Robert Burrell

Frederick Watson Fellow 2005

Topic: The history of copyright reform in Australia in the period 1900–13

Biographical note

Mr Robert Burrell is Associate Professor in the School of Law at the University of Queensland and Associate Director of the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture. He has published widely and contributed to current debates on intellectual property, particularly copyright.

His book Copyright Exemptions: The Digital Impact was published by Cambridge University Press in 2005.


Robert Burrell used his Fellowship to examine the history of copyright reform in Australia in the period 1900–13. His research explored Australia’s role in the development of copyright law, a history that challenges the traditional image of Australia as a passive recipient of British laws and British legal technologies. His work focused on the copyright code of 1905, which preceded British codification by six years. Mr Burrell argues that recognition in the early 1900s that the increasing number of sound recordings were of economic and cultural importance, gave impetus to copyright changes.

The National Archives’ collection is a rich resource for research in intellectual property and Australian legal history more generally. Departmental minutes and correspondence, drafting notes, correspondence with copyright stakeholders, and correspondence between the Commonwealth and the Imperial Government shed light on the role Australia played in shaping legislation and influencing other nations.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018