HC Deb 02 August 1842 vol 65 cc965-77

The report on the Designs Copyright Bill, was brought up. On the question, that the amendments made by the committee to the bill be read a second time,

Mr. Williams

objected, that the measure had not been sufficiently discussed, and he should therefore move, that it be recommitted.

Mr. Heathcoat

thought the bill deserved greater consideration than it had yet received, and therefore supported the motion of his hon. Friend. The bill was not intended originally to apply to the lace trade, but by the amendments introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, it had been extended to that trade. The effect of the bill would be to promote litigation, to unsettle and embarrass trade, and to discourage sonic of our chief manufactures. The provisions relative to the registry of designs would be productive of the utmost confusion. People would go on registering their designs, unknown to each other; and when the spring season commenced, it would be found that in hundreds of cases there would be ground, or at least it would he considered that there was ground, for complaint of piracy. The main question, after all, would be left undecided▀×namely, what constituted a "new design." The bill authorised any two magistrates to decide the dispute. Why, a question so practical and difficult it would be utterly impossible for the magistracy to understand. To make ladies the judges would be infinitely better. He felt the strongest conviction that the bill ought not to pass into a law—at all events, that it ought not in the present year to be allowed to go through that House. If, however, the right hon. Baronet should be so ill-advised as to prevail on the House to adopt such a measure, one thing was certain—that he would have to amend it or propose its repeal in the course of the ensuing year.

Mr. Ellice

hoped that the Government would pause before they urged upon the House the adoption of such a measure. He knew how much the attention of the right hon. Baronet was occupied; but he was sure that if he could spare time to apply himself to the subject, he would withdraw his support from a hill in all respects so objectionable▀×so full of an inquisitorial spirit. It he only gave to it a little reflection, there could be no doubt that he would refuse to tide the hobby of the lion. Member for Belfast, It was too had that the interest of a whole trade should thus be affected, as it were, by a side wind It was intolerable that the lace trade should now hear of a bill for the first time which was so materially to affect their interests, and of which, therefore, they ought to have the fullest and most distinct notice, in order that they might have their ease fairly heard by that House. He begged hon. Members to look at the manner in which such a bill was likely to expose the manufacturer, tie trader, and die inventor to all the machinations of attorneys and informers, who 'might, by application to two magistrates, produce the greatest injustice, Two magistrates were not competent. to decide any such matter; and the hill was one which on no account ought to be allowed to pass at that period of the Session, or at any period, without. undergoing very material alteration.

Dr. Bowring

said, if they were to have any protection for the copyright of designs there ought to be sufficient machinery for the purpose of effecting that object. A tribunal composed of two magistrates was not only objectionable, but wholly inadequate to accomplish the object in view. He hoped, that the right hon. Baronet would reconsider the question and bring forward a more matured measure in the course of next Session.

Mr. Hume

said, it would be impossible her parties liable to be affected by this act to know whether they were offending against it or not. He objected to it also on the ground, that it would further extend and strengthen the restrictions upon trade. In the present state of the country every possible facility ought to be given to trade and manufactures; but the proposed bill was an evident impediment to the progress of trade.

Mr. Henley

would support the recommittal of the bill. Two magistrates were incompetent to decide what was new ands what was Gold in patterns, and if the hill were not recommitted he should certainly on the third reading move additional clauses.

Mr. Phillips

agreed in the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Oxford- shire and the hon. Member for Tiverton. He also concurred in a wish which had been expressed by several hon. Members, that this bill should be postponed for the present Session. The select committee which had considered the subject never recommended this piece of legislation; they had not even suggested its provisions. He would take this opportunity of correcting a statement made by him during the last debate upon this bill,—namely, that 2,000l. had been subscribed by Mr. Henry to defray the return of Mr. Emerson Tennent at the last Belfast election. He had since received a letter from Mr. Henry, which he would read to the House. The writer commenced by observing, that he had been informed that he (Mr. Philips) had stated in the course of a debate upon the Copyright of Designs Bill, that he had paid the sum of 2,000l. towards the expenses of the election of Mr. E. Tennent, and had insinuated, that it had been given as a bribe, to secure that Gentleman's services in reference to the said measure. Not a single farthing of that sum (said Mr. Henry) was paid by any calico manufacturer but myself, nor by any person in the print trade; nor had it any reference to the success of the copyright of designs. It was subscribed by myself and some friends as a testimony of our esteem for the high character of Mr. E. Tennent, and as a proof of our desire to secure a fit and proper person to represent the town of Belfast in Parliament. He had spoken according to what he understood to be the facts of the case; but he now found that he had been mistaken. Still it appeared to him somewhat extraordinary that any individual should go to the extent of subscribing 2,000l. for the election of a Member of Parliament, a sum which it had been proved before the Election Compromise Committee formed a large portion of the expenses of that election. He begged to be understood as not making the slightest personal insinuation against Mr. E. Tennent. But, to return to the bill, he was of opinion, that if it were passed in its present shape it would be productive of nothing but trouble and dispute, and mischief to trade. Whatever might become of the bill, or however he might be censured for the course he took against it, he felt that he was doing his duty. He feared that the effect of the bill would be to furnish our continental rivals with good designs at our expense. He had brought with him a pattern of an article which had been bought in Paris for the inspection of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. [The hon. Member handed a piece of printed cotton across the table.] There could not be a more ugly pattern; with a little water, a little mud, and a little blood, he could produce many a better pattern. It so happened that two or three houses had purchased this pattern; and, upon one of the party being about to publish it, he was stopped by the other, who claimed an equal title to the original possession of the pattern Now, would they have the law put on a footing which would give the wealthier man the power of saying to a humbler dealer, "You shall not sell until I have sold all my stock and glutted the market, and then you may sell if you can?" That would be a source of great injustice. He could nor divest himself of the apprehension that this measure would enable our continental rivals successfully to compete with us in the printing as well as in the fabric of the article. They had already passed a measure for grinding foreign corn in bond. Could anything prevent Belgium from printing English calicoes in bond? If so, was not this bill likely to injure our calico trade to a serious extent? He called upon them to have regard to the future as well as to the present.

Mr. Gladstone

would be sorry to press upon the House the carrying into a law any measure which had not been fairly considered, and to consider which sufficient time and opportunity had not been allowed, so as to bring its provisions to maturity. He wished the House to judge whether the demand for the postponement of this measure was an equitable demand or not. What was the history of the bill? It was not introduced by the Government, but by Mr. E. Tennent, the late Member for Belfast, on his own responsibility; and upon his losing his seat the bill was taken up by the Government. It had been urged, "Do not pass this bill before you hear what the representatives of the trades which it will affect have to say upon it." There never was any measure in respect to which such an objection was less appropriate. There had been ample time for the statement of objections on the part of those interested, but none had been made. The different trades were not objecting parties to the bill; the parties objecting were a minority. But that was a question he would not now discuss; it had been fully discussed on a former occasion. If the House did not proceed with the bill in the present Session it would be a great disappointment to the majority of the great mass of the trades affected by the bill. But it was said, that the lace trade had not had time to deal with it. That was not a question to be discussed now. They were now discussing, nominally, whether the bill should be recommitted. To that course he should object. It was perfectly fair for the hon. Member for Oxfordshire to wish for it, because lie wanted to introduce some clauses into the bill. But the real question was, "Is the bill to be proceeded with?" What were the authorities in behalf of an answer in the affirmative? In the first place, a committee sat in 1836, to consider the state of the arts of design in this country, and that committee was composed chiefly of gentlemen who held the most liberal views upon the question of trade. They reported, that the arts of design were in a very low and languishing state in this country, and that one of the main causes of that condition was the want of protection of property in design; and they recommended that the duration of copyright in design should be extended, and proposed sundry plans for asserting copyright and vindicating it against piracy. In 1840, a bill was introduced which was referred to a committee up stairs, which passed it with provisions corresponding to those of the present bill. Great objections had been made to the machinery of the bill, and perhaps they were not devoid of force; for he did not mean to say, that the machinery of working the bill by magistrates was at all comparable to some others; but it was conceded to the opponents of the measure, who wished that a cheap remedy should be provided. In 1841, the bill was again introduced and discussed. Some new opponents had now taken advantage of the favourable juncture of this period of the Session, and urged that it was too late to pass the measure. But the general principle of it had been discussed in times when there was a fuller attendance of Members, and when gentlemen of all parties and opinions were in town, and it had been discussed over and over again, and received the approval of the House. The subject had even been referred to a select committee, and the hon. Member for Manchester, was a Member of that committee. What ground, then, was there for opposing the bill on account of the immaturity of its provisions? The bill would, no doubt, have been passed in 1841, had it not been for the sudden adjournment of the House, occasioned by the political crisis which then stopped the progress of public business. It had received the sanction of the Board of Trade in connection with the late Government. With reference to the bill, not one petition had been laid on the. Table against it. Every person interested in the bill had looked forward to its being passed this Session. Much had been said on the effect which it was supposed the measure would have on the lace trade. The lace trade had made no protest on the subject.; It had been said, that the lace trade had been taken by surprise—such was not the fact. Six weeks had elapsed since the amendment with relation to the lace trade had been inserted, and yet that trade had not protested against the measure. Upon what grounds could the House be asked to disappoint the reasonable expectations of those who had been looking forward to the passing of this bill? If the object of the motion was merely to consider whether the patent should be granted for a period of six or nine months, there could not be any reasonable objection to the re- committal of the bill; but it was clear that the object of the hon. Member opposite, and those who supported his motion, was to delay the progress of the measure, and if possible ultimately to reject it altogether. The principle of the bill had met with the support of the hon. Member for Inverness, and the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade. That right hon. Gentleman had certainly expressed an opinion in favour of a six months', instead of a nine months,' term of copyright, but he gave his sanction to the principle of the bill. Under these circumstances he thought it was unreasonable to ask the House to consent to the motion of the hon. Member. He should, therefore, oppose the motion.

Viscount Palmerston

said, it had been urged by those who spoke against, the motion that the measure had already received sufficiently the consideration of the House. He did not think that the House had sufficient time to discuss the machinery of the measure. He understood that the object of the bill introduced by the late Member for Belfast was to apply the provisions of the present law to other articles of manufacture. He thought that his hon. Friend had made out a case in favour of the lace trade. The portion of the measure which had relation to that trade ought to be restored to the bill; in fact, it ought to stand as it did on its second reading in that House. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, who grounded his arguments in favour of the bill on the support which different trades had extended to it, would consider the objections which had been urged by the lion. Member on that side of the House on the part of those engaged in the lace trade, who considered that the measure would lead to embarrassment, inconvenience, and injury, without being productive of any benefit.

Sir T. Fremantle

protested against the noble Lord and the hon. Member considering that they had a right to monopolize the lace trade. It should be recollected that there were two different kinds of lace trade, the one the pillow lace, and the other by power and machinery. Those engaged in the lace trade in the borough which he had the honour of representing desired protection.

Sir R. Peel

had been on the committee formed for the purpose of considering the question, and he was prepared to admit that the subject was surrounded by many difficulties. He thought that the weight of authority was in favour of the extension of the term of copyright. The original term proposed was twelve months, but as it was considered that that term would give rise to a great interference with trade, be had proposed a limitation of the time from twelve months to nine, He and many others were very anxious to encourage schools of design; in order to carry out that view many men who were engaged in the trade paid large sums for good patterns, and it was too hard upon them, that others who had not expended one shilling upon them should be allowed to lie in wait until they saw a pattern which had succeeded, and, instantly copied it and inundated every market with it. Suppose a man were to procure 100 patterns as an expense of from 10l. to 20l. each, and only five out of all were to succeed, and just as he had produced them, and hoped that his profits on those five would repay him for the expense he had gone to for the others, just at that moment he found another person profiting by his outlay—by the encouragement he wished to give to design; had he not a right to say, that such a state of the law was unfair, and that the act was piracy? The right hon. Member for Coventry would not deny, that amongst his constituents they could not get up a design even for a riband; that trade depended on the arrivals of the French patterns. Well, that was admitted, and what did it prove? Merely this, that the taste of the French was cultivated because of the encouragement given to art by a copyright which existed for a twelvemonth. He was exceedingly sorry that so many of the chief supporters of the bill had left town, and that so many of those who opposed it amongst the manufacturing interest remained. He was in no way interested in the question, except as one anxious to promote the welfare of trade and the lately established School of Design. The bill had been under the consideration of the House for three years, and lie trusted the Legislature would not now separate without affirming its principle, and so relieve trade from that anxiety and embarrassment which, with other causes, had operated in producing the present, he hoped he might say, the late stagnation.

Mr. Brotherton

admitted, that the question was a very difficult one, existing, as there did, such a diversity of opinion amongst those engaged in the trade. Unless he were of opinion, that the bill would deeply injure the printing trade, lie would not offer it any opposition. But the fact was, we were now exporting more printed cottons than we printed altogether in 1830, and the bill, if carried into law, would deeply injure that trade. Besides, the bill would lead to endless litigation, inasmuch as who could say what was an original pattern or not? and it still allowed the importers of French patterns to register them as their own, a system out of which infinite confusion had already risen. There was no question it would benefit individuals, but not to such a degree as to recompense for the injury it would do the public, because to them it must raise the price of the goods. The right hon. Baronet had been much misinformed with respect to the prices charged for the patterns; the average was certainly not above 7s., many of them were purchased for 5s., and it must be a very good one indeed that would fetch 10s. 6d. The bill would only benefit the rich manufacturers, and would prove in their hands a source of much oppression against the young and able tradesman whom they might fear as a rival.

The House divided on the original question:—Ayes 73; Noes 14; Majority 59.

List of the AYES.
A'Court, Capt. Greene,T.
Aldam, Grogan, E.
Allix, J. P. Hamilton, W..J.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Hardy, J.
Arkwright, G. Herbert, hon. S.
Baird, W. Hope, hon. C.
Baring, hon. W. B. Howard, P. H.
Bentinck, Lord G. Humphery, Ald.
Boldero, H. G. Jermyn, Earl
Botfield, B. Jones, Capt.
Broadley, H. knatchbull, rt. hn.Sir E.
Brocklehurst, J. Lefroy, A.
Browne, hon. W. Lincoln, Earl of
Bruce, Lord E, Lockhart, W.
Chetwode, Sir J. Mundy, E. M
Collett, W. R. Nicholl, rt, hon. J.
Colvile, C. R. O'Brien, J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. O'Connell, D.
Cripps, W. Pakington, J. S,
Currie, R. Peel, right hon, Sir R.
Damer, hon. Col. Peel, J,
Darby, G. Polhill, F.
Dawnay, hon. W. H. Pollock, Sir E.
Douglas, Sir H. Praed, W. T
Douglas, Sir C. E. Smith, B.
Duncan, G. Stanley, Lord
Eaton, R. J. Stewart,
Eliot, Lord Stuart, H.
Escott, B. Sutton, hon. H. M,
Flower, Sir J. Taylor, T. E,
Ffolliott, J. Trench, Sir F. W
Forbes, W, Trotter, J.
Fuller, A. E, Verner, Col,
Gaskell, J. Milnes Vivian, J. E
Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E. Young, J.
Gore, W. R. O. TELLERS.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Fremantle, Sir T.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir. J. Pringle, A,
List of the NOES.
Blackstone, W. S. Napier, Sir C.
Bowring, Dr. Palmerston, Visct,
Brotherton, J. Philips, M.
Callaghan, D. Scholefield, J
Divett, E. Tufnell, H,
Duke, Sir J.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. TELLERS
Henley, J. W. Williams, W,
Hume, J. Heathcoat, J,

Amendment read a second time.

Mr. Williams

rose to move an amendment. He said he thought it was evident that the right hon. Baronet opposite did not fully understand this question. The right hon. Baronet was a Member of the committee appointed in 1839 to consider this subject; but he only attended for some three quarters of an hour or so, and asked two or three questions. He could state, with respect to the manufacturers of Coventry, that whatever might be the skill and taste they displayed, they were compelled to sell their stocks at a great sacrifice. One of the manufacturers of that town produced a pattern, some tune since, for which he could not obtain a sale; but the same pattern was, during die last spring, adopted by a French manufacturer, and the goods were sold most extensively in this country. It had been represented that he had a personal interest in this question, but he wished to state that for the last six years he had; not been concerned in any trade or business; and he had never possessed any interest in toe particular trade affected by this bill. It appeared that thirty-four of the principal calico-printers of this country, who in the year 1839 produced 6,034,000 pieces of 24 yds. each, had petitioned the House against any alteration in the existing law, and believed that all the persons engaged most extensively in the trade, whether as merchants or manufacturers, wire opposed to any change, The right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the board of Trade had stated that the committee appointed in 1836 recommended the adoption of a bill similar to that now before the House. That committee had given no sanction to such bill as this. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart) moved for that committee, and that same hon. Member, being a member of the committee of 1840, voted against any extension of the copyright. It had been also stated that the Board of Trade had recommended this measure, or something like it. No such thing; there was no such recommendation. The reference to two magistrates, instead of being in force, for many years had never been applied to the principal branch of this trade and the calico trade. No such bill as this had been debated or considered, for the bills debated in the last Session and this year, on the second reading, were very different from this measure, and the last stage was taken on a Saturday. The changes which had been made in the progress of the bill were the causes of the errors in legislation so frequent in their measures; no two of the judges could be brought to agree on all the clauses of any act the House thus passed; this was the necessary consequence of bills being thus smuggled through the House. He conceived that the bill would afford a fruitful source of litigation, and would be most advantageous to the lawyers, for whose benefit he thought it had been concocted. It had been shown by the evidence given before a committee of that House, that in one case a copyright had been claimed for a pattern which had been in existence for fifty years; and one gentleman, who was a very extensive manufacturer, stated in evidence, that it was most difficult to decide what was an original design. Another gentleman engaged extensively in the manufacture stated that though he had been in the trade for thirty years, he had only seen one design which he could consider original, and that was obtained by means of the kaleidoscope. During the last five years, the time that the present act had been in operation, upwards of 30,000,000 of what were called new designs had been produced; every object in nature, or which the imagination of man could conceive, had been produced, and it was utterly impossible to make an original design, in the opinion of those who best understood the subject. The second clause proposed to leave the decision as to the originality of designs to three tribunals;—namely, to two magistrates, to a court of law, and to the Court of Chancery; he should propose that two magistrates should have the decision of these questions, and leave out any resort to the Courts of law and Chancery. The third clause brought a vast variety of branches of trade within the ban of this law which had never before been subjected to any copyright whatsoever. The effect of these changes would be to render these articles dear to the public, and especially to the poorer classes. It was proposed, that the copyright should be extended to three years on paper-hangings, carpets, stained glass, wood cuts, earthenware, &c., and he thought these changes unwarranted, as they were not required by the trade. He should propose an amendment or addition to every clause in the bill. He should first propose as an amendment to the second clause, to leave out all the words after "copyright" in the third line.

Mr. Hume

thought designs in France were superior to those in England, that was not owing to protection, but to the schools for the rearing and teaching of the young men. He wished to know who was pressing the bill through the House? He thought it ought to be postponed to some future period, to give time for further consideration. The effect of it would be to establish monopolies against the consumer. It was risking a great deal of mischief without much prospect of good. On all these grounds he hoped the right hon. Baronet, at the head of the Government, would re-consider the subject, and not press this bill further at this period of the Session.

Sir R. Peel

said, that after the bill had been now three years under consideration, and after the House by a majority of seventy-two to thirteen had just now come to a decision in its favour, he hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite would not lend themselves to a course which would not only be fatal to the character of the House, but would prevent the bill passing. He would not enter now into a discussion of the bill—the House, he repeated, had manifested by seventy-two to thirteen a decision in favour of the measure, and he trusted the hon. Member for Coventry would not interpose to stop the measure by pursuing a course which would be quite inconsistent with that fair mode of opposition he had always hitherto pursued.

Mr. Morrison

had always entertained the opinion he had expressed on a former occasion —that the manufacturers ought to have some protection in their copyright of designs. He was anxious to see an English style established, for at present, this country in this respect, was a mere copyist of France. He, however, thought some difficulty would arise under this bill in the case of two manufacturers purchasing the same design in Paris, as to which should have the copyright in this country.

Amendment withdrawn. Other amendments were proposed, some were negatived, and some agreed to.

On Mr. Williams's proposition to omit in clause 3 the words "nine calendar months," in order to insert the words "three calendar months."

The House divided on the question, that the-words proposed to be left out, stand part of the bill:—Ayes 78; Noes 13:— Majority 65.

List of the NOES.
Brotherton, J. Plumridge, Capt.
Curteis, H. B. Scholefield, J.
Duke, Sir J. Seale, Sir J. H.
Forster, M. Thornely,
Heathcoat, J. Wood, B.
Hume, J. TELLERS.
Morris, D. Williams, W
Palmerston, Visct. Philips, M.

Bill to he read a third time,