the Bill now before your Lordships. The inconvenience in question is an increasing one, and one with which it is sometimes extremely difficult to deal. I hope, therefore, that this measure will pass into law.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House to-morrow.