Words in Copyright Act vs Time


Words in Copyright Act vs Time

I have run some numbers on how the size of the (Australian) Copyright Act has changed over the past century or so.  With one exception, these numbers were generated automatically from electronic versions of the legislation.   Before counting the words I stripped out the table of contents and everything from “The Schedule” on.  This is because a bigger Act automatically means a larger table of contents and an older Act means more notes about when sections came into force, were repealed etc.  The one exception is the Copyright Act of 1905, a word count for which was estimated by manually counting words on 3 pages, generating an average per page and multiplying by the number of pages. There are a couple of versions of the Act from between 1905 and the 1970s which are not plotted (as I don’t have access to a full copy of them) but everything I could find from 1970 on is there.

The Statute of Anne (1709) has about 2,500 words in it.  It took roughly 200 years to reach 7,500 (in our 1905 Act).  For your reference, the NSW Conveyancing Act 1919 No6 (which actually does deal with property) has about 82,000 words (ie about the number of words added to the Copyright Act in the last 10 years).  We might speculate whether there will be enough paper in the world to even print the Act in 20 years’ time.

Here is the period from 1992

And, for a laugh, the BSAA reported piracy rate (from the annual reports produced by IDC etc) overlaid.  I would not want to endorse the BSAA numbers as they don’t seem to me to be well founded and any variation in them can easily be explained by changes in IDC’s sampling procedures/calculation methods.  In addition, they are advocacy documents so need to be taken with a grain of salt.

It is hard to see any relationship between the amount of legislation and the reported rate of piracy (which seems to be in a long term, albeit slow, decline).  To the extent there is a relationship, the reported rate seems to lead changes in legislation.

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5 Responses to “Words in Copyright Act vs Time”


  1. 1 Philip Argy 25 May 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Of equal if not greater interest is to compare the size of the Ten Commandments (the ones brought to us by Moses) with Clause 7 of the CHICKEN MEAT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL REGULATIONS which prescribes how the Minister for Agriculture is to determine the gross value of production of chicken meat (brougt to us by ComLaw): http://www.comlaw.gov.au/ComLaw/Legislation/LegislativeInstrument1.nsf/framelodgmentattachments/C87D80084E9584CFCA25759E0030A6DB

  2. 2 brendanscott 27 May 2010 at 8:24 am

    For everyone else’s benefit, Philip was my boss for a couple of years in the early 90s…


  1. 1 Links 29/5/2010: KTorrent 4.0, GNOME 2.31.2 | Techrights Trackback on 29 May 2010 at 9:52 pm
  2. 2 iiNet and the Sinking of the NBN « Brendan Scott’s Weblog Trackback on 1 June 2010 at 5:23 pm
  3. 3 High Court downs Inaction as Authorization in iiNet case « Brendan Scott’s Weblog Trackback on 20 April 2012 at 9:49 pm

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