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SPEECH ON THE MOTION FOR THE SECOND READING OF THE
BILL TO AMEND THE LAW OF COPYRIGHT,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 1838.
MR. SPEAKER,- When I had the honour last controversy of to-night by stating at once what year to move the second reading of a bill I regard to be the principle of this bill, and call essentially similar to the present, I found it on honourable members now to affirm-and unnecessary to trouble the house with a single what I regard as matters of mere detail, which remark; for scarcely a trace then appeared it is unnecessary at this moment to consider. of the opposition which has since gathered That principle is, that the present term of around it. I do not, however, regret that the copyright is much too short for the attainment measure was not carried through the legisla- of that justice which society owes to authors, ture by the current of feeling which then pre- especially to those (few though they be) whose vailed in its favour, but that opportunity has reputation is of slow growth and of enduring been afforded for the full discussion of the character. Whether that term shall be exclaims on which it is founded, and of the con- tended from its present length to sixty years, sequences to individuals and to the public that or to some intermediate period—whether it may be expected from its operation. Believing, shall commence at the death of the author or as I do, that the interests of those who, by at the date of first publication-in what man. intellectual power, laboriously and virtuously ner it shall be reckoned in the cases of works exerted, contribute to the delight and instruc- given to the world in portions-are questions tion of mankind-of those engaged in the me- of detail on which I do not think the house are chanical processes by which those labours are to-night required to decide. On the one hand, made effectual—and of the people who at once I do not ask honourable members to vote for enjoy and reward them, are essentially one; the second reading of this bill merely because believing that it is impossible at the same time they think there are some uncertainties in the to enhance the reward of authors, and to injure law of copyright which it is desirable to those who derive their means of subsistence remove, or some minor defects which they are from them—and desiring only that this bill prepared to remedy. On the other hand, I enshall succeed if it shall be found, on the fullest treat them not to reject it on account of any discussion, that it will serve the cause of objections to its mere details; but as they may intellect in its noblest and most expanded think the legalized property of authors suffisense; I rejoice that all classes who are ciently prolonged and secured, or requiring a interested in reality or in belief in the proposed substantial extension, to oppose or to support it. change have had the means of presenting their In maintaining the claim of authors to this statements and their reasonings to the con- extension, I will not intrude on the time of the sideration of Parliament, and of urging them house with any discussion on the question of with all the zeal which an apprehension of law-whether perpetual copyright had existpecuniary loss can inspire. I do not, indeed, ence by our common law; or of the philodisguise that the main and direct object of the sophical question, whether the claim to this bill is to insure to authors of the highest and extent is founded in natural justice. On the most enduring merit a larger share in the first point, it is sufficient for me to repeat, fruits of their own industry and genius than what cannot be contradicted, that the existence our law now accords to them; and whatever of the legal right was recognised by a large fate may attend the endeavour, I feel with majority of the judges, with Lord Mansfield at satisfaction that it is the first which has been their head, after solemn and repeated argumade substantially for the benefit of authors, ment; and that six to five of the judges only and sustained by no interest except that which determined that the stringent words " and no the appeal on their behalf to the gratitude of longer in the statute of Anne had taken that those whose minds they have enriched, and right away. And even this I do not call in aid whose lives they have gladdened, has enkindled. so much by way of legal authority, as evidence The statutes of Anne and of George III., espe- of the feeling of those men (nighty, though cially the last, were measures suggested and few,) to whom our infant literature was conmaintained by publishers; and it must be con- fided by Providence, and of those who were in soling to the silent toilers after fame, who in early time able to estimate the labour which this country have no ascertained rank, no civil we inherit. On the second point I will say distinction, in their hours of weariness and nothing; unable, indeed, to understand why anxiety to feel that their claim to consideration that which springs wholly from within, and has been cheerfully recognised by Parliament, contracts no other right by its usurpation, is and that their cause, however feebly presented, to be regarded as baseless, because, by the has been regarded with respect and with sym- condition of its very enjoyment, it not only pathy.
enlarges the source of happiness to readers, In order that I may trespass as briefly as I but becomes the means of mechanical employcan on the indulgence with which this subjectment to printers, and of speculation to pubhas been treated, I will attempt to narrow the lishers. I am con to adopt the interme
diate course, and to argue the question, whe-| ing compensation is stopped when it mos! ther a fair medium between two extremes has should increase. Now, surely, as to them, the been chosen. What is to be said in favour of question is not what remuneration is sufficient the line now drawn, except that it exists and in the judgment of the legislature to repay for bears an antiquity commencing in 1814? Is certain benefactions to society, but whether, there any magic in the term of twenty-eight having won the splendid reward, our laws shall years? Is there any conceivable principle of permit the winner to enjoy it? We could not justice which bounds the right, if the author decide the abstract question between genius survives that term, by the limit of his natural and money, because there exist no common life? As far as expediency shall prevail-properties by which they can be tested, if we as far as the welfare of those for whom it is were dispensing an arbitrary reward; but the the duty and the wish of the dying author to question how much the author ought to receive provide, may be regarded by Parliament; the is easily answered-so much as his readers period of his death is precisely that when they are delighted to pay him. When we say that will most need the worldly comforts which the he has obtained immense wealth by his writproperty in his works would confer. And, as ings, what do we assert, but that he has multifar as analogy may govern, the very attribute plied the sources of enjoyment to countless which induces us to regard with pride the readers, and lightened thousands of else sad, works of intellect is, that they survive the or weary, or dissolute hours? The two promortal course of those who framed them that positions are identical; the proof of the one they are akin to what is deathless. Why at once establishing the other. Why, then, should that quality render them profitless to should we grudge it, any more than we would those in whose affectionate remembrance their reckon against the soldier, not the pension or author still lives, while they attest a nobler the grant, but the very prize-money which immortality? Indeed, among the opponents attests the splendour of his victories, and in the of this measure, it is ground of cavil that it is amount of his gains proves the extent of ours ! proposed to take the death of the author as a complaints have been made by one in the starting point for the period which it adds to foremost rank in the opposition to this bill, the the present term. It is urged as absurd that pioneer of the noble army of publishers, bookeven the extent of this distant period should sellers, printers, and bookbinders, who are ar. be affected by the accident of death; and yet rayed against it*-that in selecting the case those who thus argue are content to support of Sir Walter Scott as an instance in which the the system which makes that accident the final extension of copyright would be just, I had boundary at which the living efficacy of been singularly unfortunate, because that authorship, for the advantage of its professors, great writer received, during the period of subceases.
sisting copyright, an unprecedented revenue I perfectly agree with the publishers in the from the immediate sale of his works. But, evidence given in 1818, and the statements sir, the question is not one of reward—it is which have been repeated more recently—that the extension of time will be a benefit only in * This allusion has been singularly misconceived by one case in five hundred of works now issuing the gentleman to whom it applies-Mr. Ters, who thus
notices it in his letter “To the Editor of the Times," of from the press; and I agree with them that 20th Feb., 1839 : "The learned serjeant calls me a pioneer we are legislating for that five hundredth case. of literature, because I open my shop for the sale of books, Why not? It is the great prize which, out of and not for the encouragement of authors; but what is the five hundred risks, genius and goodness one in a thousand would allege that he bought a book for
the object of my customers who buy the books? Not win. It is the benefit that can only be achieved the encouragement of the author; they come to procure by that which has stood the test of time-of
the means of amusement, information, or instruction. The
learned serjeant-a liberal-a friend to literature, a prothat which is essentially true and pure-of that moter of education--persists in bringing forward an ex which has survived spleen, criticism, envy, post facto law, to counteract the advantages of education. and the changing fashions of the world. Grani- to check the diffusion of literature, and to abridge the
innocent entertainment of the public, by enhancing the ed that only one author in five hundred attains price of books. I glory in the difference of our position.” this end; does it not invite many to attempt it, it will be seen by the comparison of the text and the and impress on literature itself a visible mark comment, that Mr. Tegy is mistaken in supposing I had
called him “a pioneer of literature." I only called him of permanence and of dignity? The writers the pioneer of the opponents of the bill;--and that he is who attain it must belong to one of two classes. equally mistaken in supposing that I complained that he The first class consists of authors who have opens his shop for the sale of books, and not for the en
couragement of authors. I ask for no encouragement to laboured to create the taste which should ap- authors, but that which arises from the purchase of books preciate and reward them, and only attain that by those who seek in them “ the means of amusement, reputation which brings with it a pecuniary themselves for their own benefit: -and I venture to recompense when the term for which that re-think that, as the gains of the publisher are just as effecward is secured to them wanes. Is it unjust tually added to the price of a book as those of its author, in this case, which is that of Wordsworth, now
it would be as beneficial to the public if the author of a
book shared in the profit with the bookseller, even after in the evening of life, and in the dawn of his the period to which the law now confines his interest fame, to allow the author to share in the re
in his own work, and when Mr. Tegg's good office in muneration that society tardily awards him? So far from regarding Mr. Tegg as the “ pioneer of lite
"opening his shop for its sale" sometimes comrnences. The other classes includes those who, like Sir ramure." have always contemplated himn in the very Walter Scott, have combined the art of minis- opposite position,-as a follower of the march, whom
the law allows to collect the spoils which it denies tering to immediate delight with that of out to the soldier who has fought for them. He has abunlasting successive races of imitators and ap- dant reason, no doubt, " 10 glory in the difference of his parent rivals; who do receive a large actual position" and mine; but he quite mistakes his own, if he
ihink he has any relation to literature, except as the amount of recompense, but whose accumulat- | depository of its winnings.
one of justice. How would this gentleman / author. It will not be denied that it is desiraapprove of the application of a similar rule to ble to extend the benefit to both classes, if it his own honest gains ? From small beginnings can be done without injury to the public, or to this very publisher has, in the fair and honour- subsisting individual interests. The suggested able course of trade, I doubt not, acquired a injury to the public is, that the price of books splendid fortune, amassed by the sale of works, would be greatly enhanced; and on this asthe property of the public-of works, whose sumption the printers and bookbinders have authors have gone to their repose, from the been induced to sustain the publishers in refevers, the disappointments, and the jealousies sisting a change which is represented as tendwhich await a life of literary toil. Who grudges ing to paralyze speculation-to cause fewer it to him? Who doubts his title to retain it? books to be written, printed, bound, and bought And yet this gentleman's fortune is all, every -to deprive the honest workmen of their subfarthing of it, so much taken from the public, sistence, and the people of the opportunity of in the sense of the publisher's argument; it is enjoying the productions of genius. Even if all profit on books bought by that public, the such consequences are to be dreaded, and jusaccumulation of pence, which, if he had sold tice requires the sacrifice, it ought to be made. his books without profit, would have remained The community have no right to be enriched in the pockets of the buyers. On what princi. at the expense of individuals, nor is the Liple is Mr. Tegg to retain what is denied to Sir berty of the Press (magic words, which I have Walter? Is it the claim of superior merit? heard strangely blended in the dip of this conIs it greater toil? Is it larger public service ? troversy) the liberty to smuggle and to steal. His course, I doubt not, has been that of an Still, if to these respectable petitioners, men honest laborious tradesman ; but what have often of intelligence and refinement beyond been its anxieties, compared to the stupendous their sphere, which they have acquired from labour, the sharp agonies of him, whose deadly their mechanical association with literature, alliance with those very trades whose mem. I could think the measure fraught with such bers oppose me now, and whose noble resola- mischiefs, I should regard it with distrust tion to combine the severest integrity with the and alarm. But never, surely, were the aploftiest genius, brought him to a premature prehensions of intelligent men so utterly grave—a grave which, by the operation of the baseless. In the first place, I believe that the law, extends its chillness even to the result of existence of the copyright, even in that fivethose labours, and despoils them of the living hundredth case, would not enhance the price efficacy to assist those whom he has left to of the fortunate work; for the author or the mourn him ?
Let any man contemplate that bookseller, who enjoys the monopoly, as it is heroic struggle of which the affecting record called, is enabled to supply the article at a has just been completed; and turn from the much cheaper rate when a single press is resad spectacle of one who had once rejoiced in quired to print all the copies offered for sale, the rapid creation of a thousand characters instead of the presses and establishments of glowing from his brain, and stamped with in- competing publishers; and I believe a comdividuality for ever, straining the fibres of the parison between the editions of standard works mind till the exercise which had been delight in which there is copyright, with those in became torture-girding himself to the mighty which there is none, would confirm the truth task of achieving his deliverance from the load of the inference.* To cite, as an instance to which pressed upon him, and with brave en the contrary, “Clarendon's History of the Redeavour, but relaxing strength, returning to the bellion," is to confess that a fair lest would toil till his faculties give way, the pen falls disprove the objection ; for what analogy is from his hand on the unmarked paper, and the there between the motives and the acts of a silent tears of half-conscious imbecility fall great body, having no personal stimulus or upon it—to some prosperous bookseller in his interest, except to retain what is an ornament country house, calculating the approach of the to their own power, and those of a number of time (too swiftly accelerated) when he should individual proprietors? But, after all, it is be able to publish for his own gain those works only in this five-hundredth case—the one rare fatal to life,—and then tell me, if we are to ap- prize in this huge lottery—that even this effect portion the reward to the effort, where is the is to be dreaded. Now, this effect is the posjustice of the bookseller's claim ? Had Sir sible enhancing the price of the five-hundredth Walter Scott been able to see, in the distance, or five-thousandth book, and this is actually an extension of his own right in his own pro- supposed “ to be a heavy blow and great disductions, his estate and his heart had been set couragement to literature,” enough to paralyze free, and the publishers and printers, who are the energies of publishers, and to make Paterour opponents now, would have been grateful noster-row a desert! Let it only be announced, to him for a continuation of labour and re- say our opponents, that an author, whose works wards which would have impelled and aug. may outlast twenty-eight years, shall bequeath mented their own.
to his children the right which he enjoyed, that These two classes comprise, of necessity, all the instances in which the proposed change The case of the Scriptures seems decisive on this would operate at all; the first, that of those point,-on which the entire argument against the bill whose copyright only becomes valuable just right; and does any one believe it would be cheaper as it is about to expire ; the last, that of whose than it is if it were ihe subject of competition? The truth works which, at once popular and lasting, is, that the only way in which the printer could suffer by
the extension of copyright is by a process which would have probably, in the season of their first suc
make books cheaper ;-the employment of one press, incess, enriched the publisher far more than the stead of many, to produce the same number of copies.
possibly some sixpence a volume may be added a smaller term, and really assign a greater? to its price in such an event, and all the ma- | Now, either the publishers have no interest in chinery of printing and publication will come the main question, or this is that interest. If to a pause! Why, sir, the same apprehension this is that interest, how will the public lose was entertained in 1813, when the publishers by paying their extra sixpence to the author sought to obtain the extension of copyright for who created the work, instead of the gentleman their own advantage to twenty-eight years. who prints his name at the foot of the titleThe printers then dreaded the effect of the page, and who will still take bis 25 per cent. prolonged monopoly: they petitioned against on the copies he may sell? This argument the bill, and they succeeded in delaying it for applies, and, I apprehend, conclusively, to the a session. And surely they had then far greater main question—the justice and expediency of plausibility in their terrors; for in proportion extending the term. I am aware that there is as the period at which the contemplated exten- another ground of complaint more plausible, sion begins is distant, its effects must be in- which does not apply to the main question, but distinct and feeble. Fewer books, of course, to what is called the retrospective clause-a will survive twenty-eight years than fourteen ; complaint, that in cases where the extended the act of 1814 operated on the greater number term will revert to the family of the author, if at all; and has experience justified the fears instead of excluding, by virtue of an implied which the publishers then laughed to scorn ? compact, all the rest of the world, they, like all Has the number of books diminished since the rest of the world, will be excluded; that they then? Has the price of books been enhanced? had a right to calculate on this liberty in comHas the demand for the labour of printers or mon with others when they made this bargain ; bookbinders slackened? Have the profits of and that, therefore, it is a violation of faith to the bookseller failed? I need no committee deprive them of their share of the common of inquiry to answer these questions, and they benefit
. That there is any violation of faith I are really decisive of the issue. We all know utterly deny—they still have all they have paid that books have multiplied; that the quartos, for; and when, indeed, they assert (which in which the works of high pretension were they do when they argue that the measure will first enshrined, have vanished; and, while confer no benefit on authors) they would not the prices paid for copyrights have been far give an author any more for a copyright of higher than in any former time, the proprietors sixty than of twenty-eight years, they themof these copyrights have found it more profit- selves refute the charge of breach of faith, by able to publish in a cheap than in a costly showing that they do not reckon such distant form. Will authors, or the children of authors, contingencies in the price which they pay. If be more obstinate-less able to appreciate and any inconvenience should arise, I should reto meet the demands of the age-more appre-joice to consider how it can be obviated; and hensive of too large a circulation—when both with that view I introduced those clauses will be impelled by other motives than those which have been the subject of much censure, of interest to seek the largest sale; the first by empowering the assignee to dispose of all the impulse of blameless vanity or love of fame; copies on hand at the close of his term, and the last by the affection and the pride with allowing the proprietors of stereotype plates which they must regard the living thoughts still to use them. But supposing some incunof a parent taken from this world, finding their venience to attend this act of justice to auway through every variety of life, and cherished thors, which I should greatly regret, still are by upnumbered minds, which will bless that the publishers entirely without consolation ? parent's memory?
In the first place, they would, as the bill now If, sir, I were called to state in a sentence the stands, gain all the benefit of the extension of most powerful argument against the objection future copyrights, hereafter sold absolutely to raised to the extension of copyright on the them by the author, and, according to their own part of the public, I would answer,—"The op: statement, without any advance of price. If position of the publishers.” If they have ground this benefit is small is contingent-is nothing to complain of loss, the public can have none. in 500 cases to one, so is the loss in those The objection supposes that the works would cases in which the right will result to the aube sold at something more than the price of the thor. But it should further be recollected that materials, the workmanship, and a fair profit every year, as copyrights expire, adds to the on the outlay, if the copyright be continued to store from which they may take freely. In the the author; and, of course, also supposes that infancy of literature a publisher's stock is works of which the copyrights have expired scanty unless he pays for original composition; are sold without profit beyond those charges, but as one generation after another passes that, in fact, the author's superadded gain will away, histories, novels, poems—all of undying be the measure of the public loss. Where, interest and certain sale-fall in; and each then, does the publisher intervene? Is the generation of booksellers becomes enriched truth this—that the usage of the publishing by the spoils of time, to which he has contritrade at this moment indefinitely prolongs the buted nothing. If, then, in a measure which monopoly by a mutual understanding of its restores to the author what the bookseller has members, and that besides the term of lwenty- conventionally received, some inconvenience eight years, which the publisher has bought beyond the just loss of what he was never enand paid for, he has something more? Is it a litled to obtain be incurred, is not the balance conventional copyright that is in danger? Is greatly in his favour ? And can it be doubted the real question whether the author shall here- that, in any case where the properties of the after have the full term to dispose of, or shall seill publisher and of the author's representatives
are imperfect apart, either from additions to the inventor the entire benefit of his discovery, the original, or from the succession of several the copyright does not give it to the author for works falling in at different times, their com a single hour, but, when published, it is the mon interest would unite them?
free unincumbent property of the world at One of the arguments used, whether on be- once and for ever; all ihat the author relains half of the trade or the public I scarcely know, is the sole right of publishing his own view of against the extension of the term, is derived it in the style of illustration or argument which from a supposed analogy between the works he has chosen. A fact ascertained by laborious of an author and the discoveries of an inventor, inquiry becomes, on the instant, the property whence it is inferred that the term which suf- of every historian; a rule of grammar, of fices for the protection of the one is long enough criticism, or of art, takes its place at once in for the recompense of the other. It remains to the common treasury of human knowledge; be proved that the protection granted to paten. nay, a theory in political economy or morals, tees is sufficient; but supposing it to be so, once published, is the property of any man to although there are points of similarity between accept, to analyze, to reason on, to carry out, the cases, there are grounds of essential and to make the foundation of other kindred specuobvious distinction. In cases of palent, the lations. No one ever dreamed that to assume merits of the invention are palpable; the de-a position which another had discovered ; to mand is usually immediate; and the recom- reject what another had proved to be fallapense of the inventor, in proportion to the utility cious; to occupy the table-land of recognised: of his work, speedy and certain. In cases of truths and erect upon it new theories, was an patent, the subject is generally one to which invasion of the copyright of the original many minds are at once applied; the invention thinker, without whose discoveries his sucis often no more than a step in a series of processors might labour in vain. How.earnest, cesses, the first of which being given, the con- how severe, how protracted, has been the sequence will almost certainly present itself mental toil by which the noblest speculations sooner or later to some of those minds; and in regard to the human mind and its destiny if it were not hit on this year by one, would have been conducted! Even when they attain probably be discovered the next by another; to no certain results, they are no less than the but who will suggest that if Shakspeare had beatings of the soul against the bars of its clay not written Lear, or Richardson Clarissa, other tenement, which show by their strength and poets or novelists would have invented them ? their failure that it is destined and propertied In practical science every discovery is a step for a higher sphere of action. Yet what right to something more perfeci; and to give to the does the author retain in these, when he has inventor of each a protracted monopoly would once suggested them ? The divine philosophy, be to shut out improvement by others. But won by years of patient thought, melts into the who can improve the masterpieces of genius? intellectual atmosphere which it encircles; They stand perfect; apart from all things else; tinges the dreams and strengthens the assurself-sustained; the models for imitation; the ances of thousands. The truth is, that the sources whence rules of art take their origin. law of copyright adapts itself, by its very naStill they are ours in a sense in which no me- ture, to the various descriptions of composichanical invention can be ;-ours not only to tion, preserving to the author, in every case, ponder over and converse with-ours not only only that which be ought to retain. Regard it as furnishing our minds with thoughts, and from its operation on the lowest species of peopling our weary seasons with ever-delight- authorship-mere compilation, in which it can ful acquaintances; but ours as suggesting protect nothing but the particular arrangeprinciples of composition which we may freely ments, leaving the materials common to all; strive to apply, opening new regions of specu- through the gradations of history, of science, lation which we may delightfully explore, of criticism, of moral and political philosophy, and defining the magic circle, within which, if of divinity, up to the highest efforts of the imawe are bold and happy enough to tread, we gination, and it will be found to preserve nothing may discern some traces of the visions they to the author, except that which is properly have invoked, to imbody for our own profit his own; while the free use of his materials and honour; for the benefit of the printers is open to those who would follow in his steps. and publishers who may send forth the pro- When I am asked, why should the inventor of ducts of these secondary inspirations to the the steam-engine have an exclusive right to world; and of all who may become refined or multiply its form for only fourteen years, while exalted by reading them.
a longer time is claimed for the author of a But it may be said that this argument applies book? I may retort, why should he have for only to works of invention, which spring wholly fourteen years what the discoverer of a prinor chiefly from the author's mind, as poems ciple in politics or morals, or of a chain of and romances; and that works which exhibit proof in divinity, or a canon of criticism, has the results of historical search, of medical or not the protection of as many hours, except scientific skill, and of philosophic thought, for the mere mode of exposition which he has ought to be governed by the same law as im- adopted? Where, then, the analogy between provements in mechanics employed on timber literature and mechanical science really exists, and metal. The analogy here is, to a certain that is, wherever the essence of the literary extent, correct, so far as it applies to the fact work is, like mechanisin, capable of being used discovered, the principle developed, the mode and improved on by others, ihe legal protection invented; the fallacy consists in this, that will be found far more liberally applied to the while the patent for fourteen years secures to latler—necessarily and justly so applied—but