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affording no reason why we should take from tice; but the principle is eternal. True it is the author that which is not only his own, but that in many instances, if the boon be granted, can never, from its nature, be another's. the errors and frailties which often attend
It has, sir, been asserted, that authors them- genius may render it vain ; true it is that in selves have little interest in this question, and multitudes of cases it will not operate; but by that they are, in fact, indifferent or hostile to conceding it we shall give to authors and to the measure. True it is, that the greatest readers a great lesson of justice; we shall living writers have felt reluctant to appear as show that where virtue and genius combine petitioners for it, as a personal boon; but I we are ready to protect their noble offspring, believe there are few who do not feel the and that we do not desire a miserable advanhonour of literature embarked in the cause, tage at the cost of the ornaments and benefacand earnestly desire its success. Mr. Words- tors of the world. I call on each party in this worth, emerging for a moment from the seclu- house to unite in rendering this tribute to the sion he has courted, has publicly declared his minds by which even party associations are conviction of its justice. Mr. Lockhart has dignified. I call on those who anticipate sucstated his apprehension that the complete cessive changes in society, to acknowledge emancipation of the estate of Sir Walter Scott their debt to those who expand the vista of the from its encumbrances depends on the issue; future, and people it with goodly visions; on and, although I agree that we ought not to le- those who fondly linger on the past, and repose gislate for these cases, I contend that we ought on time-hallowed institutions, to consider how to legislate by the light of their examples. much that is ennobling in their creed has been While I admit that I should rejoice if the im- drawn from minds which have clothed the mediate effect of this measure were to cheer usages and forms of other days with the sym. the evening of a great poet's life, to whom I bols of venerableness and beauty; on all, if am under intellectual obligations beyond all they cannot find some common ground on price, and to enlarge the rewards of other which they may unite in drawing assurance living authors whose fame will endure, I do of progressive good for the future from the not ask support to this measure on their be- glories of the past, to recognise their oblihalf; but I present these as the proofs of the gation to those, the products of whose intelsubsisting wrong. The instances pass away; lect shall grace, and soften, and dignify successive generations do successive injus- the struggle !
The motion was opposed by Mr. Hume, Mr. Warburton, the Solicitor-General, Mr. Pryne, Mr. Warde, Mr. Grote, the Attorney-General, Mr. John Jervis, and Sir Edward Sugden ; and supported by Sir Robert Inglis, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. D'Israeli, Mr. Milnes, and Mr. Wynn. On the division, the numbers were, for the second reading, 39; against it, 34. On the question that the bill should be committed, Mr. Philip Howard, who had voted in favour of the second reading, moved that it be referred to a select committee. This was declined by the mover: and after a short conversation, the house divided for the committal of the bill in the usual course, 38; against it, 31,-upon which the bill was ordered to be committed on the following Wednesday.
On Wednesday, 2d of May, for which day the committee was fixed, there was no house ; and the “ dropped order" was fixed for the following Wednesday. On that day, Mr. Wakley, adverting to the thinness of the house on the second reading of the bill, and the small majority by which it was carried, -pursuant to notice previously given, opposed the motion for the speaker leaving the chair. His speech on this occasion consisted chiefly of statements with which he had been supplied by Mr. Tegg, of the low prices at which he had purchased several popular works of living authors, some of whom were members of the house ;-a series of personalities which afforded that kind of amusement which attend such allusions, and which, being delivered without ill-nature, gave no pain to the authors who were the subject of them; but not tending with very exact logic to show that the extension of the copyright, which protected all these works, would injure the public by maintaining a price beyond its reach. The motion for going into committee was also opposed by Mr. Warburton and Mr. Struit, and supported by Mr. Wolverly Allwood, Mr. Milnes, and Sir Robert Inglis. On a division the numbers were,—for the committee, 116; against it, 64. In a desultory conversation which followed, Sir Edward Sugden complained that, as the bill then stood, the children of an author who had assigned his copyright to them “in consideration of natural love and affection,” would be precluded from enjoying the proposed extension--the justice of which was felt by the supporters of the bill—and obviated in its further progress. The house then resolved itself into committee; but the lateness of the hour rendered it impossible to proceed with details; and the evening was spent without the measure having made any progress, except in the great increase of the majority by which it was supported.
The state of public business on the following Wednesdays—for which day the bill was always, without objection, fixed, and on which alone it had any chance of being discussed prevented its further consideration till Wednesday, 6th of June. In the interval, an anxious consideration of the objections of the publishers of London and Edinburgh to the clause whereby a reverting interest in copyrights absolutely assigned was created in favour of authors, convinced those who had charge of the bill that it was impossible by any arrangements to pre
vent the inconvenience and loss which they suggested as consequential on such a boon to authors. They, therefore, determined to confine the operation of the bill on subsisting copyrights to cases in which the author had retained some interest on which it might operate; and with this, to their honour, the publishers were satisfied. Other alterations in matters of detail were suggested, which induced the mover to listen to the wishes of both friends and opponents of the bill, that it should be reprinted and committed again. When, therefore, on Wednesday, 6th of June, the bill again was before the house, and Mr. Warburton urged that it should be reprinted, the mover at once acceded to his desire; briefly stated the principal alterations which he had accorded to the wishes of the publishers, and did justice to the spirit of fairness and moderation with which they had foreborne to ask for themselves any share of the benefits proposed for authors; and had only desired that these benefits should not be attended by undeserved injury to themselves. Lord John Russell, who had hitherto refrained from expressing any opinion on the measure, took this opportunity of throwing out a hesitating disapproval, or rather, doubt, but did not object to the course proposed. The bill was accordingly committed pro formâ, ordered to be reprinted, and its further consideration adjourned to Wednesday, 20th of June. In pursuance of this arrangement, the bill was reprinted in nearly its present form; and came on for discussion at a late hour on the 28th of June. It was then obvious that,considering the opposition with which its details were menaced by Mr. Warburion and others, and the state of the order-book,-no reasonable hope remained of carrying it through committee, and the subsequent stages, during the session. When, therefore, the period of its discussion arrived, it was, on the friendly recommendation of Mr. Gladstone, withdrawn, with a pledge for its early introduction in the ensuing year.
On Tuesday, 12th of February, in the session of 1839, leave was obtained to bring in the bill, which, nearly in the state in which it had been settled the preceding year, was introduced the same evening. On Wednesday, 28th of February, its second reading was moved ;-after the presentation of the petitions which are alluded to in the following sheets.
SPEECH ON MOVING THE SECOND READING OF A BILL TO
AMEND THE LAW OF COPYRIGHT,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 1839.
MR. SPEAKER–After the attention which, in be expressed by many others, whose feelings I past sessions, has been rendered by this House know, if you permit this bill to proceed. When to the interests of literature, as affected by the I first solicited for these arguments the notice laws of copyright-an attention gratefully ac- of this House, I thought they rested on princiknowledged in the petitions which I have just ples so general; that ihe interests of those who presented—I shall best discharge my duty by labour to instruct and illustrate the age in reminding you, without preface, of the question which they live are so inseparably blended which we once more are called on to decide, with all that affects its morality and its happiand by stating the position in which it stands, ness; that the due reward of the greatest of its and the materials which we have to assist us authors is so identified with the impulses they in answering it. That question is, Whether the quicken-with the traits of character they present limitation of copyright is just? I will sum mirror-with the deeds of generosity, of couup my reasons for contending for the negative rage and of virtue, which they celebrate, and in language adupted by some of the distin- with the multitudes whom they delight and reguished persons whose petitions are before fine, that I felt it was not for them alone that I you. They allege—“That the term during asked the shelter of the law, and I did not wish which the law secures to the authors the profits to see them soliciting it as a personal boon. arising from the productions of their own in- The appeal, though thus unsupported, was not dustry and genius is insufficient to provide for unfelt; and the bill proceeded, without a hint the fair reward of works written to endure : that of opposition, until the demise of the crown the extension of the term proposed by this bill closed the session and stopped its progress. In would encourage such compositions; that it the interval which thus occurred, a number of would enable individuals to devote their pow- eminent publishers saw reason to apprehend ers to the lasting benefit and delight of man- that certain clauses in the bill, by which it was kind, without the apprehension that in so doing proposed to give to authors who had assigned they shall impoverish their own descendants ; their copyrights under the subsisting law a and, that, while it would tend to the profit only reverting interest after the expiration of its of the greatest and the best of those engaged in term, would injuriously affect their vested literature, it would confer dignity and honour rights, and they naturally prepared to oppose on the pursuits of all."
it. They were accompanied or followed in These propositions, to which I seek your as- this opposition by various persons connected sent, are now for the first time imbodied by with the mechanical appliances of literaturesome of the most distinguished authors as the by master-printers, compositors, pressmen, grounds of their own prayer, and will probably type-founders, paper-makers, and book-bind
ers, smitten with the strange fear that to ex- stances peculiarly within the range of their tend the term of copyright (though they all experience; they are mere speculators, like agree that the extension would operate only in ourselves, on the probabilities of the distant one case out of five hundred) would destroy future. All their apprehensions centre in one their trade, and their petitions were plenteously —that if the term of copyright be extended, showered on the table of the House. Regard fewer books will be printed ; sewer hands will to the state of public business, and a belief be required; fewer presses set up; fewer that, although supported by increasing majori- types cast; fewer reams of paper needed; and ties, the nature of the opposition with which though I know not whether the panic has pethe bill was threatened would multiply and netrated to the iron-mine or ascended to the prolong the discussions beyond the bounds of rag-loft) that a paralysis will affect all these the time which could be applied 10 such an ob- departments of trade. Now, if there were ject, induced me, at the suggestion of my ho- any real ground for these busy fears, they nourable friend the member for Newark, again would not want facts to support them. In the to withdraw it. Having been taunted with the year, 1814, when the term of copyright was absence of petitions in favour of the measure, I extended from fourteen to twenty-eight years, have now the support I did not before seek; the same classes expressed similar alarms. and I doubt not, the example once set will be the projected change was far more likely to followed by many who feel deeply the justice be prejudicial to them than the present, as the of the cause, and are indignant at the grounds number of books on which it operated was on which it has been opposed. Few as these much larger; and yet there is no suggestion petitions are, compared with the number of in their petitions that a single press remained those who desire the success of this bill, I unemployed, or a paper-mill stood still; and, shall not fear to oppose the facts they state, indeed, it is a matter of notoriety, that since the reasonings they suggest, or the authority then publications have greatly multiplied, and with which they are stamped, with those accu- that books have been reduced in price with mulated by its opponents during the last ses- the increase of readers. The general argusion.
ments of these petitions are those which the Having carefully perused the petitions opponents of the measure urge, all resolving against us, I am surprised to find how utterly themselves into the assumptions, that if copy. destitute they are of information really bear rights be extended, books will be dearer; that ing on the case, with an exception which does cheap books are necessarily a benefit to the not now apply to the bill; for I may dismiss public; and that the public interest should the complaints of the eminent members of the prevail over the claims of those who create publishing trade, and of all who sympathized the materials of its instruction. But there is in their fears. Impressed with the force of one petition which illustrates so curiously the some of their objections, I proposed various knowledge which these petitioners possess on means by which I hoped to remove them, with the subject of their fears, and the modesty out denying to authors who had assigned their with which they urge them, that I must tressubsisting interest the benefits of that extended pass on the patience of the House while I offer term which it was proposed to create. But I a specimen of its allegations. It is a petition was compelled to abandon the attempt as hope- presented by the honourable member for Killess, and to content myself with applying the kenny, agreed on at a public meeting at the Meextension to the cases of authors who had re-chanics' Institute, Southampton-buildings, by tained an interest in their works, and to books “compositors, pressmen, and others engaged hereafter to be written. In this alteration I in the printing profession.” After a sweeping have offered nothing to the publishers, except assumption of the whole question between auin the rare and peculiar case of a joint interest thors and readers, these petitioners thus desigco-extensive with the entire copyright, in nate the application made to this House on which case, unable to sever the benefit with behalf of literature:-“The books to which out extreme inconvenience to the publisher, I it is assumed the present law does not afford have chosen rather to grant it to both than to sufficient protection are those of a trashy and neither; and it is to the honour of the pub- meretricious character, whose present populishers, that, instead of seeking an unworthy larity deludes their writers with a vain hope compromise, they have been satisfied with the of an immortal reputation." Now, the works mere withdrawal of clauses which would have which were named by way of example, when subjected them to certain inconvenience, and this bill was introduced, were those of Coleprobable loss. Their opposition has ceased ridge, of Wordsworth, and of Sir Walter Scott; with the provisions which raised it; and with and if these are intended by the petitioners, I it all the allegations in the petitions which re- fear they have made no good use of cheap late to it may be dismissed. There remain books, or that the books they have read are those of the printers and their allies, persons dear at any price. If the object of the bill is whose interests deserve the careful regard of the protection of “trashy and meretricious" the legislature, but whose opinions have no works, it may be absurd, but it must be harmauthority beyond the reasonings they adduce less; for, as to such works, it must be a dead to support them. They are not like persons letter. The printers who fear that one set of engaged in some occupation on which there is “trashy and meretricious” works should enan immediate pressure, which they who feel dure after the lapse of twenty-eight years, and most keenly can most vividly explain; nor should thus deprive them of the opportunity like persons apprehending some change di- of printing a brilliant succession of such rectly affecting their profits, under circum-works, to which they do not refuse the aid of
their types, partake an apprehension like the ceasing labours of a single mind-that of Sir alarm of some nervous remainderman, who Walter Scott-exhausted, fading, glimmering, should take fright at the creation of a term of perishing from this world in their service! 999 years by a tenant for life, overlooking in As the concluding paragraph of this petihis fears the necessary condition “if he should tion merely repeats an analogy of literary so long live ;" for so surely as natural death works to mechanical inventions, which I have will await the decay of the human frame, shall grappled with before, and which, if necessary, oblivion cover the “ trashy and meretricious ” I am ready to expose again, I will pass from it book, and leave room for successor after suc- and from the petitions against this bill—which, cessor to employ compositors, to sparkle and I assert, do not present a single fact for the inforexpire. But, the petitioners proceed—“Even mation of the House-to the petitions which dissuppose their success would be permanent, close the grievances and the claims of authors. the present high profits derived by their au- And first, to show, by way of example, how inthors are an ample return for the time em- sufficient the present term is to remunerate auployed in their composition.” So these gen- thors who contemplate works of great labour tlemen, forgetting that the chief ground of the and research, I will refer to the petition of Mr. bill is, that the works on behalf of which its Archibald Alison, sheriff of the county of Lanextension is sought often begin to repay their ark. This gentleman, son of the venerable authors only when the copyright is about to author of the celebrated “Essay on Taste," expire, think themselves competent to estimate was brought up to the Scottish bar, and being the anxieties, the heart-aches, the feverish gifted with excellent talents, and above all hopes, the bitter disappointments, the frequent with that most valuable of talents, unwearied failures, the cheerless loils, with which an au- industry, enjoyed the fairest prospects of sucthor's time is filled, and which disturb them cess. Having, however, conceived the design little when they are arranging his words. of writing the history of Europe during the They proceed—“ while it is proved, that books French Revolution, he resigned those hopes of deep research and intrinsic value would for the office of Sheriff of Lanarkshire, which, not be rendered more valuable by an extension limiting his income to a moderate sum, left of the law of copyright, however extended him at leisure to pursue his scheme. On that that law might be." How not more valuable ? work he has now been engaged for twenty-five Not much more valuable to sell, perhaps, but years. To collect materials for its composition more valuable to preserve; else, if there is no he has repeatedly visited the principal cities gain to the author, where is the loss to the of Europe, and his actual expenditure in books public? After a round assertion, “ that the and journeys to lay the foundations of his bill must be viewed as one injuriously affect work has already exceeded 2,0001., and will ing the booksellers, book-binders, paper-ma- be doubled if he should live to complete it. kers, type-founders, and all branches con- Seven volumes have successively appeared; nected with the printing business,” they then the copyright is unassigned; and as the work proceed to extol their own profession :-" That is making a regular progress, fourteen years the profits derived from a book depend not on must elapse before the pecuniary outlay will the art of writing, but on the art of printing; be repaid. At the expiration of twenty-eight for that, without the facilities which improved years, supposing the work to succeed on an mechanical improvements afford, the number average calculated on its present sale, its of copies would be few and high-priced, and author will only obtain half what he might the profits of the author lower; and, therefore, have acquired by the devotion of the same it is unjust that authors should endeavour to time to ephemeral productions; so that, unless injure by exclusive laws a profession to which his life should be prolonged beyond the ordithey are indebted for the rank they hold and nary lot of man, its labours to his family will the wealth they possess." Surely the old critic be almost in vain, unless you considerably Dennis, who, when he heard the thunder roll extend the term of his property; and then, in over the mimic scenes, and used to claim it as return for his sacrifices, he will leave them a his own, was reasonable, compared to these substantial inheritance. Of a similar nature gentlemen of the Mechanics’ Institute. What is the case of another petitioner, Dr. Cook, ever may be the benefit which the art of print- Professor of Moral Philosophy in the Univering has conferred on genius-genius which sity of St. Andrew's, author of the “History of had achieved imperishable triumphs long be- the Reformation in Scotland,” a “History of fore its discovery, it is astounding to hear this the Church of Scotland," and of other historical claim made by those who are now engaged in works which are now standard authorities, and a simple mechanical pursuit. The manufac- on the composition of which he has been enturer of bayonets or of gunpowder might as gaged for the last thirty years. In their comwell insist that he, and not the conqueror of position he has incurred great expense. The Waterloo, should be the recipient of national copyrights are vested in himself; but it degratitude. Where would their profession be pends on your decision whether his family if no author had written? There are some shall derive any advantages from them. He things more precious even than knowledge; concludes—"considering this law as at variand, strange as it may seem to the utilitarian ance with the essential principles of justice, philosophers, I venture to think gratitude one; and calculated to impede the course of literaand if it is, I would ask these petitioners to ture and science,” by earnestly imploring the consider how many presses have been em- House to “pass this bill for so extending the ployed and honoured, how many families in term of copyright as will secure the interest their own class have been enriched by the un- 1 of the authors of extensive and laborious
works without in the slightest degree interfer- engaged and persevered in literary labours ing with the public good.” Dr. James Thom- less with the expectation of producing speedy son, the Professor of Mathematics in the Uni- effect than with a view to interest and benefit versity of Glasgow, states the nature and mankind remotely, though permanently, his history of several elementary works, the pro- works, though never out of demand, have made ducts of his labour, which are slowly beginning their way slowly into general circulation ;" to recompense him, and especially invites and he states as a fact, directly bearing on this attention to the manner in which the law bears question, that his works have, within the last on works used as text-books in schools and four years, brought a larger emolument than universities, having to contend against the in all preceding years; which would now be partialities of teachers for books with which bounded by his death ; and the greater part of use has made them familiar, and of booksellers which, if he had died four years ago, would for works in which they are interested, and have been wholly lost to his family. How will which may only begin to obtain attention this case be answered? I suppose, as I have when the copyright is about to cease. Sir heard it, when less fully stated, answered David Brewster has spent a most laborious before, that it proves that there is no necessity and most useful life, and still spends it, in the for the extension of copyright, because without composition of works which at once instruct its encouragement a poet thus gifted has been and charm, and which can only remunerate ready to devote his powers amidst neglect and him by the extension of the term. Now, I ask, scorn to the highesi and the purest aims. I is there no property in these petitioners worthy will not answer by merely reminding those who of protection? "No," said, and will say, some urge this ungenerous argument, that there may of the opponents of this bill; “none. We not always be attendant on such rare endowthink that from the moment an author puts his ments the means of offering such a sacrifice, thoughts on paper and delivers them to the either from independent resources or from world, his property therein wholly ceases.” simple tastes. I reply at once, that the arguWhat! has he invested no capital ? embarked ment is at utter variance with the plainest no fortune? If human life is nothing in your rules of morality and justice. I should like to commercial tables--if the sacrifice of profes- hear how it would be received on a motion for sion, of health, of gain, is nothing-surely the a national grant to one who had fought his mere outlay of him who has perilled his fortune country's battles! I should like to hear the to instruct mankind may claim some regard ! indignation and the scorn which would be exOr is the interest itself so refined-so ethereal pressed towards any one who should venture —that you cannot regard it as property, because to suggest that the impulses which had led to it is not palpable to sense as to feeling? Is heroic deeds had no respect to worldly benefits; there any justice in this? If so, why do you that the love of country and glory would protect moral character as a man's most pre- always lead to similar actions; and that, therecious possession, and compensate the party fore, out of regard to the public, we ought to who suffers unjustly in that character by withhold all reward from the conqueror. And damages? Has this possession any existence yet the case of the poet is the stronger; for we half so palpable as the author's right in the do not propose to reward him out of any fund printed creation of his brain? I have always but that which he himself creates—from any thought it one of the proudest triumphs of pockets but from those of every one whom he human law that it is able to recognise and to individually blesses-and our reward cannot guard this breath and finer spirit of moral be misapplied when we take Time for our action—that it can lend its aid in sheltering Arbitrator and Posterity for our Witnesses! that invisible property which exists solely in It cannot have escaped the attention of the the admiration and affection of others; and if house that many of the petitioners are profesit may do this, why may it not protect his in- sors in the universities of Scotland; and from terest in those living words which, as well the laborious nature of their pursuits—their observed by that great thinker, Mr. Hazlitt, are, love of literature, fostered at a distance from “after all, the only things which last for the applause of the capital, and from the indeever?”
pendence and the purity of their character, I From these examples of works of labour and venture to think that their experience and their pecuniary outlay, I turn to that of a poet, whose judgments are entitled to peculiar weight. name has often been mentioned in the discus. Now, the University of St. Andrew's, after sion of this measure, who has supported it by powerfully urging the claims of authors genehis published opinion, but who has now, for rally, thus submits the peculiar claims of their the first time, enforced it by petition. Mr. countrymen :-“Your petitioners venture to Wordsworth states that he is on the point of submit, that in Scotland, where the few rewards attaining his seventieth year; that forty-six which used to be conferred on clergymen of years ago he published his first work, and that literary and scientific merit have been withhe has continued to publish original works at drawn, and where the incomes of the profes. various intervals down to 1835. The copy- sors in her universities have been allowed to right in a considerable part of these works is suffer great diminution, these individuals have now contingent on his life; in a few years the strong motives to solicit, and additional far larger portion of them will be holden by grounds to expect, that their literary rights the same tenure; and his most extensive and may be extended, and rendered as beneficial elaborate work, “The Excursion,” will be in as possible to themselves and their families." this condition, if he should be spared for four Among these professors, and among the peti. years longer. He represents that having I tioners for this bill, is a clergyman unsurpassed