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copyrights bequeathed to or anyhow ac-ed by either himself or his publisher. quired by them. We have also had good But in general the effect of this sort of and cheap editions of our own old Eng. understanding among the respectable part lish classics, mainly and chiefly because of the bookselling body was favourable though the monopoly of them was abolished by law, the custom of the trade came the Copyright Question,' by John Smith, LL.D., the
* It is stated, for example, in a MS. 'Essay on in lieu of the privilege.
head of a very respectable old bookselling house in Till very lately, whenever the works of Glasgow, that at the sale of Mr. Creech's literary any great old English author began to be property in Edinburgh, in 1816—that is, twenty scarce in the market, some half-a-dozen years after Burns's death, and consequently six
years after, as the law then stood, there could have eminent publishers met, and agreed to been any copyright in the last fragment of his take on themselves conjointly, in shares, poetry, the customary copyright of Burne's works the risk and cost of a new edition. From was sold for exactly 4,1601. ; and certainly this must their command of capital and the extent himself never received more than, at the utmost,
seem remarkable, when, as we all know, the poet of their combined connections throughout 9001. for all his literary labours. Since we have althe retail trade of the provinces, they luded to Dr. Smith, we may, observe ibat he was could venture to undertake what, in the the first of his profession who petitioned the Comexisting state of the law, no one house, tion was alluded to with high praise by one whose however respectable, could have dreamt praise is worth something --Lord Mahon. We ex. of—because no single firm could have tract part of it:been sure that some equally powerful rival • That your petitioner has for upwards of thirtý would not be in the field on the same day years past exercised the profession of publisher and or the next. Moreover, it is a fact highly ously been carried on by his grandfather and father honourable to the booksellers as a body in the said city since the year 1751. That the of traders, that they were very slow to question of copyright consequently became frequent. avail themselves, as against each other, of hy the subject of consideration to your petitioner, and
that about twenty years ago he wrote an Essay the legal decision of 1774. A strong feel- claiming for authors the perpetuity of their own ing remained that the man who had run copyrighi, the argument of which was fouced the hazards of a publication should not be upon the established principles of law, equity, and early or rashly interfered with in the com and competence by the sale of books published of
your petitioner has obtained estate mercial management of his volumes. We sold by him, which property he has a right to entail have often seen this customary sort of or give in legacy for the benefit of his heirs, while monopoly grossly exaggerated as to the the parties who have produced the works that have extent of its operation ; it was never an enriched him have no interest for their heirs by the
present law of copyright in the property which they unquestioned thing, and it was every now have solely constituted. That in many instances and then broken in upon; but a more fre. the limitation of the period of copyright by the prequent complaint, and (however hard par. sent law deprives authors of distinguished talent ticular cases might appear) a far more which they exhausted their time and intellect, and
and learning of adequate remuneration for works on groundless one, was that it operated in- by which ihey essentially promoted the virtue and juriously towards the class of authors. happiness of mankind. That the reserve of copySometimes, without doubt, the degree of right to authors who have survived the term of sale advantage thus retained for a publisher's allowed by the present law has been highly benefiestate appeared to contrast painfully with participated in by the heirs of authors who pre-dethe condition of an author, or the imme- ceased previous to the expiry of the period limited diate descendants of an author, who had, by the Act.-That if authors or their descendants from want of foresight or under pressure would be the interest of the lessee to provide accu
were entitled to grant leases of their copyrights, it of poverty, disposed of his work before
rate copics, and at prices adapted to the circum. the value of even its legal copyright-ofstances of all publishers. That your petitioner perhaps only fourteen years' duration, craves that a clause may be inserted in the Bill behad been at all comprehended or suspect. thor can dispose of copyright at any one time for &
your Honourable House, providing that no au. ed disgraceful to the legislature; but Oxford, Cam- longer period than twenty one years, at the expiry of bridge, and even Eton, &c., had influence enough which period the copyright to revert to the author or to get all this secured to them by a special statute his family.—That the present acknowledgment of the year after the House of Lords put an end to the works that were long neglected supports the propriety perpetuity claim of authors as to their own books! and equity of such a limitation. That your peti. In 1775 parliament renewed to these powerful and tioner is decidedly of opinion that the cultivation of wealthy corporations what it had in 1774 for ever the national literature would be cherished and abolished as to individual writers and their natural strengthened by the proposed extension of the term heirs or ordinary assignees. The Scotch universities, of copyright.' on their part, had exemptions from various taxes, on We do not at all adopt Dr. Smith's plan ; but it is paper, &c., which gave them a practical perpetuity | very agreeable to have to point to such a paper as of copyright also, or advantages very nearly equi. coming, not from an author by profession, but : valent.
bookseller of large experience.
both to the public and to the really meri- tide was turned against high original lite-
lect? It seems to us very doubtful that But this whole system has of late been the supply of good accurate editions of disturbed to its foundation. The enor-old books, unless in some comparatively mous increased facility of printing, through rare cases, can be maintained. Look at the introduction of steam.power, and the the reprints of the American press-or enormous increased appetite for reading, the Belgian pirates—and say, on what have come together, and acted and re- grounds we are to expect a succession of acted on each other to such an extent, better things here, when the conventional that already, after the lapse of but a few system of protection for old copies shall years, we cannot be blind to the near con- have been utterly destroyed. But, at any summation of the inevitable revolution. rate, what has hitherto been a principal
, The aggressive spirit of the age is visible though not legally fortified, motive in the everywhere - nowhere more than here. undertaking of such new publications as When so many privileges, possessing all cannot be expected to gratify public appe. the sanction of law, were exposed to hour. tite on the instant, so as to excite a vast ly attacks—so many overthrown at once, demand and bring a large immediate inor after brief resistance—so many more coming of money—that will be no more. reduced to a conscious imbecility and tot- As to what classes of new books are we tering uneasiness—what chance was there to look for eagerness on the part of for a mere tenure of conventional usage booksellers, except those which shall to stand its ground in the face of such either promise a prodigious immediate potent temptations?
demand on the part of the public, or infer Accordingly, the leading publishers of but a very small demand on the part of the kingdom, as soon as the real objects the author ? of Mr. Talfourd's movement were under There could be no chance for success stood by them, petitioned, we believe in any attempt to procure for the publishwithout exception, in favour of his bill. ers, as a separate class, a legal substitute They perceived plainly, that unless some for the customary protection that has rechange were made in the law, it could no ceived its death-blow. We do not see longer be for their interest to risk their how, as regards the period of protection, capital in great undertakings;-and they they can be placed in a position saw-zon we inay be sure very ample re- favourable to the great national interests flection—no plan so feasible for prolong- at stake, otherwise than through and in ing their interest in adventures of that the author; whose natural claim has in it high class as the enactment of
a law which a strength acknowledged of all candid should entitle the author to an assured men. In what precise manner the auprolongation of the usufruct of his work thor's, and through him the bookseller'e,
They probably were not very sanguine interest might best be extended or inin their anticipations of the result of their creased, it is not our business to decide, petitions. They probably feared that the we have the examples of France and
Prussia before us, and we may at least ! au même degré, de s'en remettre au prix que say that no other plan has as yet been demanderait l'auteur. Que serait-ce, en effet
, suggested here, of which M. Renouard's autre chose que de lui confirer le privilège d'extreatise does not furnish abundant proof tribuer franchement le monopole sur son ouvrage
ploitation ? Il vaudrat mieux mille fois lui atthat it had been proposed, and explained, que d'arriver au même résultat par cette voie and very leisurely considered in both those détournée. countries, before they formed their actual • Demandera-t-on à la loi de déterminer une codes. *
redevance fixe ? mais quoi de plus injuste qu'une There is a party in France, in whose mesure fixe, rendue commune à des objets esfavour the eminent bookseller, Bossange, le nombre des exemplaires, l'étendue du volume,
sentiellement inégaux? Prendrait-on pour base has written and published a pan phlet, son prix de vente? mais il est des ouvrages dont according to whom the true wisdom cent ou cinq cents, ou mille exemplaires suffiront would be to make the control over the à jamais à la consommation, tandis que d'autres press terminate with the author's life, but se débitent par dix et cent mille: mais l'étendue give his heir a right to be paid by any du volume varie avec tous les caprices de la fahouse that chose to print the book there- brication : mais le prix est plus variable encore. after a per centage on the profits of their Sans parler des hausses et des baisses dont peredition. During what number of years cilité des fictions dans les prix, et de l'impossi
sonne n'est maître, sans parler de l'extrême fathis right should be protected, they do not bilité de les constater, ne sait-on pas que l'on seem to be agreed. Such a right for ever fabrique des Télémaque à vingt sous, et d'autres, was, as we have seen, the principle under qui ne seront pas trop chers à cent ou deux cents the old Prussian law. It was found ex. francs ? Avec le texte qui ne varie point, il faut tremely difficult to enforce even in that parler du papier, des caractères d'impression, country, where the printers were few in soires de gravure ou autres, objets tous variables
des soins typographiques, des ornernens accescomparison with ours, and all obliged to à l'infini. Si votre redevance a pour base une be (as is still the case even in France) re- valeur proportionnelle, chaque Télémaque de gistered and licensed. We are at a loss deux cents francs produira, pour le seul droit de to conjecture how it could be rendered of copie, plus que ne vaudra, dans l'autre édition, practical avail here in the case of any chaque exemplaire tout fabriqué; et cependant book possessing remarkable attractions ;
ce sera toujours le même texte qui n'aura pas surely, in such cases, the competitors l'autre.
plus de valeur intrinsèque dans un cas que dans would crush each other to nothing in the Resterait un dernier mode de fixation; il squeeze. But our readers may be willing consisterait, en cas de désaccord entre le débito see how this question is disposed of ieur de la redevance et l'auteur, dans un règleby the principal French authority : ment par experts, variable suivant les circon
stances. Mais qui ne voit tous les frais, tous • Examinons les inconvéniens inhérens au
les délais, tous les procès auxquels chaque afmode de redevance considéré en lui-même.
faire donnerait lieu, pour n'être, la plupart du .
Ce qui le rend inadmissible, c'est l'impossi- temps, que trés capricieusement décidée ??-Rebilité d'une fixation régulière, et l'excessive dif- nouard, vol. i., pp. 464, 465. ficulté de la perception. • Peut être, à force de soins, surmonterait-on
Lord Howick, in the course of one of les obstacles à la perception; mais, quant à la the debates, alluded to M. Bossange's fisation de la redevance, le règlement en est plan as worthy of consideration. He did impossible. Cette fixation ne peut dépendre ni de la vo- mind, however, on the subject : except
not appear to have at all made up his lonté arbitraire de l'auteur, ni de l'évaluation that i no doubt some alteration is necessa: qui jugerait à propos de faire toute personne qui voudrait user du droit de copie. s'en rapporter ry; no doubt, under the existing statutes, à l'appréciation du débiteur de la redevance est too much advantage is given to the authors une absurdité manifeste; mais il serait absurde, of ephemeral productions, over those
whose works require deep research and
deep thought.'* * We have already expressed a hope that whoever Sir John, now Lord Campbell, was of undertakes the drawing of a new Literary Property the same opinion with Lord Howick, and Bill may study the Prussian code in all its details
: Mr. Buller, and almost all the educated completely all the hackneyed objections about im- Whigs who spoke, that something must be peding the manufacture and improvement of school. done; but, as might not unnaturally occur books, books of extract, &c. &c. Perhaps some of with an 'attorney-general, he was for sight too liberal; but we are assured that in practice leaving the
law as it stands, only giving they are found to work well, and though we need the Privy Council the power to extend not adopt one of them literally, without caresul consideration, we believe their tenour in general would afford e valuable guidance.
* Mirror of Parliament for Feb. 4, 1840.
the author's privilege, as they now can a The great stream will be lost in a delta of patentee's, on special cause of grievance ditches; and that would be a disgrace and hardship shown. Our objections to which all the bleaching agents in Manthis are many. For one thing, we are chester could never wipe out. far from sure that the Privy Council, not We have declined offering any scheme withstanding the splendid elements that for a new bill as to the extension of copybody includes, could supply a proper right: but we are clearly of opinion that regularly working tribunal ; secondly, nothing can be done that would really there would always be a suspicion that promote the interest of good authors, un. government or party favour had inter- less it should also directly tend to keep vened; and thirdly, not to go any farther, up the character of our publishing trade. why should any author be called on to And we may here say a word on another present himselfas, in his own opinion, novelty most injurious to this honourable entitled to a special measure of protec- profession—the publishers who still do tion? The more clear his deserts, the produce books of their own, and limit not more would be his reluctance to stand in their views to the watch of expiring copy. that invidious attitude before those claim- rights; and this is a grievance which ing to be his peers. In fact, we strongly exists only in the non-enforcement of the suspect that this, like another scheme existing law-we mean the constant in. which some of the Radical pamphleteers troduction of foreign impressions of Eng. are so generous as to propose, that of a lish works still under statutory protection. new Academy, with settled pensions for The same evil operates elsewhere-the different classes of merit, would end in a French booksellers are robbed in this way nest of jobs. These seem to be about the by the pirates of Belgium and Switzerland worst shapes in which the old plan of to a prodigious extent; and, we are sorry patronage could be attempted to be revived. to say, we have looked in vain for any
It is something, however, to have such contradiction of a statement which lately persons as these, high and low, on our ran the round of the European Journals
, side, in allowing that there is a clear ne- to the effect that King Leopold had in his cessity for doing something which shall own royal person urged on the thieves of hold out higher inducements to the un- his Brussels press the wisdom and pro. dertaking of really high and noble tasks priety of extending their field of industry in science and in literature. If nothing by laying the holders of German copy. be done, it is pretty obvious that one re- rights also under systematic contribution sult, not likely to be contemplated with to their respectable exchequer. The sea particular satisfaction by the democratical renders our protection against smuggling levelling spirit of our times, must ensue. generally more easy than can be hoped Mr. Macaulay serenely tells us, that we for in the case of countries having a long cannot look for literature to the rich and conterminous line of frontier ; but the noble. The desire of distinction may Custom-house allows every English traprompt to labour, but generally, in a veller from the Continent to bring home country with institutions like ours, this with him one copy, for his personal use, desire among men born to wealth and of each of as many foreign-printed Eng. station takes a political direction. We lish books as he chooses; and this opens have always had, and we certainly have the door for illicit importation on a scale now, a fair proportion of our supply from which does interfere very seriously althe most fortunate classes of society ; but ready, and must do so more and more Mr. Macaulay states the general fact ac- every year, with the just profit of the curately. Unless something be done, how. English author and publisher. Before a ever, we shall have none to look to but new book by an author of any considerathe first-born of the Egyptians. Literary ble reputation in the lighter branches, or and scientific eminence must become a of really high and established name in any prize reserved for the exclusive ambition department, has been on the London of the rich. No able man, who has not counter for a week, it is reprinted at inherited the means of pecuniary inde- Brussels and Paris—badly and inaccu. pendence, will devote himself to any work rately, but very cheaply—and in a month involving the necessity of much costly every meretricious little lounging-place preparation of any sort, and then much called a Library in our coast-towns, and time in the execution. The already suffi- by and by all over the interior, can be ciently developed tendency will become, supplied with as many copies of the year after year, more marked in its effects! pirate's volumes as there is any demand
for among such customers as theirs. The | 110) when about to notice Mr. Macaulay's speech London publishers find it impossible to of Feb. 5, 1841. We felt that these observaresist effectually this continual invasion tions ought to be considered apart from anything
of ours. of their rights; in fact, they have of late abandoned all thought of resistance; and • To the Editor of the Kendal Mercury. such is the audacity inspired by the experience of inipunity, that if our reader
* 12th April, 1938. will refer to the catalogues stitched up
"Sir,-Having read in your paper of the 7th with the number of · Bentley's Miscellany instant a petition against Sergeant Talfourd's for this month, he will see very modern and others employed in the town of Kendal, to
Copyright Bill from the compositors, pressmen, English books openly advertised for sale, be presented to the House of Commons by the with the inviting blazon of French Im- representative of that place, I am induced to pression.'
make a few remarks upon the same, in which I But even this is a mere trifle compared shall endeavour to be brief. with the effects of custom-house negli
* In the first clause the petitioners declare gence about pirate-books imported into
" that they view with alarm and regret the
measure to repeal the existing law, and to subthe British dependencies abroad. It is a stitute a law highly injurious to the interests of fact well known to every English publisher, the community, the literature of the country, that no matter what he pays for his copy- and more particularly to the interests of the peright—no matter how carefully he has his titioners." book printed—no matter how reasonable
• The effect of the extension of copyright prothe price he asks for it-he has no chance posed in Sergeant Talfourd's bill would, accordof drawing any profit from the sale of his ing to the words of the petitioners, be to render book in the vast market of our colonial ier, or confine them to the hands of the wealthy,
works having that privilege “a mere dead letempire. The East and West Indies are and could not be productive of any real advanwholly supplied by the pirates of the tage to the authors." United States. A new English book is • If certainties and probabilities be looked at necessarily dearer than a new French, with more discernment than is shown by these Belgian, or American one-even laying which there is a great demand would be sure of
petitioners, it will be found that a book for payment for authorship out of the ques. being supp'ied to the public under any circumtion-by reason of the higher rate of stances; but a good book for which there might wages enjoyed by English paper-makers, be a continued demand, though not a large one, printers of every class, and binders—and would be much more sure of not becoming a also of the greatly heavier duties imposed “ dead letter,” if the proposed law were enacted
It is well known among here on every article which enters into than if it were not. the material fabric of the book. But,
the intelligent that the non-existence of copythough every care is taken about levying hindrance to the republication of standard works.
right for English authors in America is a great these heavy taxes on the publisher's man. The speculation being left open to unlimited ufacture, no care at all has been taken competition, publishers do not risk their capital, about securing him in the profits which fearing that some one may afford to undersell ought to be the recompense of his enter- them by sending forth the work incorrectly and prise. Every complaint is met by a meanly executed ; and thus they who wish to
be possessed of standard works are in many cases solemn shrug, and something about 'practical difficulty. We venture to say, that disappointed. So much for valuable works be
coming, through the proposed bill, a “dead if the Government would name a com- letier. mission, consisting of half-a-dozen expe *Further, it is well known that readers in the rienced booksellers and as many shrewd humbler ranks of society are multiplying most lawyers, there would be no practical rapidly. Is it then to be supposed that the difficulty in obtaining the details of a re- possessors of copyright would be blind to this gulation that would effectually stop this ing an object of request to the people at large,
, a of disgraceful mischief.
would be so unmindful of their own interests as We shall not at present enter upon a not to supply a widely-increasing demand at a very interesting question closely connect- reduced price ? Besides, as long as the privied with all the main topics of this paper lege remained in the hands of the author's -the possibility of a general agreement children or descendants, who can doubt that for the international protection of copy- the circulation of his works, not merely for their
they would be peculiarly prompted to extend rights. This large and important theme own pecuniary advantage, but out of respect or must be reserved.
reverence for his memory, and to fulfil what
could not but be presumed to be his wish ? We now invite the reader's attention to In the next clause it is asserted that the the anonymous letter which we alluded to (p. profits enjoyed by literary men of the present