Attorney-General v Edison Telephone Company of London: 1880

The 1869 Act gave the Postmaster-General a monopoly of transmitting telegrams. Telegrams were defined as messages transmitted by telegraph. A telegraph was defined to include ‘any apparatus for transmitting messages or other communications by means of electric signals’. When the Act was introduced the only such means of communication functioned by interrupting and re-establishing electric current, thereby causing a series of clicks which conveyed information by morse code. Then Bell and Edison invented the telephone which conveyed the human voice by wire by means of an entirely novel process. It was argued that because this process was unknown when the Act was passed, the Act could not apply to it. The Court rejected this submission. Giving the judgment of the Exchequer Division, Stephen J said: ‘Of course no one supposes that the legislature intended to refer specifically to telephones many years before they were invented, but it is highly probable that they would, and it seems to us clear that they actually did, use language embracing future discoveries as to the use of electricity for the purpose of conveying intelligence. The great object of the Act of 1863 was to give special powers to telegraph companies to enable them to open streets, lay down wires, take land, suspend wires over highways, connect wires, erect posts on the roofs of houses, and do many other things of the same sort. The Act, in short, was intended to confer powers and to impose duties upon companies established for the purpose of communicating information by the action of electricity upon wires, and absurd consequences would follow if the nature and extent of those powers and duties were made dependent upon the means employed for the purpose of giving the information.’
Stephen J
(1880) 6 QBD 244
Telegraph Act of 1869
England and Wales
Cited by:
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A cloned cell, a cell produced by cell nuclear replacement came within the definition of embryo under the Act. The Act required that fertilisation was complete.
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CitedRegina (Smeaton) v Secretary of State for Health and Others Admn 18-Apr-2002
The claimant challenged the Order as regards the prescription of the morning-after pill, asserting that the pill would cause miscarriages, and that therefore the use would be an offence under the 1861 Act.
Held: ‘SPUC’s case is that any . .
CitedRegina (Smeaton) v Secretary of State for Health and Others Admn 18-Apr-2002
The claimant challenged the Order as regards the prescription of the morning-after pill, asserting that the pill would cause miscarriages, and that therefore the use would be an offence under the 1861 Act.
Held: ‘SPUC’s case is that any . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 23 January 2021; Ref: scu.180042