图书图片
PDF
ePub

possibly some sixpence a volume may be added to its price in such an event, and all the machinery of printing and publication will come to a pause ! Why, sir, the same apprehension was entertained in 1813, when the publishers sought to obtain the extension of copyright for their own advantage to twenty-eight years. The printers then dreaded the effect of the

prolonged monopoly: they petitioned against

the bill, and they succeeded in delaying it for a session. And surely they had then far greater plausibility in their terrors; for in proportion as the period at which the contemplated extension begins is distant, its effects must be indistinct and feeble. Fewer books, of course, will survive twenty-eight years than fourteen ; the act of 1814 operated on the greater number if at all; and has experience justified the fears which the publishers then laughed to scorn? Has the number of books diminished since then Has the price of books been enhanced 1 Has the demand for the labour of printers or bookbinders slackened? Have the profits of the bookseller failed ! I need no committee of inquiry to answer these questions, and they are really decisive of the issue. We all know that books have multiplied; that the quartos, in which the works of high pretension were first enshrined, have vanished; and, while the prices paid for copyrights have been far higher than in any former time, the proprietors of these copyrights have found it more profitable to publish in a cheap than in a costly form. Will authors, or the children of authors, be more obstinate—less able to appreciate and to meet the demands of the age—more apprehensive of too large a circulation—when both will be impelled by other motives than those of interest to seek the largest sale; the first by the impulse of blameless vanity or love of fame; the last by the affection and the pride with which they must regard the living thoughts of a parent taken from this world, finding their way through every variety of life, and cherished by unnumbered minds, which will bless that parent's memory! If, sir, I were called to state in a sentence the most powerful argument against the objection raised to the extension of copyright on the part of the public, I would answer-" The opposition of the publishers.” If they have ground to complain of loss, the public can have none. The objection supposes that the works would be sold at something more than the price of the materials, the workmanship, and a fair profit on the outlay, if the copyright be continued to the author; and, of course, also supposes that works of which the copyrights have expired are sold without profit beyond those charges— that, in fact, the author's superadded gain will be the measure of the public loss. Where, then, does the publisher intervene 1 Is the truth this—that the usage of the publishing trade at this moment indefinitely prolongs the monopoly by a mutual understanding of its members, and that besides the term of twentyeight years, which the publisher has bought and paid for, he has something more ? Is it a conventional copyright that is in danger? Is the real question whether the author shall here

after have the full term to dispose of, or shall sell

a smaller term, and really assign a greater? Now, either the publishers have no interest in the main question, or this is that interest. If this is that interest, how will the public lose by paying their extra sixpence to the author who created the work, instead of the gentleman who prints his name at the foot of the title. page, and who will still take his 25 per cent. on the copies he may sell? This argument applies, and, I apprehend, conclusively, to the main question—the justice and expediency of extending the term. I am aware that there is another ground of complaint more plausible, which does not apply to the main question, but to what is called the retrospective clause—a complaint, that in cases where the extended term will revert to the family of the author, instead of excluding, by virtue of an implied compact, all the rest of the world, they, like all the rest of the world, will be excluded; that they had a right to calculate on this liberty in common with others when they made this bargain; and that, therefore, it is a violation of faith to deprive them of their share of the common benefit. That there is any violation of faith I utterly deny—they still have all they have paid for ; and when, indeed, they assert (which they do when they argue that the measure will confer no benefit on authors) they would not give an author any more for a copyright of sixty than of twenty-eight years, they themselves refute the charge of breach of faith, by showing that they do not reckon such distant contingencies in the price which they pay. If any inconvenience should arise, I should rejoice to consider how it can be obviated; and with that view I introduced those clauses which have been the subject of much censure, empowering the assignee to dispose of all copies on hand at the close of his term, and allowing the proprietors of stereotype plates still to use them. But supposing some inconvenience to attend this act of justice to authors, which I should greatly regret, still are the publishers entirely without consolation? In the first place, they would, as the bill now stands, gain all the benefit of the extension of future copyrights, hereafter sold absolutely to them by the author, and, according to their own statement, without any advance of price. If this benefit is small—is contingent—is nothing in 500 cases to one, so is the loss in those cases in which the right will result to the author. But it should further be recollected that every year, as copyrights expire, adds to the store from which they may take freely. In the infancy of literature a publisher's stock is scanty unless he pays for original composition; but as one generation after another passes away, histories, novels, poems—all of undying interest and certain sale—fall in ; and each generation of booksellers becomes enriched by the spoils of time, to which he has contributed nothing. If, then, in a measure which restores to the author what the bookseller has conventionally received, some inconvenience beyond the just loss of what he was never entitled to obtain be incurred, is not the balance greatly in his favour ! And can it be doubted that, in any case where the properties of the publisher and of the author's representatives

are imperfect apart, either from additions to the original, or from the succession of several works falling in at different times, their common interest would unite them? One of the arguments used, whether on behalf of the trade or the public Iscarcely know, against the extension of the term, is derived from a supposed analogy between the works of an author and the discoveries of an inventor, whence it is inferred that the term which suffices for the protection of the one is long enough for the recompense of the other. It remains to be proved that the protection granted to patentees is sufficient; but supposing it to be so, although there are points of similarity between the cases, there are grounds of essential and obvious distinction. In cases of patent, the merits of the invention are palpable; the demand is usually immediate; and the recompense of the inventor, in proportion to the utility of his work, speedy and certain. In cases of patent, the subject is generally one to which many minds are at once applied; the invention is often no more than a step in a series of processes, the first of which being given, the consequence will almost certainly present itself sooner or later to some of those minds; and if it were not hit on this year by one, would probably be discovered the next by another; but who will suggest that if Shakspeare had not written Lear, or Richardson Clarissa, other poets or novelists would have invented them? In practical science every discovery is a step to something more perfect; and to give to the inventor of each a protracted monopoly would be to shut out improvement by others. But who can improve the masterpieces of genius They stand perfect; apart from all things else; self-sustained; the models for imitation; the sources whence rules of art take their origin. Still they are ours in a sense in which no mechanical invention can be;—ours not only to ponder over and converse with—ours not only as furnishing our minds with thoughts, and peopling our weary seasons with ever-delightful acquaintances; but ours as suggesting principles of composition which we may freely strive to apply, opening new regions of speculation which we may delightfully explore, and defining the magic circle, within which, if we are bold and happy enough to tread, we may discern some traces of the visions they have invoked, to imbody for our own profit and honour; for the benefit of the printers and publishers who may send forth the products of these secondary inspirations to the world; and of all who may become refined or exalted by reading them. But it may be said that this argument applies only to works of invention, which spring wholly or chiefly from the author's mind, as poems and romances; and that works which exhibit the results of historical search, of medical or scientific skill, and of philosophic thought, ought to be governed by the same law as improvements in mechanics employed on timber and metal. The analogy here is, to a certain extent, correct, so far as it applies to the fact discovered, the principle developed, the mode invented; the fallacy consists in this, that while the patent sor fonrteen years secures to 22

the inventor the entire benefit of his discovery, the copyright does not give it to the author for a single hour, but, when published, it is the free unincumbent property of the world at once and for ever; all that the author retains is the sole right of publishing his own view of it in the style of illustration or argument which he has chosen. A fact ascertained by laborious inquiry becomes, on the instant, the property of every historian; a rule of grammar, of criticism, or of art, takes its place at once in the common treasury of human knowledge; nay, a theory in political economy or morals, once published, is the property of any man to accept, to analyze, to reason on, to carry out, to make the foundation of other kindred speculations. No one ever dreamed that to assume a position which another had discovered; to reject what another had proved to be fallacious; to occupy the table-land of recognised truths and erect upon it new theories, was an invasion of the copyright of the original thinker, without whose discoveries his successors might labour in vain. How earnest, how severe, how protracted, has been the mental toil by which the noblest speculations in regard to the human mind and its destiny have been conducted . Even when they attain to no certain results, they are no less than the beatings of the soul against the bars of its clay tenement, which show by their strength and their failure that it is destined and propertied for a higher sphere of action. Yet what right does the author retain in these, when he has once suggested them The divine philosophy, won by years of patient thought, melts into the intellectual atmosphere which it encircles; tinges the dreams and strengthens the assurances of thousands. The truth is, that the law of copyright adapts itself, by its very nature, to the various descriptions of composition, preserving to the author, in every case, only that which he ought to retain. Regard it from its operation on the lowest species of authorship—mere compilation, in which it can protect nothing but the particular arrangements, leaving the materials common to all; through the gradations of history, of science, of criticism, of moral and political philosophy, of divinity, up to the highest efforts of the imagination, and it will be found to preserve nothing to the author, except that which is properly his own; while the free use of his materials is open to those who would follow in his steps. When I am asked, why should the inventor of the steam-engine have an exclusive right to multiply its form for only fourteen years, while a longer time is claimed for the author of a book? I may retort, why should he have for fourteen years what the discoverer of a principle in politics or morals, or of a chain of proof in divinity, or a canon of criticism, has not the protection of as many hours, except for the mere mode of exposition which he has adopted? Where, then, the analogy between literature and mechanical science really exists, that is, wherever the essence of the literary work is, like mechanism, capable of being used and improved on by others, the legal protection will be found far more liberally applied to the latter—necessarily *July so applied—but

affording no reason why we should take from
the author that which is not only his own, but
can never, from its nature, be another's.
It has, sir, been asserted, that authors them-
selves have little interest in this question, and
that they are, in fact, indifferent or hostile to
the measure. True it is, that the greatest
living writers have felt reluctant to appear as
petitioners for it, as a personal boon; but I
believe there are few who do not feel the
honour of literature embarked in the cause,
and earnestly desire its success. Mr. Words-
worth, emerging for a moment from the seclu-
sion he has courted, has publicly declared his
conviction of its justice. Mr. Lockhart has
stated his apprehension that the complete
emancipation of the estate of Sir Walter Scott
from its encumbrances depends on the issue;
and, although I agree that we ought not to le-
gislate for these cases, I contend that we ought
to legislate by the light of their examples.
While I admit that I should rejoice if the im-
mediate effect of this measure were to cheer
the evening of a great poet's life, to whom I
am under intellectual obligations beyond all
price, and to enlarge the rewards of other
living authors whose fame will endure, I do
not ask support to this measure on their be-
half; but I present these as the proofs of the
subsisting wrong. The instances pass away;
successive generations do successive injus-

tice; but the principle is eternal. True it is that in many instances, if the boon be granted, the errors and frailties which often attend genius may render it vain; true it is that in multitudes of cases it will not operate; but by conceding it we shall give to authors and to readers a great lesson of justice; we shall show that where virtue and genius combine we are ready to protect their noble offspring, and that we do not desire a miserable advantage at the cost of the ornaments and benefactors of the world. I call on each party in this house to unite in rendering this tribute to the minds by which even party associations are dignified. I call on those who anticipate successive changes in society, to acknowledge their debt to those who expand the vista of the future, and people it with goodly visions; on those who fondly linger on the past, and repose on time-hallowed institutions, to consider how much that is ennobling in their creed has been drawn from minds which have clothed the usages and forms of other days with the symbols of venerableness and beauty; on all, if they cannot find some common ground on which they may unite in drawing assurance of progressive good for the future from the glories of the past, to recognise their obli. gation to those, the products of whose intellect shall grace, and soften, and dignify 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. Wakleyadverting 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 Attwood, 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 discussedprevented 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 where. by 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 formá, 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. Warburton 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 MOWING THE SECOND READING OF A BILL TO AMEND THE LAW OF COPYRIGHT,

DELIVERED IN THE House of CoMMons, Thunspar, FEBRUARY 28, 1839.

Mn. SPEAKEn—After the attention which, in past sessions, has been rendered by this House to the interests of literature, as affected by the laws of copyright—an attention gratefully acknowledged in the petitions which I have just presented–I shall best discharge my duty by reminding you, without preface, of the question which we once more are called on to decide, and by stating the position in which it stands, and the materials which we have to assist us in answering it. That question is, Whe her the present limitation of copyright is just 2 I will sum up my reasons for contending for the negative in language adopted by some of the distinguished persons whose petitions are before you. They allege—“That the term during which the law secures to the authors the profits arising from the productions of their own industry and genius is insufficient to provide for the fair reward of works written to endure: that the extension of the term proposed by this bill would encourage such compositions; that it would enable individuals to devote their powers to the lasting benefit and delight of mankind, without the apprehension that in so doing they shall impoverish their own descendants; and, that, while it would tend to the profit only of the greatest and the best of those engaged in literature, it would confer dignity and honour on the pursuits of all.”

These propositions, to which I seek your assent, are now for the first time imbodied by some of the most distinguished authors as the grounds of their own prayer, and will probably

be expressed by many others, whose feelings I know, if you permit this bill to proceed. When I first solicited for these arguments the notice of this House, I thought they rested on principles so general; that the interests of those who labour to instruct and illustrate the age in which they live are so inseparably blended with all that affects its morality and its happiness; that the due reward of the greatest of its authors is so identified with the impulses they quicken—with the traits of character they mirror—with the deeds of generosity, of courage and of virtue, which they celebrate, and with the multitudes whom they delight and refine, that I felt it was not for them alone that I asked the shelter of the law, and I did not wish to see them soliciting it as a personal boon. The appeal, though thus unsupported, was not unfelt; and the bill proceeded, without a hint of opposition, until the demise of the crown closed the session and stopped its progress. In the interval which thus occurred, a number of eminent publishers saw reason to apprehend that certain clauses in the bill, by which it was proposed to give to authors who had assigned their copyrights under the subsisting law a reverting interest after the expiration of its term, would injuriously affect their vested rights, and they naturally prepared to oppose it. They were accompanied or followed in this opposition by various persons connected with the mechanical appliances of literature

by master-printers, compositors, pressmen, type-founders, paper-makers, and book-bind

ers, smitten with the strange fear that to extend the term of copyright (though they all agree that the extension would operate only in one case out of five hundred) would destroy their trade, and their petitions were plenteously showered on the table of the House. Regard to the state of public business, and a belief that, although supported by increasing majorities, the nature of the opposition with which the bill was threatened would multiply and prolong the discussions beyond the bounds of the time which could be applied to such an object, induced me, at the suggestion of my honourable friend the member for Newark, again to withdraw it. Having been taunted with the absence of petitions in favour of the measure, I have now the support I did not before seek; and I doubt not, the example once set will be followed by many who feel deeply the justice of the cause, and are indignant at the grounds on which it has been opposed. Few as these petitions are, compared with the number of those who desire the success of this bill, I shall not fear to oppose the facts they state, the reasonings they suggest, or the authority with which they are stamped, with those accumulated by its opponents during the last sesslon. Having carefully perused the petitions against us, I am surprised to find how utterly destitute they are of information really bearing on the case, with an exception which does not now apply to the bill; for I may dismiss the complaints of the eminent members of the publishing trade, and of all who sympathized in their fears. Impressed with the force of some of their objections, I proposed various means by which I hoped to remove them, without denying to authors who had assigned their subsisting interest the benefits of that extended term which it was proposed to create. But I was compelled to abandon the attempt as hopeless, and to content myself with applying the extension to the cases of authors who had retained an interest in their works, and to books hereafter to be written. In this alteration I have offered nothing to the publishers, except in the rare and peculiar case of a joint interest co-extensive with the entire copyright in which case, unable to sever the benefit without extreme inconvenience to the publisher, I have chosen rather to grant it to both than to neither; and it is to the honour of the publishers, that, instead of seeking an unworthy compromise, they have been satisfied with the mere withdrawal of clauses which would have subjected them to certain inconvenience, and probable loss. Their opposition has ceased with the provisions which raised it; and with it all the allegations in the petitions which relate to it may be dismissed. There remain those of the printers and their allies, persons whose interests deserve the careful regard of the legislature, but whose opinions have no authority beyond the reasonings they adduce to support them. They are not like persons engaged in some occupation on which there is an immediate pressure, which they who feel most keenly can most vividly explain; nor like persons apprehending some change directly affecting their profits, under circum

| stances peculiarly within the range of their experience; they are mere speculators, like ourselves, on the probabilities of the distant future. All their apprehensions centre in one —that if the term of copyright be extended, fewer books will be printed; fewer hands will be required; fewer presses set up; fewer types cast; fewer reams of paper needed; and (though I know not whether the panic has pe. netrated to the iron-mine or ascended to the rag-lost) that a paralysis will affect all these departments of trade. Now, if there were any real ground for these busy fears, they would not want facts to support them. In the year, 1814, when the term of copyright was extended from fourteen to twenty-eight years, the same classes expressed similar alarms. The projected change was far more likely to be prejudicial to them than the present, as the number of books on which it operated was much larger; and yet there is no suggestion in their petitions that a single press remained unemployed, or a paper-mill stood still; and, indeed, it is a matter of notoriety, that since then publications have greatly multiplied, and that books have been reduced in price with the increase of readers. The general arguments of these petitions are those which the opponents of the measure urge, all resolving themselves into the assumptions, that if copyrights be extended, books will be dearer; that cheap books are necessarily a benefit to the public; and that the public interest should prevail over the claims of those who create the materials of its instruction. But there is one petition which illustrates so curiously the knowledge which these petitioners possess on the subject of their fears, and the modesty with which they urge them, that I must trespass on the patience of the House while I offer a specimen of its allegations. It is a petition presented by the honourable member for Kilkenny, agreed on at a public meeting at the Mechanics’ Institute, Southampton-buildings, by “compositors, pressmen, and others engaged in the printing profession.” After a sweeping assumption of the whole question between authors and readers, these petitioners thus designate the application made to this House on behalf of literature:—“The books to which it is assumed the present law does not afford sufficient protection are those of a trashy and meretricious character, whose present popularity deludes their writers with a vain hope of an immortal reputation.” Now, the works which were named by way of example, when this bill was introduced, were those of Coleridge, of Wordsworth, and of Sir Walter Scott; and if these are intended by the petitioners, I fear they have made no good use of cheap books, or that the books they have read are dear at any price. If the object of the bill is the protection of “trashy and meretricious" works, it may be absurd, but it must be harmless : for, as to such works, it must be a dead letter. The printers who fear that one set of “trashy and meretricious” works should endure after the lapse of twenty-eight years, and should thus deprive them of the opportunity of printing a brilliant succession of such | works, to which they do not refuse the aid of

« 上一页继续 »