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his works assume their place among the classics of his country, your law declares that his works shall become your property, and you requite him by seizing the patrimony of his children. We blame the errors and excesses of genius, and we leave them—justly leave them—for the most part, to the consequences of their strangely blended nature. But if genius, in assertion of its diviner alliances, produces large returns when the earthly course of its frail possessor is past, why is the public to insult his descendants with their alms and their pity? What right have we to moralize over the excesses of a Burns, and insult his memory by charitable honours, while we are taking the benefit of his premature death, in the expiration of his copyright and the vaunted cheapness of his works ; Or, to advert to a case in which the highest intellectual powers were associated with the noblest moral excellence, what right have we to take credit to ourselves for a paltry and ineffectual subscription to rescue Abbotsford for the family of its great author, (Abbotsford, his romance in stone and mortar, but not more individually his than those hundred fabrics, not made with hands, which he has raised, and peopled for the delight of mankind,) while we insist on appropriating now the profits of his earlier poems, and anticipate the time when, in a few years, his novels will be ours without rent-charge to enjoy—and any one's to copy, to emasculate, and to garble 1 This is the case of one whom kings and people delighted to honour. But look on another picture—that of a man of genius and integrity, who has received all the insult and injury from his contemporaries, and obtains nothing from posterity but a name. Look at Daniel De Foe; recollect him pilloried, bankrupt, wearing away his life to pay his creditors in full, and dying in the struggle!—and his works live, imitated, corrupted, yet casting off the stains, not by protection of law, but by their own pure essence. Had every school-boy, whose young imagination has been prompted by his great work, and whose heart has learned to throb in the strange, yet familiar, solitude he created, given even the halfpenny of the statute of Anne, there would have been no want of a provision for his children, no need of a subscription for a statue to his memory ! The term allowed by the existing law is curiously adapted to encourage the lightest works, and to leave the noblest unprotected. Its little span is ample for authors who seek only to amuse; who, “to beguile the time, look like the time;” who lend to frivolity or corruption “lighter wings to fly;” who sparkle, blaze, and expire. These may delight for a season—glisten as the fire-flies on the heaving sea of public opinion—the airy proofs of the intellectual activity of the age;—yet surely it is not just to legislate for those alone, and deny all reward to that literature which aspires to endure. Let us suppose an author, of true original genius, disgusted with the inane phraseology which had usurped the place of poetry, and devoting himself from youth to its service; disdaining the gauds which attract the careless, and unskilled in the moving accidents of
fortune—not seeking his triumph in the tempest of the passions, but in the serenity which lies above them—whose works shall be scoffed at—whose name made a by-word—and yet who shall persevere in his high and holy course, gradually impressing thoughtful minds with the sense of truth made visible in the severest forms of beauty, until he shall create the taste by which he shall be appreciated— influence, one after another, the master-spirits of his age—be felt pervading every part of the national literature, softening, raising, and enriching it; and when at last he shall find his confidence in his own aspirations justified, and the name which once was the scorn admitted to be the glory of his age—he shall look forward to the close of his earthly career, as the event that shall consecrate his fame and deprive his children of the opening harvest he is beginning to reap. As soon as his copyright becomes valuable, it is gone ! This is no imaginary case—I refer to one who “in this setting part of time” has opened a vein of the deepest sentiment and thought before unknown —who has supplied the noblest antidote to the freezing effects of the scientific spirit of the age—who, while he has detected that poetry which is the essence of the greatest things, has cast a glory around the lowliest conditions of humanity, and traced out the subtle links by which they are connected with the highest —of one whose name will now find an echo, not only in the heart of the secluded student, but in that of the busiest of those who are fevered by political controversy—of William Wordsworth. Ought we not to requite such a poet, while yet we may, for the injustice of our boyhood? For those works which are now insensibly quoted by our most popular writers, the spirit of which now mingles with our intellectual atmosphere, he probably has not received through the long life he has devoted to his art, until lately, as much as the same labour, with moderate talent, might justly produce in a single year. Shall the law, whose term has been amply sufficient to his scorners, now afford him no protection, because he has outlasted their scoffs—because his fame has been fostered amidst the storms, and is now the growth of years? There is only one other consideration to which I will advert, as connected with this subject—the expedience and justice of acknowledging the rights of foreigners to copyright in this country, and of claiming it from them for ourselves in return. If at this time it were clear that our law afforded no protection to foreigners, first publishing in other countries, there would be great difficulty in dealing with this question for ourselves, and we might feel bound to leave it to negotiation to give and to obtain reciprocal benefits. But if a recent decision on the subject of musical copyright is to be regarded as correct, the principle of international copyright is already acknowledged here, and there is little for us to do in order that we may be enabled to claim its recognition from foreign states. It has been decided by a judge conversant with the business and with the elegancies of life to a degree unusual with an eminent lawyer—by one who
was the most successful advocate of his time, yet who was not more remarkable for his skill in dealing with facts than for the grace with which he embellished them—by Lord Abinger —that the assignee of foreign copyright, deriving title from the author abroad to publish in this country, and creating that right within a reasonable time, may claim the protection of our courts against any infringement of his copy.” If this is law—and I believe and trust it is—we shall make no sacrifice in so declaring it, and in setting an example which France, Prussia, America, and Germany, are prepared to follow. Let us do justice to our law and to ourselves. At present, not only is the literary intercourse of countries, who should form one great family, degraded into a low series of mutual piracies—not only are industry and talent deprived of their just reward, but our literature is debased in the eyes of the world, by the wretched medium through which they behold it. Pilfered, and disfigured in the pilfering, the noblest images are broken, wit falls pointless, and verse is only felt in fragments of broken music;-sad fate for an irritable race : The great minds of our time have now an audience to impress far vaster than it entered into the minds of their predecessors to hope for; an audience increasing as population thickens in the cities of America, and spreads itself out through its diminishing wilds, who speak our language, and who look on our
old poets as their own immortalancestry. And if this our literature shall be theirs; if its dif. fusion shall follow the efforts of the stout heart and sturdy arm in their triumph over the obstacles of nature: if the woods, stretching beyond their confines, shall be haunted with visions of beauty which our poets have created; let those who thus are softening the ruggedness of young society have some present interest about which affection may gather, and at least let them be protected from those who would exhibit them mangled or corrupted to their transatlantic disciples. I do not in truth ask for literature favour; I do not ask for it charity; I do not even appeal to gratitude in its behalf; but I ask for it a portion, and but a portion, of that common justice which the coarsest industry obtains for its natural reward, and which nothing but the very extent of its claims, and the nobleness of the associations to which they are akin, have prevented it from receiving from our laws.
Sir, I will trespass no longer on the patience of the house, for which I am most grateful, but move that leave be given to bring in a bill “to consolidate and amend the laws relating to property in the nature of copyright in books, musical compositions, acted dramas, pictures, and engravings, to provide remedies for the violation thereof, and to extend the term of its duration.”
The motion, seconded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and supported by Sir Robert
Harry Inglis, was carried without opposition; and the bill was ordered to be brought in by Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Lord Mahon, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in conjunction with the mover. The bill which under these auspices was introduced, contained, according to the proposition, clauses for the protection of the arts of painting and engraving, and provided for the recognition and security of copyright in the works of foreign authors, on certain conditions. Its second reading was carried without debate or division; and it stood for committal when the death of the king precluded the further progress of all measures except those of ur gency, and in a few weeks produced the dissolution of parliament. On the 14th December 1838, the motion for leave to introduce the bill was renewed—with the difference that it hat been found expedient to confine the measure to literature, and to deser until a suitable oppor tunity the introduction of a separate measure for consolidating and amending the laws affect ing the arts of painting, engraving, and also that of sculpture, which had not been includedi the original measure. This separation of the objects of the bill received the approbation of Lord Mahon, who had previously concurred in its necessity, and of Sir Robert Peel, who sug gested the expedience of appointing a select committee to report on the state of the law relat. ing to the fine arts, before proceeding to the arduous but most needsul work of legislating for their protection, and securing their reward. On this occasion, also, that part of the original mea. sure which related to international copyright was, at the request of Mr. Poulett Thomson, resigned into the hands of ministers, under whose auspices a bill has since passed, enabling them to negotiate on this important subject with foreign powers. After expressions of approval from Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer and Mr. D'Israeli, leave was given to bring in the bill. The circumstances and character of the opposition which had, in the interval, been raised against it, sufficiently appear from the following speech on the motion that it be read a second tune.
* D'Almaine and another v. Bossey, 1 Younge and Collyer's Reports, 288. This case has been since overruled by that of Chappell v. . in which the Court of Exchequer decided that a foreigner has no copyright in a work first published abroad."
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 year to move the second reading of a bill essentially similar to the present, I found it unnecessary to trouble the house with a single remark; for scarcely a trace then appeared of the opposition which has since gathered around it. I do not, however, regret that the measure was not carried through the legislature by the current of feeling which then prevailed in its favour, but that opportunity has been afforded for the full discussion of the claims on which it is founded, and of the consequences to individuals and to the public that may be expected from its operation. Believing, as I do, that the interests of those who, by intellectual power, laboriously and virtuously exerted, contribute to the delight and instruction of mankind—of those engaged in the mechanical processes by which those labours are made effectual—and of the people who at once enjoy and reward them, are essentially one; believing that it is impossible at the same time to enhance the reward of authors, and to injure those who derive their means of subsistence from them—and desiring only that this bill shall succeed if it shall be found, on the fullest discussion, that it will serve the cause of intellect in its noblest and most expanded sense; I rejoice that all classes who are interested in reality or in belief in the proposed change have had the means of presenting their statements, and their reasonings to the consideration of Parliament, and of urging them with all the zeal which an apprehension of pecuniary loss can inspire. I do not, indeed, disguise that the main and direct object of the bill is to insure to authors of the highest and most enduring merit a larger share in the fruits of their own industry and genius than our law now accords to them ; and whatever fate may attend the endeavour, I feel with satisfaction that it is the first which has been made substantially for the benefit of authors, and sustained by no interest except that which the appeal on their behalf to the gratitude of those whose minds they have enriched, and whose lives they have gladdened, has enkindled. The statutes of Anne and of George III., especially the last, were measures suggested and maintained by publishers; and it must be consoling to the silent toilers after fame, who in this country have no ascertained rank, no civil distinction, in their hours of weariness and anxiety to feel that their claim to consideration has been cheerfully recognised by Parliament, and that their cause, however feebly presented, has been regarded with respect and with sympathy.
In order that I may trespass as briefly as I can on the indulgence with which this subject has been treated, I will attempt to narrow the
controversy of to-night by stating at once what I regard to be the principle of this bill, and call on honourable members now to affirm—and what I regard as matters of mere detail, which it is unnecessary at this moment to consider. That principle is, that the present term of copyright is much too short for the attainment of that justice which society owes to authors, especially to those (few though they be) whose reputation is of slow growth and of enduring character. Whether that term shall be extended from its present length to sixty years, or to some intermediate period—whether it shall commence at the death of the author or at the date of first publication—in what manner it shall be reckoned in the cases of works given to the world in portions—are questions of detail on which I do not think the house are to-night required to decide. On the one hand, I do not ask honourable members to vote for the second reading of this bill merely because they think there are some uncertainties in the law of copyright which it is desirable to remove, or some minor defects which they are prepared to remedy. On the other hand, I entreat them not to reject it on account of any objections to its mere details; but as they may think the legalized property of authors sufficiently prolonged and secured, or requiring a substantial extension, to oppose or to support it.
In maintaining the claim of authors to this extension, I will not intrude on the time of the house with any discussion on the question of law—whether perpetual copyright had existence by our common law; or of the philosophical question, whether the claim to this extent is founded in natural justice. On the first point, it is sufficient for me to repeat, what cannot be contradicted, that the existence of the legal right was recognised by a large majority of the judges, with Lord Mansfield at their head, after solemn and repeated argument; and that six to five of the judges only determined that the stringent words “and no longer” in the statute of Anne had taken that right away. And even this I do not call in aid so much by way of legal authority, as evidence of the feeling of those men (mighty, though few,) to whom our infant literature was confided by Providence, and of those who were in early time able to estimate the labour which we inherit. On the second point I will say nothing; unable, indeed, to understand why that which springs wholly from within, and contracts no other right by its usurpation, is to be regarded as baseless, because, by the condition of its very enjoyment, it not only enlarges the source of happiness to readers, but becomes the means of mechanical employment to printers, and of speculation to publishers. I am content to adopt the intermediate course, and to argue the question, whether a fair medium between two extremes has been chosen. What is to be said in favour of the line now drawn, except that it exists and bears an antiquity commencing in 1814? Is there any magic in the term of twenty-eight years? Is there any conceivable principle of justice which bounds the right, if the author survives that term, by the limit of his natural life? As far as expediency shall prevail— as far as the welfare of those for whom it is the duty and the wish of the dying author to provide, may be regarded by Parliament; the period of his death is precisely that when they will most need the worldly comforts which the property in his works would confer. And, as far as analogy may govern, the very attribute which induces us to regard with pride the works of intellect is, that they survive the mortal course of those who framed them—that they are akin to what is deathless. Why should that quality render them profitless to those in whose affectionate remembrance their author still lives, while they attest a nobler immortality? Indeed, among the opponents of this measure, it is ground of cavil that it is proposed to take the death of the author as a starting point for the period which it adds to the present term. It is urged as absurd that even the extent of this distant period should be affected by the accident of death; and yet those who thus argue are content to support the system which makes that accident the final boundary at which the living efficacy of authorship, for the advantage of its professors, ceases. I perfectly agree with the publishers in the evidence given in 1818, and the statements which have been repeated more recently—that the extension of time will be a benefit only in one case in five hundred of works now issuing from the press; and I agree with them that we are legislating for that five hundredth case. Why not It is the great prize which, out of the five hundred risks, genius and goodness win. It is the benefit that can only be achieved by that which has stood the test of time—of that which is essentially true and pure—of that which has survived spleen, criticism, envy, and the changing fashions of the world. Granted that only one author in five hundred attains this end; does it not invite many to attempt it, and impress on literature itself a visible mark of permanence and of dignity? The writers who attain it must belong to one of two classes. The first class consists of authors who have laboured to create the taste which should appreciate and reward them, and only attain that reputation which brings with it a pecuniary recompense when the term for which that reward is secured to them wanes. Is it unjust in this case, which is that of Wordsworth, now in the evening of life, and in the dawn of his fame, to allow the author to share in the remuneration that society tardily awards him The other classes includes those who, like Sir Walter Scott, have combined the art of ministering to immediate delight with that of outlasting successive races of imitators and apparent rivals; who do receive a large actual amount of recompense, but whose accumulat
ing compensation is stopped when it most should increase. Now, surely, as to them, the question is not what remuneration is sufficient in the judgment of the legislature to repay for certain benefactions to society, but whether, having won the splendid reward, our laws shall permit the winner to enjoy it? We could not decide the abstract question between genius and money, because there exist no common properties by which they can be tested, if we were dispensing an arbitrary reward; but the question how much the authorought to receive is easily answered—so much as his readers are delighted to pay him. When we say that he has obtained immense wealth by his writings, what do we assert, but that he has multiplied the sources of enjoyment to countless readers, and lightened thousands of else sad, or weary, or dissolute hours? The two propositions are identical; the proof of the one at once establishing the other. Why, then, should we grudge it, any more than we would reckon against the soldier, not the pension or the grant, but the very prize-money which attests the splendour of his victories, and in the amount of his gains proves the extent of ours? Complaints have been made by one in the foremost rank in the opposition to this bill, the pioneer of the noble army of publishers, booksellers, printers, and bookbinders, who are ar. rayed against it"—that in selecting the case of Sir Walter Scott as an instance in which the extension of copyright would be just, I had been singularly unfortunate, because that great writer received, during the period of subsisting copyright, an unprecedented revenue from the immediate sale of his works. But, sir, the question is not one of reward—it is one of justice. How would this gentleman ..pprove of the application of a similar rule to his own honest gains? From small beginnings this very publisher has, in the fair and honourable course of trade, I doubt not, acquired a splendid fortune, amassed by the sale of works, the property of the public—of works, whose authors have gone to their repose, from the fevers, the disappointments, and the jealousies which await a life of literary toil. Who grudges it to him Who doubts his title to retain it? And yet this gentleman's fortune is all, every farthing of it, so much taken from the public, in the sense of the publisher's argument; it is all profit on books bought by that public, the accumulation of pence, which, if he had sold his books without profit, would have remained in the pockets of the buyers. On what princile is Mr. Tegg to retain what is denied to Sir alter? Is it the claim of superior merit? Is it greater toil? Is it larger public service His course, I doubt not, has been that of an honest laborious tradesman ; but what have been its anxieties, compared to the stupendous labour, the sharp agonies of him, whose deadly alliance with those very trades whose members oppose me now, and whose noble resolution to combine the severest integrity with the loftiest genius, brought him to a premature grave—a grave which, by the operation of the law, extends its chillness even to the result of those labours, and despoils them of the living efficacy to assist those whom he has left to mourn him 1 Let any man contemplate that heroic struggle of which the affecting record has just been completed; and turn from the sad spectacle of one who had once rejoiced in the rapid creation of a thousand characters glowing from his brain, and stamped with individuality for ever, straining the fibres of the mind till the exercise which had been delight became torture—girding himself to the mighty task of achieving his deliverance from the load which pressed upon him, and with brave endeavour, but relaxing strength, returning to the toil till his faculties give way, the pen falls from his hand on the unmarked paper, and the silent tears of half-conscious imbecility fall upon it—to some prosperous bookseller in his country house, calculating the approach of the time (too swiftly accelerated) when he should be able to publish for his own gain those works fatal to life, and then tell me, if we are to apportion the reward to the effort, where is the justice of the bookseller's claim Had Sir Walter Scott been able to see, in the distance, an extension of his own right in his own productions, his estate and his heart had been set free, and the publishers and printers, who are our opponents now, would have been grateful to him for a continuation of labour and rewards which would have impelled and augmented their own. These two classes comprise, of necessity, all the instances in which the proposed change would operate at all; the first, that of those whose copyright only becomes valuable just as it is about to expire; the last, that of whose works which, at once popular and lasting, have probably, in the season of their first success, enriched the publisher far more than the
* This allusion has been singularly misconceived by the gentleman to whom it applies—Mr. Tegg, who thus notices it in his letter “To the Editor of the Times,” of 20th Feb., 1839: “The learned serjeant calls me a pioneer of literature, because I open my shop for the sale of books, and not for the encouragement of authors; but what is the object of my customers who buy the books? No: one in a thousand would allege that he bought a book for the encouragement of the author; they come to procure the means of amusement, information, or instruction. The learned serjeant—a liberal—a friend to literature, a promoter of education—persists in bringing forward an or post facto law, to counteract the advantages of education. to check the diffusion of literature, and to abridge the innocent entertainment of the public. by enhancing the price of books. I glory in the difference of our position.” It will be seen by the comparison of the text and the comment, that Mr. Tegg is mistaken in supposing I had called him “a pioneer of literature.” I only called him the pioneer of the opponents of the bill;-and that he is equally mistaken in supposing that I complained that he onens his shop for the sale of books, and not for the encouragement of authors. I ask for no encouragement to authors, but that which arises from the purchase of hooks by those who seek in them “the means of amusement, information and instruction:”—who voluntarily tax themselves for their own benefit:—and I venture to think that. as the gains of the publisher are just as effectually added to the price of a book as those of its author, it would be as beneficial to the public if the author of a book shared in the profit with the bookseller, even after the period to which the law now confines his interest in his own work, and when Mr. Tegg's good office in “opening his shop for its sale” sometimes commences So far from regarding Mr. Tegg as the pioneer of literature,” I have always contemplated him in the very opposite position,--as a follower of the march, whom the law allows to collect the spoils which it denies to the soldier who has sought for them. He has abundant reason, no doubt, “to glory in the difference of his position” and mine; but he quite mistakes his own. if he think he has any relation to literature, except as the depository of its winnings.
author. It will not be denied that it is desirable to extend the benefit to both classes, if it can be done without injury to the public, or to subsisting individual interests. The suggested injury to the public is, that the price of books would be greatly enhanced; and on this assumption the printers and bookbinders have been induced to sustain the publishers in resisting a change which is represented as tending to paralyze speculation—to cause fewer books to be written, printed, bound, and bought —to deprive the honest workmen of their subsistence, and the people of the opportunity of enjoying the productions of genius. Even if such consequences are to be dreaded, and justice requires the sacrifice, it ought to be made. The community have no right to be enriched at the expense of individuals, nor is the Liberty of the Press (magic words, which I have heard strangely blended in the din of this contraversy) the liberty to smuggle and to steal. Still, if to these respectable petitioners, men often of intelligence and refinement beyond their sphere, which they have acquired from their mechanical association with literature, I could think the measure fraught with such mischiefs, I should regard it with distrust and alarm. But never, surely, were the apprehensions of intelligent men so utterly baseless. In the first place, I believe that the existence of the copyright, even in that fivehundredth case, would not enhance the price of the fortunate work; for the author or the bookseller, who enjoys the monopoly, as it is called, is enabled to supply the article at a much cheaper rate when a single press is required to print all the copies offered for sale, instead of the presses and establishments of competing publishers; and I believe a comparison between the editions of standard works in which there is copyright, with those in which there is none, would confirm the truth of the inference." To cite, as an instance to the contrary, “Clarendon's History of the Rebellion,” is to confess that a fair test would disprove the objection; for what analogy is there between the motives and the acts of a great body, having no personal stimulus or interest, except to retain what is an ornament to their own power, and those of a number of individual proprietors But, after all, it is only in this five-hundredth case—the one rare prize in this huge lottery—that even this effect is to be dreaded. Now, this effect is the possible enhancing the price of .ne five-hundredth or five-thousandth book, and this is actually supposed “to be a heavy blow and great discouragement to literature,” enough to paralyze the energies of publishers, and to make Paternoster-row a desert: Let it only be announced, say our opponents, that an author, whose works may outlast twenty-eight years, shall bequeath to his children the right which he enjoyed, that
* The case of the Scriptures seems decisive on this int, on which the entire argument against the bill inges. In the First of Books there is perpetual copyright; and does any one believe it would be cheaper than it is if it were the subject of competition? The truth is, that the only way in which the printer could suffer by the extension of copyright is by a process which would make books cheaper;-the employment of one press, in stead of many, to produce the same number of copies.