§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
As I have not previously had an opportunity of explaining the position of this Bill, perhaps the House would prefer that I should make my statement to-day on the Second Reading, and leave it to one of my colleagues to answer any question which may be put subsequently in debate, I would ask the particular indulgence of the House on the present occasion because I think it is generally admitted that the question of copyright is a very difficult one. It is a very difficult one certainly for a layman to understand, and I almost despair of making my position on the Bill clear and certainly of making it interesting. I think I may con- 2588 gratulate myself upon the fact that although the Bill has now been before the country for something like eight months, I do not think any objection has been taken to the principle of it. The principle of the Bill may be said to be, that authors speaking of them in the largest sense of the term are entitled to ample protection for their works of creation and that the law of copyright ought, if possible, to be put on a simple, clear, and intelligible basis. There have been criticisms of detail, and I welcome criticisms of detail, and certainly when we get to the Committee stage of this Bill I shall be very willing to listen to what can be said on the various questions which have been raised in connection with the Bill. When I introduced the Bill last year I stated that it was introduced with a view to its re-introduction and with a view not then of passing it, but of allowing those interested in the question to have have an opportunity of considering the details of the Bill, and the result has been that I have had a considerable number of representations, communications, deputations, and so on, and I hope it will be recognised by those who are interested in the question that the present Bill is a considerable improvement on the Bill of last year. It is a question which of course I quite agree, as far as possible, ought to be carried by general assent. Therefore I shall be quite willing to consider questions on the Committee stage when they arise. I rather gather from what I am aware of and what I have seen that most of the hon. Members who have put down six-month notices have done so rather with the intention of drawing attention to the various matters than to challenge the principle of the Bill. To all those matters I shall carefully give attention on the Committee stage.
Coming to the Bill itself, there are three strong reasons—urgent reasons—why the law of copyright should be put on a better and reformed basis. In the first place, from the domestic point of view, the Copyright Acts urgently require amendment, codification, and simplification. The strong Royal Commission of 1878 practically condemned the existing state of things. These are their words:—The law is wholly destitute of any sort of arrangement, incomplete, often obscure, and even when it is intelligible upon long study, it is in many parts so ill-expressed, that no one who does not give such study to it can expect to understand it.I think the House, therefore, will appreciate that, coming as I do as a layman to this matter, it is somewhat difficult to 2589 arrive at a satisfactory conclusion in regard to it. These criticisms were repeated and emphasised by a Departmental Committee presided over by Lord Gorell, to whose painstaking care we are very much indebted. The Committee, while suggesting the ratification of the Berlin Convention, also suggested that the law of copyright required thorough revision. The reason for the inconsistent dealings with different works is that the subject has never been before treated as a whole. There are something like twenty-two Acts dating back to 1735. Each class of work, books, music, lectures, plays, engravings, sculpture, paintings, drawings and photographs, has received different treatment in different statutes. What we desire to do is to sweep away the whole of these contradictions, anachronisms in some cases, and amomalies in others. We desire to repeal eighteen Acts of Parliament, to repeal a considerable portion of four others, and to bring the whole matter into one Bill. I think I may take some pride with the draftsman of the Bill and those who have been assisting in this codification in the fact that while we are repealing eighteen Acts and a considerable portion of others and codifying the law and including in it the common law affecting this question we have been able to do that in a Bill of thirty-eight clauses, which I hope will bring order out of chaos. That is the domestic reason for the introduction of the Bill. There is a further reason and a very strong one and that is the Imperial reason. The Copyright question has before now raised very delicate Constitutional questions between ourselves and the self-governing Dominions, and a sort of forced uniformity in regard to this matter has led to considerable difficulties between the Mother Country and some of the Dominions, and to interminable, and in some cases, I am sorry to say to acrimonious correspondence. I am told in this matter we ought to insist on absolute uniformity throughout the whole Empire. Even if we desired to do so, it is quite clear that, whatever may have been the case in the forties, under present conditions we have no means of exercising such a coercion as that, even if we desired to. But there is no such desire on our part, nor, as far as I am able to judge, on the part of the Colonies, to arrive at any conclusion on this matter except with the object of obtaining the utmost uniformity for Imperial copyright. After the Berlin Convention had been 2590 signed, it was necessary, of course, to take the self-governing Dominions into communication and counsel. Last year, therefore, the various self-governing Dominions of Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland (represented here by delegates), the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Board of Trade being also represented, the whole under my chairmanship, as representing the Board of Trade, had a considerable number of meetings with a view to arriving at a common conclusion. The hon. Gentleman (Sir Gilbert Parker) a day or two ago asked a supplementary question, and said that, as he understood, the question was one down to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, and would it not be better to postpone the Bill until after the Conference. My answer to that was that we have already had our Colonial Conference on the matter, and the only Motion with reference to copyright was not with reference to copyright itself, but only a general resolution in favour of uniformity of copyright and half a dozen other matters as well. The House will recognise that, as far as the Dominions are concerned, we have already taken them into our confidence, and they have arrived at a more or less unanimous arrangement.
I think I can state shortly what, was the view held by the Colonial Conference. Our first desire was unanimous that the Berlin Convention should be ratified with as few modifications as possible, thus combining national with Imperial uniformity, that there should be as much uniformity of copyright law throughout the Empire as possible. The delegates were very emphatic on the line of uniformity of copyright throughout the Empire. In order to attain this object an Imperial Act should be passed expressly to extend to all the British Dominions and any self-governing Dominions who desired could either adopt the Act in its entirety or adopt it in substantially identical terms subject to modifications and additions relating principally to procedure and remedies or necessary to adopt the Act to the particular circumstances of the Dominion, and such a Dominion would then come under the general operations of the Act. If a Dominion did not adopt the Act or give substantially identical rights to British authors it would not by right enjoy the benefits of the Imperial Act, but by an Order in Council, if it gives reciprocal treatment to British authors it would 2591 be able to obtain the benefits of the Imperial Act. The basis of the Imperial Conference and the Bill founded on its deliberations is that while we leave to the self-governing Dominions liberty to legislate for themselves we offer them the greatest possible inducement to accept the Imperial Act as a model, and to differ from it as little as possible, by offering reciprocal advantages. The impression left strongly on my mind at the Conference was that it was the desire of the dominions as far as possible to carry out uniformity of copyright throughout the Empire.
The third reason why I am asking the House to pass the Bill is an internatiomal reason. Great Britain and her Colonies have been a party to the original Copyright Convention at Berne in 1888. The fundamental principle of that Convention was that each of the Union States should extend to citizens of the other Union States the advantages given to their own authors in their country. That was modified by a subsequent Convention in Paris, but has been very considerably added to and improved by the Berlin Convention in 1908. The object of the Convention and Conference was to bring the domestic law of the countries concerned into harmony with one another, so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of international uniformity of treatment. That Convention was attended, not only by the Union countries, but by many of the non-Union countries, and from such information as we have before us we believe that the number of Union countries will soon be increased. Already twelve out of sixteen Union countries have ratified the Berlin Convention, and it becomes desirable therefore for Great Britain, if she desires to re-remain within the Union countries, also to ratify that Convention, and until she does so we only get the advantages of the Berne Convention without the additional advantages of the Berlin Convention. The House will see that the Berlin Convention, by proposing uniformity of treatment in regard to this question of copyright, necessarily involves alteration in the laws of respective countries. Every other Union country has already before the Berlin Convention, and certainly since, brought its laws into harmony on most points with the Berlin suggestions, but we ourselves have not done so. We have not had a reforming Copyright Act for many years, therefore, so far as 2592 we are concerned, the Berlin Convention involves on us a larger amount of alteration in our copyright law than probably any other country. But I have shown that the ratification—and I think we all desire that the Berlin Convention should be ratified—necessarily involves considerable alteration in our law.
Passing from the three reasons—the domestic reason, the Imperial reason, and the international reason, why it is necessary and urgent for the reform of our copyright laws, I will now refer to the Bill itself, and point out how the matter stands and what it is that we propose. The general basis of the Bill defines copyright clearly and simply, and states clearly what work it applies to. People very often, in talking of copyright, think chiefly of books. Of course, it includes not only books but paintings, engravings, music, sculpture, dramatic works, and generally, artistic matter, and at present, in regard to all those questions, the period and condition of copyright without any apparent reason, except that they were brought into existence under different Acts, vary greatly, and there is no uniformity. Speaking generally, the object of the Bill is to bring the same terms and the same obligations and the same remedies and the same advantages to all these various classes of works, and brings them as far as possible under a uniform and simple process, and the works which are brought under copyright are every original literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work, and we adopt the Berlin proposal, which is founded on the Berne Convention, of giving for a published work copyright by first publication in this country, or simultaneous publication in another country. That is to say, any foreign author, by first publishing here, will obtain copyright here under the conditions of our Copyright Act. Publication, of course, means the issue of copies to the public. As regards unpublished works, the authors must be British citizens or residents. Further, under Order in Council, we can extend the full privileges obtained by British authors under this Act to such other countries as give us also adequate protection and reciprocal advantages. Of course as regards those Union countries which have brought their legislation up to date we should without question give them these full advantages, which we should also extend to a non-union country, they on the other hand making provision for the rights of British authors in their 2593 country. On the other hand—this is a new Clause which has not been in a Copyright Act before—we protect ourselves against unfair treatment by a Clause which enables us to withhold the privilege of first publication from any countrry which does not give adequate protection to British authors.
So much as regards copyright itself. The next branch of the Bill is to define who is the owner in whom copyright shall vest. Copyright should vest in the actual creator of the work. This is what we do with two minor exceptions. When the work is done in the ordinary course of employment it will belong to the employer. If the work is done on commission it will, with certain exceptions, be in the hands of the person ordering the work. In any other case the owner of the copyright will be the actual creator of the work itself. Copyright is to be applied and extended to certain works which have so far been left out, or which have not received adequate treatment, such as translations, lectures, original and adaptations. As regards architectural works of art, the Berlin Convention proposed that works of art in architecture should be brought under copyright protection. It is a difficult question and not one which I am prepared to discuss at the present moment, but it is a legitimate one to discuss in the Grand Committee upstairs. But I just want to draw attention to-day to a new feature of the Copyright Bill based on the Berlin Convention, which is applied in almost every other country except England at the present moment. Protection is in future to be given to lectures, and under lectures is included speeches, so that hon. Members will be able to obtain greater security in the copyright of their speeches. I am sure that they will be glad to have a larger number of years extended to their copyright. I am sure that the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will be really not only interesting ten years but a hundred years hence, and will serve as models in the power of obstruction. [An HON. MEMBER: "Instruction."] I beg pardon, "instruction," for it is sometimes the same thing. But unfortunately the lecturer or speaker under the existing law, if he wants the protection of copyright, must communicate that he is going to lecture or speak with two magistrates living within five miles of the place where the lecture or speech is to be delivered, and within two days of the delivery of the 2594 lecture or speech. Thus it was somewhat difficult in the whole circumstances to protect the copyright of lectures or speeches. Under this Bill, by merely putting up a notice of the speech or lecture, he is able to retain the copyright. The Bill also extends copyright to dramatised novels and to novelised dramas and to the control of the public performance of musical works. It deals with posthumous works. A good many representations were made to me on this point. Special arrangements are made for collective works such as encyclopædias, periodicals, and hymn books, especially as regard the period of copyright. There is one novel feature in connection with this matter, and that is that for the future a composer who at the present moment has no means of preventing infringements of his rights by any method of mechanical machines for reproduction will be protected against unauthorised reproduction by mechanical means without payment. Records will themselves receive protection. It is quite obvious that these particular points could not be foreseen when the last Copyright Act was passed. They have arisen since then. I think the House will agree that a composer in such a matter as that ought to have equal rights with the author of any other work against the reproduction by mechanical or other processes. That principle is admitted on all hands, and the only question is as to the best method of carrying it out. This Bill provides for putting the composer on the same basis as the author of other works.
As to the remedies, there has been utter confusion in the law of copyright as regards damages, penalties, rights of seizure, confiscation of copies, and so on. It is very difficult to know what the existing rights and remedies are. We propose now to put them on a uniform basis, so as to make the law quite clear. We provide the same remedies in regard to all these various cases. The remedies are necessarily in some matters strengthened, and they are partly modelled on the Musical Protection Act. Although they have been somewhat modified in various ways, because some seemed rather too stringent, that Act has had the effect of putting down piracy and unlicensed hawking of musical productions. The result of that has been that while musical productions now escape the attentions of those who were engaged in that trade, the same gentry have now applied themselves to the unlicensed piracy of books, such as the "De Profundis," of Oscar Wilde, and 2595 one or two of Kipling's works, which have been pirated and hawked about. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition will feel himself complimented, but I understand that his "Insular Free Trade" was also pirated and hawked about in the same manner. I am told—I do not know whether it was so—that the work had a larger circulation because it was hawked on one side of the street, and sold as a Free Trade pamphlet, while the hawker on the other side sold it as a Protectionist pamphlet. The general proposition of the Bill recognises and endorses the principle that, subject to the legitimate interests of the public, the author is to be secured in the control and use of his works and to make the best bargain he can and to secure his works against improper treatment. That is the general basis of the law of copyright as we desire to apply it. Without touching further details, I may state that there is one very serious change in the existing state of the law which is really fundamental, and that is the abolition of formalities. The existing law and regulations are based on no system. For instance, books need only be registered after infringement has taken place and before the action is brought; paintings and photographs must be registered before the infringement takes place; other works need not be registered at all. The Gorell Committee describes this as "anomalous, uncertain, and productive of great disadvantage and annoyance to authors, with little or no advantage to the public." They say it is a snare to the innocent infringer. Practically all other nations have abolished all formalities, and the Berlin Convention proposed that they should be abolished altogether in international matters. Unless we abolish them ourselves our authors will be put at considerable disadvantage. This Bill contains provisions for the abolition of all registration.
If you abolish formalities as to registration and dates of publication you must alter the period of copyright. At present we have a large number of variations, some of them dating from the death of the author, some from the date of publication, some combining both. The system adopted by practically every other country is that the date of copyright should be not from the date of publication but from the death of the author, and we ourselves in the latest Copyright Act, which dealt with the term of copyright, the Fine Arts Copyright Act, have adopted that principle. 2596 That principle, that in future the copyright shall date from the death of the author and not from the first publication has received the unanimous support of practically all other countries, and of all authorities who have inquired into the matter. The Royal Commission of 1878 very strongly recommended it, as also did the Gorell Committee, and the Imperial Conference. I think on the merits it is clear it is an advantage to take that basis. In the first place it is much easier to get rid of the difficulties which often occur in regard to the being sure of the date when the book is in or out of copyright, because in this case it dates from the death of the author and not from the date of first publication, and it is much easier to find out the date of the death of the author than to find out the beginning and end of the period of copyright of thirty or forty of his works. Therefore, we adopt the principle of the Berlin Convention and make the copyright date from the death of the author. As regards both the author himself and the public it is an advantage. All his works fall out of copyright at the same time. The proposed change will tend to the great advantage of uniform editions. In the case of some particular work, a great work of research which is published one volume at a time it is an advantage that that work should not go out of copyright one part at a time and another part later, as this tends towards the republication of simply a part of it as the whole, instead of having the whole work republished.
There is also a point of importance to authors in reference to the question of editions. Under the existing system the first edition falls out of copyright before the subsequent editions, and the first edition except for the bibliomaniac, who only wants the book, not to read, but for his library, as a rule, is the one that is least valuable, and, in many cases, is misleading and is the one that the author himself would wish to suppress, because he has superseded it by a better and more important edition. At the present moment he has no control over that. The first edition, when it falls out of copyright, if it is a book of some repute, is published without any indication that it is the first edition, and the public is led to believe that it is a complete final edition, and the public is misled. There have been two notorious cases in reference to that. One was Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam." As many hon. Members know, the first edition was singularly incomplete, and it was 2597 enormously improved in subsequent editions. When the first edition fell out of copyright it was republished. This immature and incomplete work was sold as Tennyson's "In Memoriam" to the detriment of his reputation and of the reader of the work. The other case is that of Darwin's "Origin of Species," which, as hon. Members know, was, for certain reasons, rather hurriedly published, and was enormously revised and improved by Darwin himself. I have a letter from him here in which, writing to a friend, he said: "I find you have been working on my first edition, which is so imperfect that I do not wish it to be quoted, and I therefore send you a copy of my amended edition, which is what I stand by." Yet under our present system the first edition of the "Origin of Species" was, and has been, published as Darwin's "Origin of Species," again, I say to the detriment of the reputation of the author and to the disadvantage of the public.
Our present system of copyright depends largely in some cases on the question of registration and the date of publication. As it is necessary for us, if we desire to ratify the Convention, to accept the abolition of formalities and alter our existing system, we have to consider what alternative shall be proposed for the existing system of copyright. It varies in regard to nearly every form of work. But as regards books as hon. Members know our present copyright is the life of the author, and seven years or forty-two years from the date of publication, whichever is the longer. That is to say, the minimum length of copyright at present is forty-two years from the date of publication. The proposal of the Convention is to have a uniform term from the death of the author, and the term proposed, not necessarily compulsory, is the life of the author and fifty years. The question is: shall we adopt the proposal of the Convention? Frankly, any term that is proposed, whether thirty or forty or fifty years, is obviously an arbitrary term. Even our present system of forty-two years, which has not the advantage of being a round figure, is purely arbitrary. It is a compromise between the extreme claims of the authors to perpetual copyright and the extreme claims of the other side that they have no right to copyright at all. As a matter of practical politics there are only two terms suggested, taking the death of the author as the point. One is the question of thirty years. 2598 The other is the proposal of fifty years. Thirty years has some serious disadvantages. In the first place it restricts the existing period of copyright in all cases in which the work is produced during the last twelve years of the author's life. I do not think anybody desires to restrict the existing period. The Royal Commission recommended strongly that it should not be restricted. But if you had thirty years, quite obviously, during the last twelve years of the author's life, as compared with the present system, those who wrote books in that period would suffer a disadvantage. Macaulay showed conclusively, in discussing this matter sixty or seventy years ago, that the bulk of the books which enjoyed copyright, which survived sufficiently long to justify the copyright, are those written in later life.
It is the books written in later life, scientific and historical works, and works of research, which are hardest hit, and reduced. Further, thirty years is of no advantage from the international point of view. The period of fifty years has some peculiar advantages. It covers the full life of his immediate descendants and children, who ought to have some consideration. It is the only term which does not in itself reduce the existing forty-two years of copyright. It therefore gives an advantage instead of curtailing the period, as thirty years would do in regard to works of later life. It is the only term which could not be retrospective, and would avoid for the next forty years having two systems of copyright running side by side, while uniformity is being especially sought. It is the only method by which we could really obtain in this matter anything like international uniformity. It was recommended by the Berlin Convention, and it has been adopted by far the larger number of countries, either union or non-union. Out of sixteen union countries ten have adopted the term of life and fifty years, three union countries have adopted life and thirty years, and each of the others has an altogether different system. If we take the countries as a whole, twenty out of thirty-eight have adopted the system of life and fifty years, and only five give life and thirty years. As far as we are concerned, it is a matter of moment that we should fall into line with other countries on this question, and get more or less a universal system. The Royal Commission of 1878 recommended the import- 2599 ance of adopting an international agreement. If we adopted some lesser system the British author would be put at a disadvantage in comparison with the foreign author, because abroad he would only have the rights and terms that prevail in his own country. A rather interesting case that affected the question of printing in other countries was brought to my attention a few days ago, in which the publishers of Strauss's music actually for their own protection opened an office in Paris instead of Berlin, because by so doing they got the fifty years of France instead of the thirty years of Germany. That means that unless we are able to obtain a larger term of years the same thing may occur with regard to foreign or British authors.
Objection has been taken to the term as a long one, but the two chief objections urged against the extension of the term were, first, that it would give an excessive term to worthless or ephemeral books; and, secondly, that copyright stands in the way of numerous and cheap editions, and that it is an advantage to have a work thrown into the public domain. I believe that there is a great deal of misapprehension with regard to both these points. I quite agree that legislation ought to be so arranged as to encourage the production of the best and not of the less worthy books. We should afford encouragement to the production of literary work which will be of lasting benefit to the world, and I believe that the Bill does that. It is really irrelevant to point to a particular book as worthless, and ask, "Does this deserve life and fifty years?" But such books as those to which I am referring will not benefit in the slightest degree by the extension of copyright. The great majority of books, I am sorry to say, speaking as an author in a humble way, are dead and damned before they are two years old, and others are in the some position in the course of a few years. The vast bulk of books are in that position long before the period of copyright has expired. Extension of the period in their case would not add a year, a month, or a day to their life.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Nor sixpence to the author's gains, as observed my right hon. Friend, with an eye to the main chance, and quite rightly from the author's point 2600 of view. Putting aside, however, the question of these minor books, there is a residue of works of exceptional and sterling merit, to which should be given the greatest assistance which can be derived from copyright. These works—works of genius, labour, research, and thought—are entitled to a proper reward, and it is these works alone which will benefit by the extension of the term. It will especially benefit those authors whose reward often does not come within their lifetime, or often very late in life. It often happens with works of genius that they are not appreciated until late in the author's life, or until after his death. I have here particulars with regard to three persons in very different walks of life—Wagner, Herbert Spencer, and George Meredith. In each of these cases, and in practically all their earlier life, they were not recognised. Wagner practically realised nothing during his life. Herbert Spencer's works only just began to pay at the end of his life. Meredith was in a somewhat better position. His son has placed particulars at my disposal, and it is pathetic to see how many years it was before Meredith was at all appreciated, or before his works became of any pecuniary value. An author may write for fame, but he also writes principally and mostly to pay his butcher, and baker, and the candlestick-maker, and to provide, as far as possible, for his children. We ought not, therefore, to grudge a sufficient period of time to enable a man of genius to obtain adequate reward. Then in regard to the question of cheap editions also. There is a very considerable amount of misunderstanding. I agree that the public ought to receive a cheap and abundant supply of books, music, works of art, and so on; and if I thought that copyright or the extension of it prevented this I would not advocate it, and certainly not its extension. But a careful examination of the facts leads me to an entirely opposite conclusion, and I believe that copyright, which in the days of dear books may have had some effect in keeping up the prices, has entirely ceased to be a hindrance in these days of cheapening and cheap books. On the contrary. I think it is an incentive towards a cheaper and larger number of editions and cheaper production.
The evidence put before the Gorell Committee went to show (1) that cheap editions are becoming increasingly the custom; (2) that cheap editions are not published when copyright falls in; (3) that 2601 copyright books are as cheap or cheaper than non-copyright books; and (4) that copyright actually encourages the printing and publication of cheap and numerous editions. No one can predict if a book be popular and still less lastingly popular. That can only be judged by experience, but the protection of copyright allows and encourages experiments. Without copyright a very large number of books would not be published at all, and the world would thereby be the poorer. That applies especially to works which in brains, time, or production cost much outlay to produce. Hon. Members should remember that the margin of profit on cheap editions is comparatively small, and the publisher who is, after all, a business man, cannot afford to take the risk of a new or cheap edition unless he has more or less security against immediate imitation of those cheap editions. In certain exceptional eases, it might not be so, but it certainly applies to the bulk of the books that no publisher without proper safeguards can take the risk of cheap editions. It is quite certain that without copyright they will not think it worth their while as a business proposition. A great change has taken place with regard to production of late years. At prices lower than they used to be, the production of cheap editions is far greater, and increasingly so. I am told by a publisher, and I am sure the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), will agree, that authors are, of course, anxious, and have a legitimate ambition to have cheap editions, because they regard them—the shilling or the sevenpenny edition—as a high compliment to their popularity. Therefore, it is to their interest, as well as that of the publisher to have cheap editions. It may safely be said, therefore, that a great many books are produced because there is copyright, and which would not if there were not copyright. The result is that you really get a larger number of editions at a cheap rate owing to the advantage of copyright than you would otherwise get. Those who think the opposite point to the cheap editions of non-copyright works which are published by libraries. If you examine them you will find the remarkable fact that the cheaper of them are really copyright works, so that you have side by side copyright and non-copyright books at the same price, and you get in a large number of those cheap libraries cheaper copyright works than non-copyright works. I believe, therefore, that the author, and the publisher and the 2602 printers, and those interested in the making up of books, have all the came interest in this matter, and I think, on the whole, the system of copyright extension will help their interests rather than hinder them. We are told, "Oh, yes, it is all very well to sympathise with the author, but what about the publisher, you have no sympathy with him." We have it on the authority of Lord Byron that "Barrabas was a publisher." I have not found them so. What the public ought to know about the copyright is: will it go to the advantage of the author or solely to the advantage of the publisher. It is quite clear that of late years there has been a very great change in this matter. At one time it was rather the custom for the author to part with his copyright, I am informed now, and all the information goes to show that in nearly every case the author retains his copyright, and that it does not go to the publisher. The Society of Authors have been preaching this doctrine effectively for years. The facts and figures placed at my disposal have shown me that the same conclusion is true. As regards music I have the very best authority for stating that the selling of copyright is practically unknown. One real advantage of this extended term would be to emphasise this and to add to the inducement to retain the copyright. It is certainly the right system, for the author retains an interest both parental and pocket, and it will press and not retard new editions.
There is one point to which public attention has been drawn by a distinguished publisher and author, and that is a new Clause which was inserted with the view that if the lengthened period of copyright was likely to lead to abuse there ought to be some method, with proper safeguards, by which public rights ought to be preserved if a book were unduly withheld from the public. That is the Clause to which reference has been made outside. Under that proposal the Comptroller-General of Patents and Designs can be moved to consider the matter, and if he is satisfied under strict conditions that the book is being withheld from the public then he would have the power to issue a licence on representations made to him; but not unless twenty-five years had elapsed from the date of publication after death. I see from a letter which appears to-day in the "Daily Telegraph" from a very distinguished author that he, at all events, is very much alarmed at this Clause. I 2603 wish before distinguished authors are very mach alarmed, that they would read the Clause they are alarmed so much about, because the anxiety, as I understand it, is whether this compulsory licence would not entitle each Colony, and also that it includes provision as to printing. Neither of these two things is proposed.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I shall be very careful. It was the first time I used it. I use the word Dominions, but Colony was the word used here. My point is that this does not touch the question of Dominions. It will cover the Dominions so far as the Dominions are part of the Empire, but there is no question at all of a local Comptroller, and there is no question at all in regard to printing. I do think, when hon. Members read this Clause, they will see that these alarms, in my opinion, are greatly exaggerated. I should be very glad and willing, when we come to Committee, to consider whether the wording of the Clause might not be altered. I am prepared to consider it like any other point, but I think they are unduly alarmed. At all events, in my opinion, a clause of this kind ought to be inserted in the Bill, so that if a work is unduly and unjustly withheld from the public there should be an opportunity to issue a licence for its publication.
I am very much indebted to the House for its kindness in allowing me to speak at such length. The matter is not a simple one, and I thought it due to the House and to my Bill to explain the measure at considerable length, and as clearly as I could the various alterations we propose. I commend the Bill to the House on the ground that it is a genuine attempt, as far as domestic copyright is concerned, to put the matter on a simple and uniform basis and to obtain the utmost possible uniformity of copyright throughout our great Dominions; and, also, because, from the international point of view, it is very important that we, as the leading literary country, if we may say that, should be a member of the Berlin Union and the Berlin Convention. I have considered the matter carefully from every point of view, and I believe that the Bill as now drawn, while doing justice to the author will in no sense do injustice or injury to the reading public or to the printing trade, or any 2604 other persons concerned, but that it will be an advantage both to those three interests and to the community at large. I beg to move.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I beg to move as an Amendment to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
We have all listened with the deepest interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It must have been a source of great satisfaction to the Minister to have been able to come to this House and offer something to somebody who did not have the advantages he offers before. But the speech, which was as clear and as intelligible as could be, had a sting, and, like the sting of the wasp, it was in the tail. The last few minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's speech justifies me in moving that the Bill be read a second time this day six months. That is a mere matter of form; I do not wish that the Bill should be read a second time this day six months, but I should have liked the Bill to have been postponed until the Colonial Conference had met. The right hon. Gentleman's speech, clear though it was, does not really represent the Bill. The Bill is not so clear as the speech. The right hon. Gentleman reproached Members of the House and persons outside for misunderstanding the Bill. But it was published only on 30th March, and most of us did not have it in our hands until a day or two ago. I have faithfully and carefully studied the Bill, and I am bound to say that, while some parts of it are clear, there are other parts which it is almost impossible to understand without the help of the Minister, and that help the Minister has not given us to-day. The right hon. Gentleman very fairly put the case for the authors, the musical publishers, and all those who ought to be protected in their artistic productions. He pointed out that eighteen Acts would be repealed toy this measure; that all the interests, artistic and literary, are brought under one hand; that cinematograph operators and photographers are to be brought in for the first time; and that architecture also is to come within the scope of the Copyright Law. The House will agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there should be no limitation of the rights of authors in their books, of painters in their paintings, or of sculptors in their work, further than now exists.
2605 I think the right hon. Gentleman him self would admit that copyright is a restriction of a natural right, that the country does not give to the author, the painter, or the sculptor a gift, and that the property which they create ought to be theirs for the full period of the existence of the work. But the country has thought fit to limit that, and it was desirable that it should be limited in the old days when printing was so dear. But nowadays, as the Minister has pointed out, the same necessity does not exist, and he very properly asks for an extension of the copy right to fifty years after the author's death. If we had that without restriction, I think that no author, publisher, or sculptor in this country could complain. It is little; but personally I think we would have taken even less if there had been no restriction whatever. But this restriction, over which the right hon. Gentleman glided with great care, is one which I think strikes at the very root of the rights of property. The whole essence of copyright is that the author shall have absolute control and security during the period over which the copyright is supposed to extend. I do not think that anybody would object to that principle, which was laid down very clearly in an Act of George III. I will not read the clause, but it states very clearly for all who care to see, that for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copyright of printed books to the authors of such books or their assigns, it places the whole life of the author, painter, sculptor, or musician on a high and proper basis. That is as it should be. But this Bill, well-intentioned as it is, admirable as it is in many respects, I do not mean to oppose it by going into the Division Lobby against it, because the right hon. Gentleman has been fair enough to say that when we get into Committee anything that seems unjust or any legitimate grievance shall be corrected, if it is within his power——
Sir GILBERT PARKER
Of course, I assume that; and we shall do our best to prove it. For a few minutes I will try to prove it this afternoon. The main principle of the Bill is that a period of fifty years shall be granted to the author, painter, or sculptor. If there is anything in the measure that nullifies that main principle, the Bill has a radical defect, and the Minister in charge should see to it that that defect is remedied so as to make the principle of the Bill perfectly sound and 2606 so that the measure should not have within it that which would in the end defeat its very purpose. What is the mistake the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have made? They have made the mistake of saying, when the author dies, if he has a book that has been published for twenty-five years, there may appear upon the scene "any person interested," and that person may come to the Controller of Patents and say: "Here is a book being published at so much; I think it ought to be published at 3d." Why should not the "Daily Mail," or Harrod's Stores, why should not any tenth-rate publisher, in the interests of the public, go to this gentleman who has the right to interfere with the rights of private property, and say to him, "For the sake of the millions, let me publish this book"? Does the right hon. Gentleman really say his Bill is clear when in the fundamental Clause, "any person interested," it is so vague? I shall hope that the right hon. Gentleman who sits opposite (Mr. Birrell) when he comes to explain the Bill later will make clear to me and other Members who "any person interested" may be. The Controller may step in and in effect take charge of that author's property, or the property of painter or musician, and say: "I decree that that book or that engraving shall be published at a certain price." An agreement which an author has made, presumably with great care, with a reputable and stable publisher, not for himself alone but for his family and for those who come after him, may be made null and void by the interference of an official of the Government. Mark you, they do not punish the living author; only the dead man, his widow, and his children!
§ Sir PHILIP MAGNUS
Is it not that a licence may be granted after the publication of the work, and not after the death of the author?
Sir G. PARKER
No; I think I am correct in saying that the author must die. Then, if a book of his has been published for twenty-five years, this official, who may have views of his own not in accordance with the high-minded views of the right hon. Gentleman, in the progress of our Parliamentary life and of parties, that official with, it may be, highly Socialistic tendencies, may think that it is wise for him to intervene in the interests of the masses. On this point I shall have something to say later to hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway. It is not the living but the dead author whose work is 2607 interfered with, the man who cannot Appear to protect himself. Only his heirs, assigns, or publishers can appear. I consider that to be a thing most dangerous to the general interests of authors.
The right hon. Gentleman has made the fundamental mistake of striking at the rights of property. This Bill in regard to this Clause gives with one hand and takes away with the other. It provides no security. The one satisfactory thing in copyright is that you may shut your eyes and do your work, whatever you are in the artistic and literary world, with the knowledge that once your agreement is made for forty-two years or for fifty years—or whatever it may be—the State secures and ought to secure to you possession—just as it secures you in the possession of land, houses, or any other kind of property.
Unfortunately the matter does not end there. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Colonics, who will have their own controllers, if they adopt this Act, will have the power to make any modification they please in this Act and adapt it to their own local circumstances; that the Colonies, having their own controllers, will not have the right to publish cheap editions of British books. Let us see. I ask the House to look at Clause 4, Sub-section (6). There they will find an ambiguity of expression and of statement which did not exist in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The Sub-section reads:—An order for granting a licence under this Section shall not be made in respect of any work first published or performed in public in a Self-Goveming Dominion to which this Act extends; but the Legislature of any such Dominion may provide for the granting of licences in respect of such works——And so on. Will the House mark this: A book is published in say Canada or Australia. The controller, according to this Clause, can publish in England or anywhere else within the King's Dominions—because it says:—
Any part of the King's Dominions which may be specified in the licence granted by that Controller——If that is the case then the book which is published in Canada, may, by an Act of the Controller in granting a licence——
Sir G. PARKER
Yes, first published in Canada. Further analogies, I think, will show hon. Members that the case is an extremely serious one. A book may be published in Canada and by a Controller's licence a cheap edition may be published in England. In the old Bill of 1900 it was clearly stated that each Controller was limited to his own particular dominion—the Controller in England to England, in Canada to Canada, and in Australia to Australia. There is no Clause dealing with the scope or the power of the Controller in this Bill. Yet we are told that the Bill is clear and intelligent! I do not think it is. As there is no territorial jurisdiction defined in the Bill, what is there to prevent an Australian publisher coming to an English Controller and saying: "I want a cheap edition of George Meredith's works for Australia"? What is there in this Bill to prevent this Australian publisher getting his licence for that cheap edition of Meredith?
§ Mr. BUXTON
So far as the Controller is concerned if a licence is granted it will run through the whole Empire. The licence will not be confined to certain parts.
Sir G. PARKER
I agree; but that does not invalidate my argument in the least. My argument is this: Any book published in England is copyright through the Empire; that is all right. But in this matter of the Controller. What is to prevent an Australian would-be licensee coming to England and asking from the English Controller a licence to publish George Meredith's works in Australia? There is nothing in this Bill to prevent that!
Sir G. PARKER
Even so, what is to prevent the Australian would-be licensee from doing that? Why should not the licence secure the copyright for England? I do not think there is anything in the Bill that permits the Controller to say that the cheap edition is issued for the whole of the Empire. I think the right hon. Gentleman might fairly consider that. Let me put it in this way. What is to prevent an English would-be-licensee going to Australia and securing there a cheap edition of George Meredith for Australia from the Controller there. The right hon. Gentleman has not defined the jurisdiction nor the functions of the Controller- 2609 General, either in the Colonies or in this country. I do not put this forward at all in any cantankerous spirit. I am trying to point out the weaknesses in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman contends the Bill is intelligible and clear. The reason this Clause is put in as regards the Over-sea Dominions, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it, is to satisfy the demands of the Over-sea Dominions for cheap British books. Behind all this there lies the fact that the Colonies brought pressure to bear. The Conference held, over which the right hon. Gentleman presided, ought not to have been the final Conference, because it was owing to the pressure of the Oversea Dominions that the right hon. Gentleman granted this concession, and he knows in his heart of hearts he never would have granted it upon its merits as an English question alone. If that is the case, as I assert it is, is not my plea that this Bill should be deferred until after the Conference met a good plea and well founded? I do not believe the Over-sea Dominions are not open to reason, and I cannot believe the last word of diplomacy was spoken at that Conference of a year ago.
I read this Bill and the Bill of last year carefully, and here is the position regarding the foreigner. If the foreign books published have no copyright in this country they also could be taken to the Controller, and the Controller could intervene regarding them with the result just as the British author or publisher might have to go to Australia in order to plead his case and to show reason why his book should not be published in a cheap edition, so the foreigner might be obliged to come to England to plead his case that his books should not be treated by the Controller and given into the hands of someone who wanted to produce a cheap edition. I find in the Bill a proviso (4) to Clause 30. I ask the House to note the wording of that proviso. It says:—
" The provisions of this Act as to the grant of compulsory licences shall not apply to works first published or first performed in such country if His Majesty is satisfied that the laws thereof provide means for enabling the reasonable requirements of the public to be satisfied with regard to such works."
"If the laws of the country provide means." The proviso does not say the law as it exists in that country gives this access to the publication of these works, but that there are means of passing laws to enable the public to have access to these 2610 cheap books. I believe the right hon. Gentleman intended to make it clear that the foreigner should not be interfered with, but the Clause as it stands does not at all make it clear that the Controller may not interfere, because suppose no such law exists in that country such as the right hon. Gentleman wants to introduce into this country. Suppose there is no such law there to secure access to cheap books, will His Majesty's Government then give the Controller the right to give the publisher the right to issue a cheap edition of the foreigner's books? At any rate, we do not know that from the Clause. This is one of the many Clauses in this Bill which are absolutely baffling and bewildering to the ordinary intelligence—I do not refer to Ministerial intelligence.
I come to another weakness in the Bill At the same time the works of a dead author are subject to the caprice or pressure or the misdirected intervention of any person interested, or of the Controller, not so your cinematograph operator or your photographer, and although the right hon. Gentleman says under this Clause the works of the cinematograph operator or photographer shall be subject to the same conditions at death as those of the author or the musician, how does the Government proceed in the case of a cinematograph company?
Sir GILBERT PARKER
They have fifty years without interference. You interfere with the works of an author who has produced a classic—twenty-five years makes it a classic—who has given the best to the country, whose name and whose books are an asset of the country, but the snap-shot photographer who takes a picture of the face of a Secretary to the Board of Trade you protect for fifty years from punishment for that crime. It is really ridiculous you should interfere with an author and not interfere with a company running a cinematograph show or a photographer. If we are going to have a Bill to deal with copyright, let it be more carefully framed and defined than the Bill now before us. Let me put one point to the Members of the Labour party. If a foreigner is exempt from the application of this law concerning the controller what may happen? The British publisher who wants to produce a cheap edition of a book may go to the United States, and he may get his printing done there, both 2611 for the United States and England and he gets the advantage which the foreigner has under Proviso 4 of Clause 30. How many trades will be affected by that if a firm of publishers here, having an establishment in New York, should do all its printing there by taking advantage of this Clause which exempts the foreigner. I was making an account of the number of trades affected. Such trades as type founders, machine makers, leather merchants, book-binders, and printers, would all be affected in this way. It seems to me that so far as this restriction to fifty years' copyright is concerned the Government are in a hopeless quandary. In trying to satisfy the demands made from our Over-seas Dominions they have put in a clause which leads them into a quagmire of difficulty. I make this appeal to the Government to withdraw that clause absolutely from the Bill because it is hurtful to every interest connected with literature, the drama, music, sculpture, and all the fine arts. It strikes at private property, and it produces in the mind of an author or musician considerable anxiety. It differentiates against the man who is dead and in favour of the man who is living. It also differentiates against the author and in favour of the photographer and the cinematograph operator. I support this Bill in its main purpose and intention, but in relation to this weakness in its fundamental principle, the measure ought to be, and must be, amended, if the right hon. Gentleman has the intention of doing justice to those people who produce great works who do a national service, and add to the assets of their country.
§ Mr. JOYNSON HICKS
I beg leave to second the Amendment for the rejection of this Bill.
I have had the privilege of serving on the Departmental Committee nominated by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors before which a considerable amount of evidence was given two years ago. On that occasion I felt compelled to bring in a minority report mainly on the ground of the extension of the copyright to fifty years. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having brought in this Bill so far as the consolidation part is concerned. The Companies Clauses Consolidation Bill was passed through the House under the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, and it has proved a great advantage to the legal and commercial com- 2612 munities. If we can get a Copyright Consolidation Bill without some of the drastic amendments of the law which are suggested in this measure it will be an advantage not merely to the legal, but to the artistic and the commercial community as well. I agree on the national side that it is eminently desirable that we should, where possible, agree with foreign countries upon this question of copyright, but I should like to make it clear that adherence to the Berlin Convention does not imply this extension of copyright for fifty years. The right hon. Gentleman is eloquent in the desire that we, as a country, should enter into a Convention with all these civilised countries of the world in order that the Copyright Law should be made international, and should no longer remain municipal. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, if he refers to the Berlin Convention, when I say that while that Convention recommends a period of fifty years there is a specific article which, while it provides that the term of protection granted shall extend to fifty years after death, it goes on to say that, notwithstanding in case such protection should not be uniformly adopted by all the countries of the Union, the terms shall be regulated by the law of the country where the protection is claimed. Therefore, it is open to us to adopt any different policy without cutting ourselves off from the benefits of that Convention.
I congratulate the Government upon the adoption to some extent of the principle of retaliation. It is not for the protection of the workmen, I know, but it is for the protection of the product of the hon. Member for Gravesend and authors generally. On this point I should like to refer to the case of America. I am speaking entirely as a non-author, although I have been guilty once, in conjunction with an hon. and learned Friend, of writing a book. It was so eminently dull that I had no interest whatever in the extension of the copyright. Up to the year 1891 there was no copyright at all in America to foreign authors. I think no less than eleven or twelve Bills were introduced in America for the institution of national copyright, but they were strangled in the America Senate. In the Bills introduced in 1891 and 1909 a Clause was inserted of vital importance to a certain section of the community in America. That Clause was inserted at the instigation of the Type-Setters Union, and it laid down that there should be no foreign copyright to any foreign author unless that 2613 author had his books printed and set up in the United States. That Clause was inserted for the benefit of the typesetters of the United States. Before the Departmental Committee evidence was given by one witness who was not connected with the authors' trade, namely, the secretary of the master printers. His evidence was given on behalf of the printers of England, and he referred to this restrictive Clause in the American law. He asked us to say that some similar Clause should be placed in any Copyright Bill we introduced into this country for the consolidation of the law, in order that such retaliation might be carried to its legitimate extent. I was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he is willing to receive and consider suggestions. I shall be encouraged to move a Clause copied from the American law to put the American author on exactly the same terms as the English author. We are desirous of being at peace with our American cousins, and we desire to have a treaty of arbitration with them, but I am not prepared to say that the English author, the English printers, and the English type-setters are to be put on a different basis to the people of America, in order to comply with the desire of one particular trades union in the United States. Let the Government have the courage of their convictions upon this point of retaliation, and lot us have a Clause placed into this Bill which will either compel the author in the United States who desires to invade the English market to have his books printed and set up in Great Britain, or at all events to compel America to take out that particular Clause from her own Act.
Sir G. PARKER
If we did that it would throw us out of the Berne Convention and the International Union, because America is a non-union State. The United States do not belong to that union, and they are in an independent position.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am quite aware the United States is, so to speak, a non-union country so far as the Berlin Conventions are concerned. America, however, is not an unwise country. An hon. Friend behind me, who is, I believe, an author, complains that America is not a literary country.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
How many American authors could be printed here with any prospect of a large sale?
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I should say there are a considerable and an increasing number of American authors whose books are read in this country and who would be published in this country. At all events, there is an opportunity of showing we desire the same right for the English type-setter as the Americans reserve for the American type-setter. I was discussing this matter only yesterday with an author, whose eminence my hon. Friend (Sir G. Parker) would acknowledge and whose name I would be quite willing to give to the President of the Board of Trade, and he told me that since this Act has been passed giving this modified form of copyright in America the sale of his works has decreased in America. He is not an author of the trashy novel type. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] I am sure I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I am surprised the House should have imagined the word "trashy" could have referred to any of his novels. I was thinking, if I may say so, of lady novelists whose novels are I know printed in the United States under the œgis of this Clause, and I do not think we are called upon to base our legislation on the prospects of a large circulation of the works of English lady novelists in America. The evidence I have is that the literary work of an English author will not pay to print twice over, once in England and once in the United States.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
My evidence is distinctly to the contrary. I am bound to go a step further in antagonism to my hon. Friend with regard to this extension of the period for life and fifty years. That is the great objection I feel to this Bill. We had a great deal of evidence before us on this Departmental Committee, and the Bill is founded on the report of that Committee. At the same time I want the House to know and realise that it was a Committee, with the exception of the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman) and myself, almost entirely composed of those who were interested in copyright. Authors, artists, publishers, eminent copyright King's Counsel, and so forth were put on the Committee—I do not complain—and all the evidence given before us, with the exception of the one witness to whom I have referred, were interested in the extension of copyright. There were representatives of the Artistic Copyright Society—I see one of them sitting opposite 2615 —the Institute of British Artists, decorative designers, composers of music, and music publishers. All of them came before us seeking to extend the provisions of the Copyright Law to life and fifty years. We even had that eminent leader of the Socialists, if I may say so, Mr. Bernard Shaw, pressing upon us the extension of copyright, because copyright was the one sacrosanct form of property he would not share with the community. I am bound to join issue with my hon. Friend on the statement he made as to the fundamental basis of the conception of copyright. I do not believe copyright is an inherent right in an author. Copyright never existed until quite modern times. There was no copyright known in the law of the ancients. I agree there was no printing, but there were pictures, and there was no copyright in parchment.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
There was no copyright, and there was no attempt in highly-civilised cities like Rome to apply the principle of copyright. The first Copyright Act in England was passed in 1709, and from that time onwards there has been this perpetual struggle between an attempt on the part of the author to secure perpetual copyright and the right of the public to insist on having as far as possible a very early determination of the copyright. I was placed on that Committee, as I rather understood, to represent the interests and the rights of the general public, I will not say as against the rights of authors, but to some extent in contra-distinction to the rights of authors, and I found a very determined effort on the part of the witnesses to secure the establishment of copyright as far as possible as a perpetual right. Very strong evidence indeed was given before Lord Monkswell's Committee in 1900 by Mark Twain, whom I suppose we shall not call a literary author.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
My hon. Friend behind me said America was not a literary country, but, humorous as Mark Twain 2616 was, he could at times be extraordinarily serious, and he gave evidence before the Committee of 1900 in favour of perpetual copyright. Only last week Mr. Heinemann, chairman of the Publishers' Association of Great Britain, openly stated they would not be satisfied until they got perpetual copyright. I object to this Bill because it is a still further approximation to perpetual copyright, contrary, as I believe, to the interests of the public and the public domain. Do hon. Members realise that by the extension of copyright for life and fifty years the copyright of works published in early life may extend over one hundred years? The right hon. Gentleman told us the better works of an author were published late in life. He is securing a copyright for one hundred years for the immature works of an author, and a copyright of fifty years only for his mature works, which, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, are the better works.
§ Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON
Yes; but the immature work is not of so much importance. It is the mature work we want especially to protect.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am coming to the question whether in the interests of the mature work it is desirable to give copyright to the immature work for so long a period as one hundred years. To take a few instances of the existing copyright law. I believe up to 1899, when the copyright of Tennyson's poems ran out, it was not possible to publish an extract from any of Tennyson's poems in any of the school books in this country. We have got in this House, in fact we are surrounded by them, a great number of authors and those who are interested, rightly or wrongly, in the right of the author and the extension of copyright, as against the right of the public. We took up the position that the copyright should not be extended beyond that period, and that it was detrimental to the wellbeing of the youth of the country that they were not able to have some of Lord Tennyson's shorter poems published in their school books before the year 1899. It is only a small point but I think the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in his statement regarding Herbert Spencer. It was given in evidence before Lord Monkswell's Committee that Herbert. Spencer sustained a loss on all his earlier books, but that he afterwards recovered a considerable percentage.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I agree, twenty-four years. The right hon. Gentleman said it was not until the extreme end of his life that they were paying property. Again, the right hon. Gentleman put before us a complaint that the Copyright Law secures cheap editions. It sems to me an absolute contradiction in terms to say that a monopoly can possibly secure to the public these cheap editions. I want to ask where it has been found in the domain of English literature that the cheapest editions have been published? Is it not in the works of Scott and Dickens which have been published, after the Copyright has gone out, in millions of copies, and they have become the household reading of the great portion of the population of our country because, in my opinion, they were free from copyright, and no one can say that these authors have not had fair remuneration for the labours of authorship. I know we hear a great deal at present about the injury which has been done to some of Dickens' family; I am not at all sure that what has appeared in the Press is really correct with regard at any rate to some members of the Dickens' family. I have also some experience with regard to religious publications. Has it ever occurred to the right hon. Gentleman what a blessing—I am perfectly serious—to millions of the public there has come from some well-known editions of hymns in the English language? Is it not a fact that a year or two ago there were considerable difficulties in the publication of a new hymn book, the compilers of which desired to include certain well-known old hymns, and they had to wait two years until they could get a copy of the hymns for publication; that is, to get rid of the copyright. I think it was "Rock of Ages," and they had to wait until the copyright ran out in order to include it in the hymn book.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
It may have been "Lead, kindly Light," but at any rate they wanted to include a well-known hymn and were not allowed to do so. The proposal here is asking for practically forty or fifty years to be added to the existing copyright, during which the public is to be deprived of the right of having these hymns, which may have been published in many millions of copies, included in a new hymnbook. Of course, there are different collections of hymns which are 2618 made from different standpoints, and from different shades of religious thought. They may be High Church, Low Church, and Congregational hymnbooks, and so far as a hymn is published, they may have the copyright in only one particular combination, and I think it is very hard upon the general public to be deprived of having that hymn in their book because it is in another combination, for that long term of years.
I want to put one other point, whether the authors should have so much better treatment as regards copyright than the inventors. We have a Patent Law to-day. A man who invents anything gets fourteen years' protection with the possibility of another seven years or another fourteen years and that is all. There is no possibility of protection for the best inventor for more than twenty-eight years. Take the case of Watt and the steam engine, or Arkwright and the spinning jenny. I do not say a word against hon. Gentlemen or right hon. Gentlemen, or the authors of this country to-day, but I do say that fundamentally the country has received far more benefit from the work of Watt or Arkwright than from the works of a large number of authors, and these two men may have been spending the whole of their lives up to the date when they perfected their inventions, working and spending money, and they get under the Patent Laws a beggarly fourteen years' protection for it. I do suggest that there is a very grave discrepancy between the Patent Laws and the Copyright Laws and I say that if you are going to extend the Copyright Laws to this extent you will have to consider the claim of the inventor for an extension of the Patent Law. The right hon. Gentleman was not quite fair, although I am sure he did not mean to be unfair, in his statement with regard to the number of countries which have accepted this extended period. I agree that the vast majority of countries may have done so, but he did not tell us that out of the twenty countries the eleven or twelve which accepted included such not very large and important countries as Tunis and Monaco. Next to ours, the greatest literary country in the world, certainly in scientific work, Germany, only gives thirty years, the United States only gives twenty-eight, and a possible extension of another twenty-eight years; and Japan, although it is not yet a great literary country, but is certainly becoming one, only adheres to the thirty years which Germany has.
2619 All these cases, I think, are of very great importance. When they are pressing for so long a period as fifty years, I think they will find that the descendants of the author will not be very readily traced at the end of the fifty years; that will bring about confusion, simply because it will be impossible to find out who are the owners of the copyright of these works. There would be a public demand, but no one would be able to say who was the real owner of the copyright. Clause 4, which has received my hon. Friend's condemnation so strongly, really is a distinct intimation from the Government that fifty years is too long. Clause 4 is essential if fifty years is to be put into the Bill. If you take out fifty years we can do without Clause 4. To say that you will allow an author to tie up his works, which may be of vast importance to the public—I am not now dealing with poems, but works of real importance to the public—for the period of his life and fifty years, without any possible opportunity to the public of having cheap editions, seems to be going too far. My hon. Friend spoke of the Colonies coming to ask for licences to publish cheap editions of George Meredith. Why should not the Colonies have the benefit of cheap editions of these great classics—I agree that George Meredith is to-day a great classic—which have done so much for Great Britain? I do sincerely hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise that Clause 4 is open to serious objection, and if he is not able to reduce the period of fifty years in the Bill that my right hon. Friend will insist upon the possibility of some form of licence being obtained under this Bill.
One word more of criticism, and really not of objection, with regard to gramaphone and cinematograph records. The Bill is a little doubtful in some of its terms with regard to the rights conferred on owners of existing rights of this kind. Hitherto these records have been published without any consent from the authors of the music or the song. Under this Bill consent will have to be obtained. That is perfectly clear, but there seems to be some uncertainty as to whether this is to be retrospective or not. We have had evidence of the existence of a large trade in this respect, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that he will have to reconsider this point. I think it is quite possible that in this matter, too, the doctrine of licences will have to be introduced with regard to combinations of authors or 2620 publishers, which might quite possibly prevent the continuance of the large business now allowed to be carried on under the existing law with regard to gramaphones and cinematographs. I think some provision will have to be made in regard to this. I should like to say a word or two in regard to the objections made in the Minority Report to the attempt which this Bill makes for the first time to copyright architecture. That really seems to me to be copyright run mad. There has never been at any time a copyright in buildings, although, of course, plans have been copyrighted. Of course no one could go and reproduce any plans of the buildings in Whitehall, but to say if I admire a building there and ask an architect to build me a similar one that I am infringing a copyright seems to me to be copyright run mad.
How are you going to distinguish between artistic architecture and what is non-artistic, and how is the right hon. Gentleman going shall I say to find the jury or one single architect who can decide whether the new buildings in Whitehall are artistic or not. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will excise from the Bill that particular part with regard to architecture. As to books, I think hon. Members will agree with me as to the non-necessity for this very long extension of fifty years. The right hon. Gentleman told us that very few books indeed exceed twenty-five years of life, and really I think he might say fifteen years. I have been making certain inquiries on this matter, and the evidence given before Lord Monkswell's Committee shows the fact that in the whole of the last century which has been called the golden age of English literature, and during which time both of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench may be reckoned as authors—during the whole of that century there are no more than sixty authors who may be regarded as immortal and the life of whose books did, in fact, extend for commercial purposes beyond forty-two years. I really am not sure whether the Chief Secretary's books are included in this category, but I will look and see. At the outside during the whole of the last century no more than 650 English books ran for a period of forty-two years, and as there are published in Great Britain about 5,000 books a year, we find that this extension is made in the interest of 650 books in a century out of some half a million of books published. I think that is carrying copyright too far. I am desirous 2621 that the author should have a fair term of copyright for the output of his brain, but I am not prepared to put the output of the author's brain on any higher plane than that of the inventor's brain. I think, therefore, the Authors Society would be well advised, particularly if they wish to get rid of Clause 4, if they would confer with some of the opponents of this Bill in the Committee upstairs, and come to an agreement to urge the right hon. Gentleman to reduce the term from what I cannot help feeling is a very excessive one.
§ Sir GEORGE AGNEW
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has returned to the House so recently, and I would like to be allowed to say a few words on this Bill from the artistic point of view. In reference to what the hon. Gentleman said as to there being no copyright in the old days in pictures, that is possible. But it is also possible that there were not then as now a large number of people desirous of possessing a cheap copy of a work of art. If there had been this desire no doubt there would have been pirates who would have pirated these works and produced cheap copies, and given rise to the necessity for the question being dealt with. It is because of that desire to-day that we do require protection for artists as well as for authors. A question has been raised as to the duration of the circulation of books which do possess a copyright. I have it in my recollection that a week or two back I purchased at a railway bookstall a very interesting novel by Mrs. Humphrey Ward for the large sum of 7d., and I do not think any hon. Member would wish that a great literary work should be sold for a sum like that. I have hearty sympathy with the necessity of providing the public with low-priced copies either in literature or in works of art. During the morning the whole of the discussion has been from the point of view of books, but I speak as having been concerned in the last eight or ten years in working with certain artists, some of them not very well to do in the world, in endeavouring to obtain some amelioration of their condition in reference to copyright. I do not think many Members of the House perhaps altogether realise that at the present moment if a man describes himself as an artist, unless he, by writing, expressly reserves the copyright in his work or hands it over to the purchaser, there is no such thing as copyright security in regard to a picture; in other words, anybody who afterwards 2622 obtains access to that picture may make as many copies of it as he likes.
That more particularly applies to painters in this country, and I do think our painter friends have been left in a worse position than literary men. On behalf of the Fine Art Copyright Society, therefore, I do welcome the Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade. Our society is interested mainly in two objects. First we want to get, at any rate, the position of copyright made firm and solid, so that the Act may be understood by those who wish to buy an interesting picture, and then we are interested on behalf of artists and others in getting an extension of the Copyright Law. Then hon. Members must realise that the painter is also interested in the matter of the duration of copyright. Under the present law the copyright is for the artist's life and seven years after his death Certain hon. Members who do not like the idea of copyright in any form whatever, may say that gives a man plenty I of opportunity, if he lives, at any rate, a decently long life to obtain some reward; for the work of his genius, brains, and technical skill, and so it may if the artist lives to a good age, and his works are engraved during his life. He certainly in that case does reap a reward during his lifetime. It may be, however, that an artist of great genius dies at the age of twenty-six or twenty-eight, and then the public finds out that it wants reproductions of his great works. That may not come for a few years after his death, and by the time you come to that period the copyright is nearly out. The public will not lose by this copyright law because they will get the engravings and etchings at as low a price as if there was no copyright. It is the unscrupulous publisher who has stepped in and had the profits which ought in many cases to have gone to the family of the unfortunate artist. An hon. Friend of mine told me a few days ago that he thinks seven years is quite enough. Death comes to all of us, and death is always hard, but take a young merchant or anyone in the city who is conversant with the prices of things. He may put a few thousands into stocks and shares, into rice, or indigo, or rubber, and if he has made a fortune in speculation he may make several thousands of pounds, and he may die at the age of twenty-seven. But these thousands of pounds do not disappear. They bring in revenue. Surely an artist is entitled to the creation of his 2623 own brain, the work of his life's study, just as much as a business man is entitled to the thousands he has made in his career. I therefore think that a Bill of this character is highly necessary from an art point of view. As to the duration of the copyright, the Artistic Copyright Society, which consists mostly of painters, sculptors, and engravers, though there are one or two publishers on it, were very modest. We originally only asked for thirty years after the author's death, but, of course, we shall be very grateful if the Government will give us more, and I claim that it is very important that we should be in line with the other countries which are joining this union. I do not think the general public will suffer, because if a work is popular we may be certain that after a certain number of copies are sold at one price the artist will be only too glad to enter into an arrangement with the publisher to issue low-price copies if wanted.
I therefore say that the brain and the technical skill and the time and money spent on study are the artist's capital, just as the hon. Gentleman (Sir Gilbert Parker) assumed that they are the author's capital in literature, and this capital has had hitherto very insufficient protection in this country against robbery. Even when an artist has got the copyright of his property, if he dies, in the present state of the law he has little or no benefit out of it. I believe all artists say, "We paint pictures or make sculpture and the world enjoys them, and we do not grudge the enjoyment of the world, but if anyone is going to make money out of the reproduction of these pictures or sculptures we artists generally should have our fair share," and that I think the House will agree is only reasonable. Of course, the present condition of the Copyright Law is so extraordinary that though the original artist has life and seven years, the man who publishes engravings gets twenty-eight years. That just shows the anomalies of the present state of the law. Therefore, from the point of view of my Society, we are very thankful for the present Bill, which gives a great relief on the question of the actual conditions and the duration of copyright. These things are absolutely necessary from the domestic point of view, quite apart from their necessity in the matter of joining in the International Convention. My Society welcomes the Bill. There are certainly 2624 some points on which I should like some explanation—points with which I certainly do not quite agree. I do not pretend to have any knowledge of legal phraseology, but I cannot understand the third Subsection of the first Clause where apparently it is intended to define the word "publication." How in the world anyone can say that photographs of pictures are not to be deemed copies I cannot conceive. I daresay it is capable of some explanation, and I have no doubt the House will have that explanation from the Government. I went through the Clause yesterday with two gentlemen, one connected with a firm of art publishers and another a celebrated sculptor, both very great authorities on copyright, and it puzzled them as much as it has puzzled me. There may be a hidden meaning which we shall hear later on.
I also agree with the hon. Gentleman (Sir Gilbert Parker) that Clause 4 is highly objectionable, at any rate it seems to me singularly inconsistent. Fifty years is given for the duration of copyright and yet by Clause 4 any person who says he knows a number of cheap copies of a book or picture or engraving are wanted can demand a reduction. That might be very hard indeed on the original owner of the copyright. I happen to know a celebrated sculptor who has allowed six copies of a very interesting piece of work to be sold, and on the understanding that only six copies should be done he sold them at a fairly high price. The subject of the sculpture was one which it was not likely the general public would demand, and therefore he was quite justified in doing that, and, more than that, he would have no sale for a large number. Supposing that Clause 4 is allowed to pass, it surely would be very unjust to the author of that sculpture and to the six persons who bought these particular pieces that, because some particular man says the general public want them cheaper, he should be able to go on and issue a few thousands. That would not encourage art, and I take it that the idea of the Government—and certainly it has been the idea of the Artistic Copyright Society—is that we should endeavour to protect the result of the brains of our designers in this country, whoever they may be. What is the use of encouraging people to learn drawing unless you are able to tell the students that if, after they have completed their studies they have brain capacity, they will be able to do something to profit from their brains and handicraft. That is 2625 the reason for a Bill of this kind. I think Clause 4 is very dangerous. I believe it simply whittles down the protection under the Copyright Bill to twenty-five years. There will always be some person anxious to make a little money out of somebody else's brains. I am perfectly sure that we shall have plenty of difficulty if that Clause is allowed to remain as it stands.
I think the provisions of the Bill in regard to damages are not very clearly stated. I do not think the damages are sufficient. They are not so much as in the United States of America, where people can claim damages in a civil court as high as 5,000 dollars. In this Bill there is no special sum mentioned as to damages. What the Original Artists would like to see in this matter is that a person who infringes their copyright should be liable to substantial damages. Quite apart from the punishment of the man who has offended, I think that would act as a strong deterrent, and that is the main object of penal actions. That law does exist in the United States of America, where the person guilty of infringement has to pay damages and disgorge the property. The penalties in the United States are from £20 for each offence, with a limit of £200. These are more reasonable for the protection of authors. I do not think that our friends, the journalists, need be afraid, because it is quite easy in this country, and especially in the case of illustrated papers, to make such arrangements in regard to the publication of works of art as will meet the views of the artists. I have received a letter from Mr. Solberg, Secretary of the Register of Copyrights at the Library of Congress, Washington, in which he says:—Please accept my best thanks for your letter and for the copy of the memorandum on the Bill. I find this last excellent in its statement. I notice, however, that in your Appendix D, in setting out the United States damages for infringement, you make no mention of the penalty in the case of wilful infringement in section 28, reading:'"That any person who wilfully and for profit shall infringe any copyright secured by this Act, or who shall knowingly and wilfully aid or abet such infringement, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not exceeding one year, or by fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or both, in the discretion of the court.This. I have been told, has proven one of the most effective provisions of the copyright law to prevent wilful infringement.As to the introduction by a side wind for the necessity for registration, I would say that the general tendency in all the nations of Europe is to do away with registration. Copyright should be inherent in the author of a work. Why 2626 should it be more necessary to register it than to register an umbrella or any other property I cannot see. Throughout the discussion in the Berlin Convention it was generally agreed that registration should be got rid of. That is certainly the suggestion made by Lord Gorell's Committee in their report. They distinctly suggest that there should be no necessity to register copyright. It is perfectly true that so far as this Bill is concerned it says in one place that it shall not be necessary, but afterwards, in another Clause later on, you find that it would be necessary, because otherwise there would be the innocent infringer. Everybody will endeavour to become an innocent infringer, and if there is no registration a man who publishes anybody's work which is not registered will be able to say, "There is no registration, and, therefore, there is no copyright." That will appeal to every author, and if he wishes to protect his copyright he will be bound to do as he has done hitherto. I think that is a flaw in the Bill. I hope that in the Committee stage the Government will see their way to get rid of it. I hope the Bill will be allowed a Second Reading to-day, for I am sure that, in spite of the criticisms of hon. Members opposite, the measure will be heartily welcomed by all those young authors and artists in this country who are doing a good deal to build up the fame of the country from a literary and artistic point of view.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I desire to say a few words on this matter, partly on the grounds of being an author myself, having a footing, not only in this country, but some relations with the Dominions over the seas and also with France. I find myself almost in agreement with the hon. Member who has just sat down. With respect to the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) I found myself aroused by what I regarded as his very Philistine attitude and my desire to smite him hip and thigh like Samson of old, if possible, though not, I hope, with the same weapon. He seemed to be opposed to copyright altogether in any shape or form. The arguments by which he backed them up were equally worthless as his opinions, worthless in point of law and worthless with reference to the citation of the ancients. It is not quite true that copyright did not prevail among the ancients, because under a different name they had a means of protecting themselves. Aristotle's works were not produced except by the 2627 school of Aristotle. There was involved a certain amount of detriment, which is obviated here by the famous Clause 4, because, unfortunately, the whole of the works of Aristotle for that reason have not come down to us; and, morover, at that time they were free from a great number of things, some good and some bad, which have infiltrated into our modern life. If there was no copyright there were no trusts and there were no pirates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] There were no literary pirates, and various other things which militate against the author of to-day. But even in ancient times it was a great complaint that there was no copyright. There is a famous passage in Martial, which was translated by Byron, in which he says that post obits do not reach poets. It would have been a great protection to Martial if he had had the advantage of this Bill which is now introduced. With regard to architecture, to which also the hon. Member for Brentford referred, it is as much a matter of invention, as much a great creative feat as the writing of a sonnet, or even the invention of the spinning jenny. It is not so much seen in this country perhaps because the ground has not been cultivated here, and the examples of great architecture unfortunately are not so numerous. But in France, where civilisation has reached a higher degree, it is made a vital point of the daily lives of the people.
I remember hearing in the Chamber of Deputies in Paris a discussion which lasted the whole afternoon as to whether a bridge which had a fine architectural appearance would not destroy the artistic effect of the perspective of the Seine. Such a discussion is impossible here. I venture to say that the creation of a fine building by a Palladia is as much a feature of genius as the sculptural creations of Michael Angelo himself and is as much entitled to be protected. In the case of Government buildings, where the artistic effect may not be visible to the naked eye, who would care to imitate these buildings? Even if they were copyright there would be no particular damage to the general public. With regard to cinematographs also there should be protection. I know in Paris a famous surgeon who, for his own science and art, was accustomed to cinematograph his own operations. These were pirated and sold. A lady bought one of those for 2628 the amusement of her guests, and was horrified to find a cinematograph representing herself under an operation. There was a case where protection was distinctly necessary. I find myself in general agreement with the speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend because he himself was in general agreement with the Bill except with regard to one Clause. I say, however, with respect to the date after death I regard that as highly important. Fifty years prevails, I think, in Germany, and certainly in France. I take exception to one or two remarks which have been made with the general accordance of the House, in which it is claimed that this country is the first in literary production, and that Germany is second. Those who make that claim must be very imperfectly acquainted with what is passing on the Continent, or perhaps, with what is passing in this country, because I venture to say that the literary output in Paris alone outweighs in genius, importance, freedom of treatment and all that tends to the advance of civilisation, the output of the rest of the world. Even in the matter of the production of scientific works any hon. Member who is interested in scientific works will recognise that the output of these works in Germany is three-fold that of this country, that Italy comes next, that France comes after Italy, and that, perhaps, you have a little country like Holland contesting the next place with England.
I do not say that for a moment in disparagement of British genius, because I believe that there is a peculiar note of originality which results in profundity of basic work in this country, where genius is allowed to display itself; but the fault is with the various kinds of restrictions which have been placed upon the output of British genius, most particularly with regard to literature. With regard to the fifty years it so unfortunately happens in this country that an author of any originality is not appreciated in his own lifetime, and very often not until he is discovered fifty years afterwards, or even later, as in the case of Shakespeare himself, who was almost forgotten a generation after his death, and was rediscovered by Voltaire. Because, after all, what is a poet in a commercial world? A poet is not a man of genius, he is not a great creative writer. A poet is a commercial man who writes poems for his bread and produces a volume of poems year after year. This definition is for commercial purposes. Who have been 2629 the great poets? When one reads "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" one finds that the men whom Byron flayed alive were men who are forgotten now, but in those days they were recognised as the superiors, if not of Byron himself, at least the superiors of Shelley and Keats; and the great asset, so to speak, the glory of these poets, was that their "annual strains, like armies, took the field." Speaking of Keats one always has a fresh admiration for that most luminous genius perhaps in the whole range of literature; nor can I remember without a certain feeling of sadness that that great soul lived and died almost unknown, and that after all these years which have elapsed since his death even now he is very imperfectly appreciated. All the great poets except those who have had the adventitious aid of birth, such as Lord Byron, have met practically the same fate.
Shelley was unknown in his lifetime, and unknown for many years afterwards. Even if men like Wordsworth became known during their lifetime it was not so much because of their genius as on account of their longevity. The British race admires perseverance and pluck, and seeing Wordsworth pottering along for fifty years they gradually began to take some notice of his exertions. I do not say this in disparagement of Wordsworth; I am one who appreciates him almost as much perhaps as the Foreign Secretary himself. I am speaking of the appreciation of the commercial spirit and commercial age in which he lived. What is a genius? A genius is a being who spends all his life trying to discover why he was thrown amongst men. Why he was thrown amongst men in a commercial age, because in the days of Pericles perhaps there would have been less necessity to ask the question. As to the point about the limitation of twenty-five years, I am inclined to agree with the authors of the Bill. I am in agreement with many of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker), but there is underlying this question a matter of great importance, and that is the possibility of some great work being withheld from the public for some reason or another which might conceivably be a supposed moral reason. The great works of Eustachius were locked up in the Papal library until 160 years after their production, thus keeping back the science of anatomy for almost two centuries. Then there were the scientific works of Schwann, 2630 on which Pasteur and others based their work, which were the foundation of modern medicine, and which were in peril of being withheld from publication. The discoverer went to the Archbishop of Bonn to know whether he ought to publish his work, and he, fortunately, met an imbecile, who, totally unaware of any importance in these records and experiments, gave his imprimatur so that the works were not kept back. Then, again, we have the case of Newton, whose mind failed him towards the end of his life and who became alarmed concerning the great researches which led to the discovery of the law of universal gravitation, and who wished them to be accepted only as a mathematical formula. Rouget de Lisle, after creating the "Marseillaise," by some aberration of the spirit became a Royalist, but was haunted in his later years by the strains of the immortal hymn which has rung throughout Europe. If men of that sort do not wish to recall their early work, I think it is quite possible that some gentle pressure might be brought to bear upon them to make them bestow these creations upon the public. Then again a great author, like Tolstoi, may wish to conceal some of his early work because it is imperfect. But I think it right that even some of the imperfect work should be preserved and produced, because there is no exercise more instructive than to compare step by step the emendations made by the writer, so that one would be able to form an idea of his conceptions, from the first inspired cast of the mind, and also follow all the artistic work of a poet in gradually shaping and refining his own creations. I think, therefore, there is no ground whatever why the particular Clause bearing on that point should be obliterated from the Bill, although it is possible it may be amended in accordance with the ideas of the hon. Member for Gravesend in certain useful ways. I think this Bill affords an example of protection that might excite the admiration of even the most ardent free trade doctrinaires—a protection which does not limit the output, but rather tends to increase it while obtaining all the advantages of free trade, whereas if this protection were removed, it would strike at the very root of capital, even at the means of subsistence of the poor unfortunate author.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
I am not going into the large question dealt with by the 2631 last speaker, but I wish to deal with a minor point, though one which is nevertheless of importance not merely to the libraries concerned, but I think to the country generally, which is interested in the maintenance of these great libraries—I mean the reduction of the period for which books may be claimed by the four great libraries from twelve months to six. I am quite aware that the Royal Commission of 1878 expressed opinions which were adverse to the existence of this privilege, but without receiving any complaint from any author that there was any hardship arising from it. This recommendation was made under a misapprehension of the facts and circumstances. It was never acted upon, and now there is no suggestion that the privilege should be withdrawn. The Bill proposes to reduce the period to six months, and there is only the evidence of a single witness, a publisher, who makes the curious statement, on which he bases his objection, that it is the part of the publisher to retain the book for twelve months, because ho does not know whether he will be paid or not. Supposing these great, libraries and agents were to exercise any power of selection as to what will pay or will not pay, if it were possible to make that selection, I should be very glad if it could be done. So far from sharing the views of the last speaker as to the literary output of this country not being as large as that of Germany, France, or Italy, I have a very strong feeling that a very great deal more is published than anybody wants to read. A great deal more is written than is desirable should be either written or published. We groan not merely under a mass of literary matter daily put forth from the press, but the greater postal facilities which we now have bring that matter constantly to our doors. Selection is impossible, and if it were it would be extremely difficult. It is very difficult to tell, if you were to look at the great cases of literature which come to one of those great libraries, the value or the worthlessness of a good many of the books supplied. I believe it is the case that when one of those great libraries did exercise the power of selection one of them rejected as unworthy of retention the first edition of "Waverley."
§ Mr. BIRRELL
And they took the "Antiquary," because they considered it would be a valuable work on research—learned men, too.
§ Sir W. ANSON
That shows how far ambition for research may lead one. I have satisfied myself, and other people more competent are satisfied, that selection is impossible; and this question of whether books should be taken in or not does not really arise. If you make the period three months what happens? As a matter of fact, the great publishers send their books unasked. A claim within three months will have to be made as soon as the authority is satisfied that publication has been made. The only evidence of publication which he can get is the publisher's circular, and they very often do not come out for a month or more after publication, within the meaning of the Bill, has taken place. Consequently, the time during which a claim might be made would be curtailed, and the publishers, who have hitherto sent works without any complaint would be harassed and annoyed with a demand which they are quite ready to satisfy if present conditions remain. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is worth while to introduce this change, which seems to be of no particular advantage to anybody. It must be apparent that first of all those great libraries are really national store houses of information, not only for the present, but for the future, and that they can only be maintained at great cost. It is not merely the purchase of books that concerns those libraries. We have in the Bodleian Library spent last year £12,000 in making a great store room, which will make it possible for the library to go on at the present rate for the next thirty or forty years. Not only is there expense of that kind, but there is organisation and service in order that the library should have its resources available to all comers when they ask for them. That is also a considerable item. It is, therefore, not at all desirable in the interests of the whole community that difficulties should be put in the way of the acquisition of books by the libraries. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the matter with a kindly spirit when that Bill goes into Committee.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I should like to offer one or two observations on this Bill, but I do not contemplate that they are of a sufficiently serious character to lead me to oppose the Second Heading. They are points that can well be threshed out in Committee, and, therefore, I am happy to say that I welcome the introduction of 2633 this Bill, although feeling it necessary to make a few critical remarks thereon. A Bill that consolidates and simplifies the law is always to be accepted in this House with appreciation. I understand that uniformity is aimed at in this Bill. I agree that if it is possible to assimilate good laws in one country with the laws of another that that is a matter that deserves our commendation, but I am not convinced that this Bill will give the contemplated uniformity. It has not yet been revealed in the course of this discussion that, say Germany, has agreed upon the extension of the duration of the copyright. I believe that Germany adheres to their present system of the life of the author, with thirty years thereafter. The proposal of our Bill is the life of the author and fifty years after death. Therefore we have not attained uniformity with the nation that is perhaps the greatest producer of literature in our day. An hon. Member dissents from that view, and perhaps it is an exaggeration, which I will modify to this extent, and say that, after ourselves, Germany is perhaps the greatest producer.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I will not go so far as to accept the suggestion of the Noble Lord. I am not given to understand that the conditions prevailing in the United States of America will be altered under this arrangement. I believe it is the intention of the United States, to adhere to its present condition of twenty-eight years, with a probable extension of fourteen years, and another of fourteen, contingent on a special set of circumstances, making fifty-six years. I think there is general agreement on the point that the United States, Germany, and this country represent the largest producers of literature to-day. They are the two other countries that we have placed in this category and they, at any rate, display no willingness to enter into this agreement. Therefore, uniformity is not to be attained as many people contemplate to be the case in this country.
Sir G. PARKER
The United States gives practically fifty-six years—twenty-eight years and twenty-eight years exemption.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I have already acknowledged that there is a probable fifty- 2634 six years, but the possibility under this Bill, I believe suggested by the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) who seconded the motion, was one of a hundred years. That may be a slight exaggeration, but, nevertheless, my point has been perfectly well established that we have not uniformity even with regard to the three great publishing nations of the world. I feel that I must enter a slight protest against a view which has been generally advanced in the course of this debate. Behind most of the arguments, at any rate, is the implication that the author of a book or other thing protected under this measure has a perpetual right in that product, and that a person who creates something of value and interest is the person entitled to the whole of the credit for that production. I am not dogmatising here, I am simply expressing a view as it entered my mind, with due regard to the contrary views held by other Members of the House. I think we have to contemplate a genius or a creator of this class as a person who inherits from all the successes and failures of the past. That is how I have regarded the matter throughout my studious years, if I may put it that way with all due modesty. Hence I think we have greatly exaggerated the claims of the genius or the creator by the admissions that have been made in the course of the Debate to-day. I am naturally inclined to look at this matter not wholly from the standpoint of the author, but also from that of the more general public. There is a great danger in this class of legislation, and that danger has been indicated by the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). Under this Bill you undoubtedly afford protection to a class—a very deserving class—namely, the author. In America the type-setters immediately seized upon that point, and demanded a similar form of protection, which was enacted by the stipulation that the books must be printed in that country also. I am not going to argue that question here, but I respectfully point out that protection given to one class may make it extremely difficult to resist a claim made by another class. For my own part, I am not convinced that the ill effects of the American conditions are so large as some people suggest. We have experienced extreme difficulty in getting any reliable data or statistics as to the amount of American books or plates or sheets imported into this country. If we are able to elucidate that matter in the course of the Committee stage, we shall have thrown some very valuable light 2635 upon this aspect of the controversy. Possibly the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make some investigations into this point, and when the Committee stage is reached we may have the results at our disposal.
Any extension of the Copyright period must, in my opinion, have a tendency at any rate to restrict the publication of the modern reprint, which in a cheap form is undoubtedly the main form of literature placed within the reach of the poorer classes. At first it struck me that that argument could not be in any way challenged; but I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman dealt with it in his speech, and certainly presented another aspect worthy of consideration. Still I am not yet convinced. It seems to me to follow as a natural course that, if you extend the privileges of a particular class, you must of necessity restrict the privileges of another class; and that other class in this connection being the great consuming or reading class, I feel that it is perfectly demonstrable that they must be prejudiced. We might differentiate between what I would call the literature of thought and the general term of "pure" literature. There is much of this class of book published today which never comes within the reach of the common people except through the medium of the public libraries. Being a poor person myself, I have often had to make use of the public library. At the same time there are so many restrictions that it is not possible for readers to get the real value out of these books that they could get if they were able to place them within their own libraries. This class of literature very soon passes out of date, and if we extend the period of copyright protection I am apprehensive that what I call the literature of contemporary thought may never come within the reach of the great masses of the people. We may be able in Committee to submit some modification to meet this particular point. Nevertheless, I think that is a tangible point for consideration, because there is a real yearning desire on the part of the poorer classes to-day to make the acquaintance of the great men of the period, and not alone to have the advantage of the culture derivable from the other side, which I designate as pure literature.
Under the provisions of the Bill the works of Darwin, for instance, could not possibly be found in their cheap form in the homes of so many people of my own class as is the case to-day. Members in 2636 all parts of the House are doubtless aware of the fact that the works of Darwin are studied in the homes of some of the poorest of our people. Darwin has undoubtedly left a great mark on the minds of the people, and it is desirable that these good books, books of thought and endurance, should be placed within their reach as cheaply and as early as possible. I am afraid, too, that many of the books published by the Rationalist Association, which have found their way into the homes of the people, because obtainable at the nominal price of 6d., if this Bill had been law could never have been published at that price. Consequently, I feel that popular education and culture may suffer because of the restrictions placed upon it by this class of legislation. One other point has strongly impressed me in this controversy. In those countries where the protection is the most considerable, we find education in the most backward state. In Spain, I believe, the protection given is the author's life and eighty years thereafter. As I say, where the restrictions are the greatest, the handicap is the greatest; and where the restrictions are more limited there it is that literature is more freely disseminated and the people are better educated and cultured. I think that is an illuminating point in support of my argument. Germany, I believe, will not enter the agreement, at any rate with regard to the fifty years, but will keep to the thirty years at present prevailing. Necessarily that will allow German firms to produce books earlier than the British publisher will be able to do. This Bill proposes, I understand, to take power to prohibit the importation of books from countries which are unwilling to enter into the agreement. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the unsatisfactory state of the Copyright Law has often resulted in very delicate negotiations having to be conducted between different countries.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
That is how I read Clause 16. Of course I may be wrong. I interpreted the Clause from a layman's point of view. I was going to suggest that such a course might have some disadvantage when delicate negotiations have to be conducted. But the point here is this that it brings no particular advantage to anybody. It simply is a disadvantage to prevent the common people having access 2637 to this class of literature. This access I desire to be made easier rather than more difficult. This further fact has been pointed out by one of the hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion—that the greatest disparity in protection is given to the author as compared with the inventor. I have stated in my opinion that both author and inventor are not so much the original creators that some people contemplate, but rather that they are the reservoirs of the past. They have profited by the successes and failures of those who have preceded them. It may be that even failure is really a matter of progress, too, for when we are told that we must not go in a certain direction—that, at any rate, saves us time, and makes it easier for us to go along the road.
It seems to me if we are going to give this extended protection to the author class we will ultimately be met with a very strong attempt for greater protection for the inventor. You may say that is perfectly justifiable. Nevertheless, I think that at the back of the minds of thoughtful people must be this thought—that the more protection you give to this class of people the greater essential detriment there must be to the general flow of progress. As a layman, I venture to submit for the consideration of the House these few simple criticisms from a general point of view, and from that of the class to which I particularly belong. I am one of those who has in recent years found a great advantage from cheap literature, because the economic circumstances of our class do not allow us to buy the more expensive works that we should desire. We view with great apprehension any form of legislation which, in our opinion, would tend to retard the dissemination of that literature, and the extensions of popular books and culture among the working classes.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will not, I hope, think I am presuming if I say that while I cannot agree with many of his views, I appreciate to the full the moderation of thought and the general justice with which he has expressed those views. Before I pass to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson Hicks), may I only refer to one point raised by the last speaker, that is to Section 16 of the Bill, and say that, of course, that is the only Section which makes any copyright possible at all. If you take out Section 16 the whole Bill 2638 would fall to the ground. Unless you prevent the influx of pirated copies of a work copyright is useless.
I come to the speech of the hon. Gentleman below me, the Member for Brentford, which I cannot find myself in agreement with. The hon. Gentleman told us that he was upon the Departmental Committee, representing a class of persons as far as possible removed from literature, that class which we generally know as representing the powerful legion of Philistinism. I think the speech he delivered showed that he was an admirable representative of that class. If I understood the hon. Member aright, he began by saying that there was no property whatever in the product of a man's brain; it was purely artificial. I beg leave to doubt that fact. I still adhere to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend said, that you are in copyright limiting, and not giving a privilege. But when you do limit that privilege you must protect it for a very plain reason. What is said in the Act of 1842? It is an Act "for the encouragement of the productions of works of literature which are a permanent advantage to the public." In what other way could we encourage literature? Hon. Members who have spoken said that this is a new creation. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who ought to have some interest for that poor class the authors, say that this copyright was in lieu of the enormous circulation of former times. No one knows better what was in substitution of copyright than the right hon. Gentleman. What was literature dependent upon before copyright was established? Upon the patron.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
But not before the invention of the patron. The real fact is that copyright was to free authors from the patron and make them independent. The right hon. Gentleman, with his great literary knowledge, knows that perfectly well. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Brentford referred to another point. As in the case of Mr. Dick and the head of King Charles, he cannot leave retaliation out of consideration upon any point that he raises. We must retaliate, he says, upon the printers in America. In regard to that, I would like to refer to the interruption of a word or two which I made and which the hon. Gentleman took exception to. Of course, I did not mean to say 2639 that there were not scores of American authors of very great eminence and of immortal fame. What I meant to say, and what I think all my words conveyed, was, that America is not in the sense as France, Germany, or this country, a literature-producing country. I am certain of this, and I speak it with full knowledge, that neither author nor publisher would be benefited in England if we attempted any scheme of retaliation such as the hon. Gentleman suggests. We would be losers to the extent of 99 per cent. where we would be gainers to the extent of 1 per cent., and we would be descending to a low, unpleasant, and discreditable trick if we did so. Our object is to preserve copyright; the independent copyright of the different countries. I trust that no subservience to the idea of retaliation, however honest I may be in my support of it, will ever carry me so far to support a retaliation that will never benefit anyone. The hon. Gentleman thinks that the privilege given to authors is large as compared, as I understood him, with inventors, but I hope the hon. Gentleman would not compare the inventors of small auxiliaries for motor cars with the authorship of great works of literature. I think the hon. Gentleman also spoke of the gramaphone and various reproductions of the human voice; no doubt such reproductions are valuable, but I question whether, even when voices are national assets, that they rank with great literary work.
That brings me to one defect which I think exists in this Bill. I am grateful for the Bill, and I should certainly not think of doing anything but supporting it, but there are defects in it and one of them is that it covers vastly too large a ground. Hitherto the Bills that have been brought before Parliament have dealt with separate compartments of this question. How is it possible to deal in one Bill with all the wide range of subjects which you attempt to deal with here, from the future production of a "Paradise Lost" down to the reproduction of the echoes of the voice of Mr. Harry Lauder. How is that possible in one Bill? Does it not create analogies of a completely misleading character? The man in the street, the ordinary citizen, when you mention copyright to him, thinks chiefly of authors' copyright, and is it fair when dealing with this question to mix it up with the vast range extending from an author's creation to the production of miscellaneous sorts of cinemato- 2640 graph, gramaphone, and various other things? I wish to point to certain further dangers which this Bill involves. We know it is put before us in order that this country may take advantage of the Conference of Berlin as we have previously done of the Convention of Berne. Are we not in this Bill involving ourselves in certain difficulties that will alter greatly our relations with foreign countries?
In the very first Clause you are altering completely the basis upon which publication rests. Hitherto the publisher in a particular country is given the copyright in that country. Now you say that "during the making of the work" the author must be a British subject or resident within some part of His Majesty's Dominions. What in the name of common-sense is the date of the making of the work? The date of a making of the work of a serious character, whether of romance or of fiction, may stretch over a long series of years. We know quite well what a famous artist said when he was remonstrated with about the price of a certain picture, and asked how long he took to paint it. His answer was, "All my life." A great work is being produced during the whole lifetime of the author. No book of any importance takes less than three or four years. It would be impossible to fix the date imposed by this Section. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate what I say, and that it is quite an indeterminate period which will introduce very great difficulty and will introduce very great confusion into the interpretation of the Convention of Berne and will not be on all fours with the rearrangement made by other countries. We may in enforcing these things in our legislation so undermine the principles of the Conference of Berlin that we may no longer come within the circle of that Conference.
Sir G. PARKER
Sub-section 2 of that Clause arranges for the protection of any publisher's work during the time of making.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Yes, but it does not interpret the date at any later period. The date indicated by this Clause as to the making of the work may extend over a great many years. There is another difficulty, and that is the larger independent legislative powers given to the Colonies. I know quite well we cannot quarrel with the Colonies over this; these Dominions are self-governing, and we must reckon with them legislating in their own interest, but 2641 surely it would be foolish not to try to carry, as far as we can, agreement with the Colonies in these matters. The Colonies at present, it must be remembered, are in a very advantageous position. They have everything to gain by breaking down copyright and very little to lose. There is no Colonial writer whose works it would be of very great advantage to publish at home, but they can with great advantage make use of works produced here. I would appeal to the Colonies, if I were in the position of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill. They have a common inheritance and interest in this literature which has done so much to make us a great nation. They have to look to the future, and in a generation or two the Colonies will have a part in that literature and will be contributors, and will be direct producers in adding to the greatness of that literature and encouraging its product. I am certain if the Colonies were properly appealed to, instead of breaking down copyright by legislation of their own they would recognise that they will have in our common inheritance a larger share as time goes on. We shall look to these growing nations for our coming Miltons and Tennysons, and it is for their good as well as our own to encourage and protect authorship, to give the author who is poorly paid some interest in working his brains for the advantage of the country. Surely if we do that we could prevent the Colonies doing what they will assuredly do if they only trust to immediate legislation, in having laws of their own, breaking down copyright in this country, and lessening the value of that copyright. That is the danger of this legislation unless you come to some bargain with the Colonies and trust to their sense of honour and future interest and patriotism to aid us in the work.
I wish to refer shortly to the compulsory Licence Clause to which the hon. Member for Gravesend objected, which objection I also fully share. That has been referred to by some hon. Members who have spoken as if there was no possible remedy against the publishing of a book at a prohibitive price, and restricting the circulation to an indefinite period. That is not so. There is under the Act of 1842 a Clause which gives power to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to give permission to any complainer, who complains that a book cannot be obtained at a fair price, to publish that book. The Chief 2642 Secretary for Ireland knows that Clause as well as I do. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell the House how many, applications have been made under that Clause. Hon. Members will be surprised to hear that during the seventy years this Act has been in existence there has not been a single application to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council under this particular Clause. At the present time books are published at as cheap a price as possible consistent with fair remuneration to the publisher. I know there are exceptions of a special character. Mr. Ruskin had a wish that his books should be published in a rather expensive form, printed upon very good paper, and very carefully printed with an elaborate reproduction of the engravings. That was his own wish. I believe Mr. Ruskin would turn in his grave if he knew his books were being reproduced in the cheap, slovenly, and careless form in which they might now be printed. But even Mr. Ruskin's books are less expensive now than they were a few years ago. There are hundreds of copyrighted books of classical literature now being offered for sale on bookstalls at 7d. per volume. Was there ever a time when books were being produced more easily and cheaply? I have in mind the case of an essayist who stands high amongst authors, but who has not got a very large clientele of readers. It is only by the production and sale of such books at a fairly remunerative rate that anything can be realised for the author at all. What would be the result of reducing the price in such a case as this? The readers of such books would not extend over a wider circle because that circle is necessarily small, but they would probably get for 1s. or 2s. what they had been accustomed to pay 5s., 7s., or 8s. for. The only person who would be squeezed out in that process would be the living representatives of the author. Is that fair or desirable, or would it benefit the few professional men who wished to buy such books if they got them a little cheaper, and thus deprive the author of any advantage at all? I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the promise to increase the period of copyright to fifty years, and I trust he will not limit it by the compulsory licensing Clause. This practice might extend to every Colony and eventually they must each have a Comptroller of their own. I think the extension to fifty years is a great advantage for which authors will be very thankful. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the fixing of the 2643 period of forty-two years was due to the Fact that the Act was passed in 1842, and that that was the age of Lord Macaulay at the time. I understand there was no other reason for selecting this arbitrary period of time, but the curious fortuitous circumstance that the Act passed in 1842 and that Lord Macaulay's forty-second birthday was in that year. I have heard this stated on good authority. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having promised this reasonable period of fifty years, and I am sure he will earn further thanks if he guards against the dangers involved in this invidious compulsory Clause.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I think the President of the Board of Trade has every cause to congratulate himself upon the reception this Bill has met with, because there seems to be a general consensus of opinion in all parts of the House———
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I will say in nearly all parts of the House, that this Bill ought to be read a second time and submited to the severe criticism which my hon. Friend behind me, or anybody else, may wish to expose it to when it gets upstairs. Everybody agrees, quite apart from the new portions of this Bill, that a Copyright Bill of some kind is long overdue. Ever since I can remember coming into this House a Copyright Bill has been promised in the Queen's Speech year after year. I remember when I was younger and more hopeful thinking that Mr. Gerald Balfour, who was then President of the Board of Trade, would have the opportunity of introducing a Bill on this subject which he had prepared and circulated to the notice of the House, because the Copyright Acts, as everybody knows—and it has been my lot for some years to be pretty well acquainted with our various Copyright Acts—are in a hopeless state of confusion, and it is absolutely essential in the interests of all kinds of producers that this serbonian bog should be drained, and fenced, and rendered in some degree habitable and traversable to ordinary human beings. I think we are all agreed it is necessary that this should be done. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that this reform ought to be attempted piecemeal. One of the great objections to our existing system in the case of literary, artistic, or musical copyright was that you had to hunt through a separate Act of Parliament for 2644 each. It is therefore desirable that these Acts should be codified, and that we should have a consolidated copyright statute. So far, I think we are all agreed. There are some new provisions in this Bill which have excited a good deal of discussion. Copyright is necessarily a subject which gives rise to a very wide field of discussion. In some of its aspects it goes down deep into human affairs and raises questions of a subtle character about which mankind will ever dispute. There are difficult and technical questions as to mechanical contrivances which some people regretfully think have almost superseded authors and works in this subject. This Bill extends the duration of copyright. Everybody is agreed that we must get rid, in the interests of common-sense, of the existing double term of "your life and seven years," and "forty-two years after the date of publication." Everybody agrees that is a most foolish arrangement, because, among other reasons, it sets free to the world the early editions of a man's book and excludes the later ones. So far as poetry and romance are concerned, I am rather disposed to put my money upon a man's early editions than on his later editions. I certainly think a good many poets who have lived a long time might very well stand the racket of immortality upon the first ten years. It is certainly the case with the great poet Wordsworth, but, with regard to works of research and great study, the very opposite consideration prevails. I remember Herbert Spencer, giving evidence before a Parliamentary Committee, gave a most touching account of the troubles which had fallen upon him through his having mistakenly consulted a reprint of Hallam's "Middle Ages," which was first published in 1818, and was afterwards very much amended and altered, in the honest belief that it represented the final conclusions of Mr. Hal-lam on historical subjects. He bought this work very cheaply. Alexander Murray published it, and there was no indication on its title page that it was not the final conclusions of Mr. Hallam. Poor Mr. Spencer was very much put out by this, because he had built some theories on the 1818 Hallam, and "Heaven knows," he said, "I shall have to go through the last edition to see whether these theories are not upset by a footnote saying Hallam was all wrong in 1818. I do not think much of a theory which rests upon any statement in any particular history."
2645 There is a concensus of agreement that we must have one term of years, and the only question is how many. Authors at present enjoy a period which cannot be less than forty years. You must have it one way or the other. You get forty-two years from the date of publication, and, if you lived seven years after your death, you would get that period. (Laughter). Well, I, as an author, associate myself with my book and with my posterity. I think, therefore, we are all agreed; at least, I do not think anybody would wish to go back upon the forty-two years which authors and their families or their publishers enjoy as a period of copyright. The addition of eight years does not seem to me to fee of enormous importance, although I certainly think, in the interests of the very limited number of persons who have any interest in this question at all, it is one which justice very reasonably demands and which equity could defend. Take the case of distinguished and great authors whose works are likely to endure the whole of this possibly extended copyright, and look how their whole fortunes depend upon the length of their lives. A great author has to create the atmosphere and the audience. It was a very profound remark of a great man that every original person is hated when he begins. They do not like his books or his tone or his temper. There is something about him from which the ordinary middle-aged man revolts. This author has to go on pegging and working away, creating his own audience, and he will very seldom have any remuneration at all during the first few years, it may be ten or twenty years of his life. That is true of poets, of great novelists, and also of philosophers. They are not warmly received, and the great public does not rush for them; they have to wait a long time.
Take the case of Carlyle. He lived to be an old man, but, supposing he had died, let me say in 1842, he had then written probably all his best books. He had delivered his lectures on "Hero and Hero Worship," he had written his great history or poem on "The French Revolution," and he had compiled or composed, I think, his book on Cromwell. Supposing his books had run seven years after his death, or for a period of forty-two years from the date of publication, he would have had a very small chance of making any provision for those who came after him. It happened he was a childless man, but that makes no particular difference. He might desire, and he did desire—by his 2646 will and the bursaries and scholarships he created for his native land he showed the desire—to dispose of his fortune for the good of mankind. He would practically have had hardly any run for his money, if I may use such a vulgar expression, on so great a subject, if he had not happened to have lived. Exactly the same applies to-Tennyson. Supposing he had died in 1855, after having written "In Memoriam" and "Maud," he had at all events done enough to maintain his poetic reputation. He had probably produced his greatest work in that period. In 1855 Tennyson was a poor man. He was in receipt of a Civil List pension for a very long time, and he might have said, as Wordsworth said, that the price of his poems would not have kept him in bootlaces. He lived long enough, however, to reap the harvest of his own fame. If he had not lived long enoughs and if he had died in middle age, he would have died a poor man, and it would have been probable, as he had gone, that his family would have reaped a very slender advantage indeed during the period of copyright. I think, therefore, we are entitled to consider the cases of these distinguished men. For the ordinary ruck of authors—a man like myself—it is a matter of total and absolute indifference. I am perfectly certain that seven years after I am dead the demand for my books will have ceased to exist. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no; never."] Well, I have sufficient confidence in the genius of the men who are coming after me to believe they will avail themselves of anything I am successful in teaching them and present it in a better form and in a form far more likely to catch the ear of those then living. These things—these long periods of copyright—do not exist for the ordinary author, and for the great authors, too, unless they are in the realm of poetry and imagination. The greatest historian may be superseded, not because he was not the greatest historian, but because further research, new points of view, greater enlightenment, the progress of politics and ideas, enable subsequent writers to present, even such a thing as the history of Rome and Greece, in a more striking and useful form. The same way with the scientific writer. We may admire and reverence Sir Isaac Newton without having had in our hands a copy of an original or early edition of his writings. All these things go to make up the common stock of human knowledge, and as time goes on other people deal with it and represent its substance 2647 in different forms, which preserve the ideas, of the great men who contributed to these subjects, but yet that often destroys the pecuniary value of their books. At the same time I think, that whilst for the great bulk of mankind these considerations may be left out, a certain number of authors are entitled to eight years more protection, and, after all, it is a simple matter which, under this Bill, is proposed to be given to them.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Yes, I was wrong there. It may extend over a more considerable period than I have indicated, but the question is, is it too much? Take one case, if I am not wearying the House, the case of John Milton. He wrote his great poem, and he did not make a bad bargain with the publishers. He got £5 down. It was a considerable sum then, and he got £5 at the end of the first impression of 1,500 copies and another £5 at the end of the second impression of another 1,500 copies, and he was to have another £5 at the end of the third impression, which was also to be 1,500 copies. As a matter of fact, he got the £5 down, and he got the £5 at the end of the first 1,500, and I think 1,500 was not a bad sale for "Paradise Lost," within two or three years of the date of publication. He got these two sums, amounting to £10, and then he died, and his widow, for the sum of £8, parted with all her rights, in the language of the deed, "from the beginning of the world to the date of these presents." That was a small remuneration, although I believe you will agree it was the market price. He died in 1674, and in 1750 his grand-daughter, who was, I believe, the last in the direct line of his descendants, was living in a state of great poverty, and two distinguished men came to her relief—Garrick, who put "Comus" upon the stage of Drury Lane, and Dr. Johnson, who wrote one of the noblest prologues in the English language upon the subject; and by that means a very considerable sum was raised for the benefit of this old lady. Now will anybody say that in 1750, which I think was about seventy years after the death of Milton, it would be an outrageous thing if this poor grand-daughter of his had been entitled to receive the comparatively small sum which would have been left to her after all the expenses of publication and the like. Does anybody say that would not have 2648 been a proper thing? The lines of Dr. Johnson's prologue, the last two lines, I may venture to apply to this subject:—Yours is the charge, ye fair, ye wise, ye brave,'Tis yours to crown desert—beyond the grave.This period goes rather far in the opinion of some people. It hardly affects some people at all, but it does affect men of great and rare genius, and it secures to them or their descendants some portion of their reward. Passing away from that subject, although it follows from the consideration of it, we may take the case of other countries, like Germany, which is content with thirty years; and it may be a question whether England ought to take more than that. I do protest against the notion that in the rare cases in which this protection applies it is otherwise than a just and equitable arrangement which is now proposed.
The next point is about Clause 4. It has been subjected to a good deal of criticism as regards the compulsory licence. I was glad the hon. Member, who has just sat down, referred—because I was going to do so if he had not—to the provisions of the Act of 5th and 6th Victoria, which says: "Whereas it is expedient to provide against the suppression of books of importance to the public, be it enacted, that it shall be lawful for the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council, on complaint made to them that the proprietor of the copyright in any book after the death of its author has refused to republish or allow the republication of the same, and that by reason of such refusal such book may be withheld from the public, to grant a licence to such complainant to publish such book," and so on.
That was only following on earlier provisions. There was an opportunity to the public to appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the learned men of Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, who are always men of great literary knowledge, and that allowed to them the power to determine what was the price of the book. I speak myself in this matter without great consideration, but I do ask whether there is really any such great need for a Clause of this kind, as has been supposed. At the same time there are people, of whom I have lately made the acquaintance, who attach great importance to it, and it is certainly a subject which might receive full consideration after the evidence before the Committee upstairs, one way or the 2649 other. There may be more in it than appears to be at this moment. I confess I think there is a lot of stuff talked about price; I do not think there is anything in it, I believe the whole thing so far as that Act of 1842 is concerned is based upon Lord Macaulay's motion, or rather the example he gives, about Boswell's life of Dr. Johnson. He mentioned the case of Alexander, who was Boswell's son and who hated and abhorred the memory of Johnson. He thought it had played too great a part in the life of the laird of Auchinleck, and so great was that hatred that Lord Macaulay believed that if he had had the chance he would have suppressed absolutely that" Life of Dr. Johnson," or, being a bibliophile, he might have put it up to a price of ten guineas, and so suppressed it for the mass of the people, such a high price that people would not be prepared to give it for a book, although they are prepared to give that much for a motor car or anything of that kind. That was the notion anyhow, such a price as the price of a motor car, or ten guineas for a book.
It is just possible there may be a risk of the suppression of a book. I do not know whether the House would care to go into such nice considerations as might occur with regard to that point. I can imagine a case in which a book of great merit would be suppressed owing to the feelings of the heir-at-law or widow of the man who wrote the book, which might be of a religious character or an irreligious character in the estimation of the widow, or it might be heretical as to Free Trade or Tariff Reform in such a manner as to shock the susceptibilities of the family or the time in which it was produced. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that it might be necessary to retain such a Clause so as to secure that the public should not be deprived of the benefit of a book by reason of its suppression in such circumstances. So far as the price is concerned, I confess that, as at present advised, I should like very much to hear the reasons given for this Clause, which I am afraid this afternoon it has not been possible to do. I own when I first heard of the introduction of architecture I was very much startled, but then I said to myself, "you must remember you are not an architect." Then I was informed that in foreign countries, such as France and Germany, architectural designs of originality are protected by law, so here again I should be perfectly willing to hear 2650 the reasons for this inclusion. I do not at present feel in a position to express an opinion on the subject, but I do not see why an architect, if he can make out his case, should not be protected. Somebody said, "what is an original design?" But, good gracious me, what is an original book? Yet my right hon. Friend is not going to protect any book. The theory of the law—it is only a theory—is that in order to be entitled to copyright you must prove your originality, but very few authors have even been subjected to that, and most of the copyright cases which have gone into court, agitated the legal profession, and gone to the House of Lords, have been about such works as "Kelly's Directory" and books of that kind, which represent more shoe leather than original thought. There is no reason why we should apply to architecture a harsher rule and a more limited application than has been applied to books. It is a difficult subject, and I see there is a Clause in the Bill which says you cannot get an injunction to remove a house which infringes, therefore any remedy that you get would, as the lawyers say, sound in damages. I will therefore consider architecture with the other questions which will be considered. I am very glad that this Bill has received such friendly consideration, and I can promise the Members of the Committee that we shall have upstairs much food for interesting discussion, and I think then we shall introduce upon the Statute Book an Act which will relieve the purses of lawyers and put a very little money into the pockets of the authors.
If I venture for a very few moments to intervene in this Debate it is chiefly because I shall not have the advantage which I gather will fall to the lot of the right hon. Gentleman opposite of being a member of the Grand Committee which considers this Bill, and this will be my only opportunity of making what is very far from being a criticism upon the Bill as a whole, but merely a commentary on this Clause 4, over which the introducer of the Bill passed so lightly, and which the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down discussed in a spirit of happy detachment. I do not at all say that the right hon. Gentleman's defence of his colleague's Bill was the worse for having this large dose of independence, but I have never heard a Government Bill defended by a Member of the Government from the Government Bench in quite the same Spirit of impartial criticism as the right hon. 2651 Gentleman bestowed upon the handiwork of his colleague. I do not plead for one period rather than another during which there shall be copyright for an author. I do not feel that I am qualified to give an opinion on the point. Of course, I agree that there should be one period and not the double period which now rather deforms our legislation on the subject, but what I feel very strongly is that whatever period the House or the Committee may decide as being the proper amount of protection which should be secured to an author or his work, without any doubt he should have it. If you give a man thirty, forty, or fifty years, give it him, and let him know exactly what he is leaving to his family and exactly what he has got, and do not let him have always before his eyes the doubts which may be thrown upon the property by the fact that you hand over absolutely to a member of a Government Department, not necessarily with any literary experience at all, the absolute decission as to what shall be done with his work when he is dead, at what price it should be sold, and who shall be allowed to sell.
I think there has been some doubt in the minds of hon. Members in regard to this question of property in literature. I do not feel competent to deal with the theoretical and abstract basis of property in ideas or in anything else. That is far beyond my comprehension. But I think it is a profound mistake to confuse the rights of authorship with such things as patent rights. Property in patents is property in nothing but the idea. A man has an idea. He patents it, and no one else may use the idea till the patent is over. I quite agree that if you extended the length and obtained this monopoly of idea it might be most oppressive. But copyright does not monopolise ideas. The only thing that copyright monopolises for a certain length of time is the form given to certain ideas by a particular genius or man of talent, and these are quite different things. There could not be a better illustration than that given by the hon. Member (Mr. G. Roberts). He mentioned the works of Darwin. The works of Darwin are exactly one of those rare illustrations both of the great novelty and brilliancy of idea and conception, and also of literary form embodying those ideas. It is because Darwin was a great litterateur, and not because simply he was the inventor of a great theory of development, that his books are now read with so much interest and attention in the homes of the working 2652 classes and of all other classes of the community. There was no monopoly in Darwin's idea. On the contrary, after the "Origin of Species" was published, it was open to every man in the Kingdom to give an absolutely full abstract of all Darwin's argument without missing out a single thing, and that would have been no interference with copyright at all. As far as ideas were concerned, they were public property without monopoly, without any control of law courts, or anyone else of the whole intelligent world. What was the property was the admirable embodiment which Darwin gave to those ideas not in one book but in all his books, from the "Voyage of the 'Beagle'" downwards. They are and they remain delightful literature, although, of course, the very-magnitude of Darwin's work in the theory of evolution has enabled Darwin's successors to point out, possibly, deficiencies here and there in the great structure of which Darwin laid so deep and solidly the foundations.
There is, therefore, really a fundamental distinction to be drawn between the ideas embodied in a patent or an idea contained in a book, and a copyright given to a particular author who embodies his idea in a particular form which lives occasionally—rarely—through the fifty years of monopoly which the Copyright Laws give him. When the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. George Roberts) indicates that in his view we must not rate too highly the works of the poet, the author, or the inventor, because, after all, the poet, the author, and the inventor are all creatures of their age, that they all borrow from the past, that they all rest on the past, and that none of them could have been anything without the past. We will all probably agree to that, but I do not think it bears out the conclusions of the hon. Gentleman. If we should have got on just as well without these people, why then their merit is very negligible. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be the first to say that give what share you like to the work of society in the production of works of genius, if science in this country had not had in physics, we will say, Young, Faraday, Kelvin, and the rest, science would not be where it is. Nor would literature be where it is if we had not had in poetry Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, and the rest. Literature would be in that case incomparably poorer. There is no use saying that these men got a good deal from society. The point is what did society get from them? And if you look at it from 2653 that point of view, I do not think any recognition of the undoubted truth that all of us are creatures of our age, the products of our time, the result, for good or bad, of generations of incalculable and composite forces—no consideration of that kind should affect the judgment we come to as to the expediency of securing for a great man of letters the product of his toil.
Whatever you may say of other branches of industry or of work, no one will say that genius is over-paid. You may think that the successful financier, the fortunate inventor, the shareholders in some great successful firm, the landlord who suddenly finds his land near some growing city, are fortunate beyond their deserts, and are being rewarded by the growth of society beyond what you think they ought to get. But will anybody say that the man of genius gets more than his deserts? Is he overpaid? Does he get too much? I think if there be an error in our social arrangements in regard to the reward of this particular class of the community, it is that they are underpaid and not overpaid. There are, of course, great exceptions. There are men, for instance, of admirable genius, whose works appeal not merely to a restricted and select few, but to a vast area of contemporary readers. There are not very many, but they exist, and anybody acquainted with the elements of literary history can give you easily the chief names. But compared with the small and fortunate band there are an enormous number—well, not an enormous number, but a much greater number of people who have in their lives suffered from poverty and neglect, suffered from lack of consideration and poor emoluments, and yet whose names are now household words throughout the world, and whose books are read with gratitude by generation after generation.
If in this Bill, or any other Bill, something can be done to give them their fair share of the good things of this life, and to reward adequately the immense benefits which they have conferred on their species I do not think we ought to grudge it. This brings me back to the only contention that I really wish to put before the right hon. Gentleman. I shall not be in a position to urge it on him in Committee. Let me urge it here. Clause 4, if abused, might evidently be a source of infinite injustice. I quite hope that it will never be abused, but I do not much like this growing practice, I was going to say, of this Government, the growing practice of this 2654 House, of handing over to a Government official unchecked and without appeal to any court the fortunes and interests of any class of His Majesty's subjects. It is contrary to all our oldest and best traditions. I am sure it is full of danger. I beg the Government to pause before they take any other step on this rather dangerous path. And for what ends are we running these risks? For what object are you really diminishing the security which every great man desires to experience, that some of those who come after him will enjoy some of the fruits of his labours and his fame? You are doing it apparently because it occurred to Lord Macaulay that someone sometimes here and there may find that a book has been written by a member of a family so rich that they are quite indifferent or relatively indifferent at all events, to the profits of the work, and so indignant at the character of the work, as reflecting upon their own family fame, that they are prepared to forego the profits of that work rather than that the public should enjoy it. How many of such books are there? It has never happened. Sir Alexander Boswell was prematurely killed in a duel, and Lord Macaulay thought it might have happened if he had lived. It never has happened. Why should we anticipate a case so very rare? But what strange coincidences and unexpected combinations of circumstances would be necessary, for the Privy Council under the existing law, or the Board of Trade under the law that is proposed, to intervene and say that the public shall enjoy a book which it is decided to suppress.
However, if you leave it merely to deal with suppression, I personally so far as I have considered the matter shall have no objection. I do not say it would be better, but I have no objection. I have never heard of a book being suppressed that ought to be published, though I have heard of some books being published that ought to be suppressed, and in any case I think the actual stoppage of publication of a book for which there is by hypothesis a great demand, is so arbitrary an action on the part of the heirs of a man of letters that I confess I should regard, without any very great alarm, the power even of a Government Department, and certainly of a court of law or a body like the Privy Council, to say that this embargo shall be withdrawn, and that this book shall be published, and that people shall not be deprived of the advantages of reading it. 2655 But when you go further, when you take the whole provisions, when you say that an official in a public Department is not merely to say that a book shall be published, but that it shall be done by this man and at this price, then I must say that all reasonable precedents are violated, and it seems to me you give a power of an unheard of description to a Government Department. You throw an air of insecurity over a kind of property which we all, within reasonable limits, desire to secure; and therefore I most earnestly trust that when this Bill comes to be discussed in Grand Committee the Government of the day will see to it that Clause 4, if it remains in the Bill, does so in a very much safer and simpler form than that in which it is at present.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
By Clause 17 of this Bill provision is made for the deposit of one copy of every book that is printed and published in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, and the Libraries of the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Dublin. Since 1907 the people of Wales have had established a national library for the first time in their history, and they have been pressing the right hon. Gentleman that that should be included in the list. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will plead that the difficulty in the way is that the number of libraries was reduced when the previous Copyright Bill was before the House; but this is a question on which Wales would accept a negative reply only with the very greatest protest. I am in full sympathy with this Bill, and I should be sorry to do anything which would hinder its rapid progress into law; but I wish to assure the right hon. Gentleman that if we cannot get some assurance on the Second Reading we shall be driven regretfully in Committee to take other means to ensure the fulfilment of what we regard as a very moderate and reasonable request. Clause 17 of the Bill will not be reached until late in the Committee stage, and, therefore, we feel that some assurance in regard to the request Wales puts forward should be given to us before we proceed to the consideration of Clause 1; otherwise we should feel ourselves bound to take action in order to secure our object in other ways. The complaint of the people of Wales is that they were kept without a national library until 1894, and it seems like adding insult to injury that, after having kept the Principality so long without a library, 2656 that at least every Welsh book printed should not be deposited in our national library. The great libraries have not enforced the law, and I have no doubt that copies of a large number of books printed in Welsh have not been deposited as required. We do not ask that every book printed in English should be deposited in our library; all we ask is that a copy of every book in Welsh should be deposited there. Books are printed in Welsh in various little villages in Wales that have never been deposited in the British Museum library or any of the other libraries. But I believe neither the British Museum library nor any other library could get copies of these books which are printed in Welsh, and which are circulated up and down our valleys. The matter is of vital importance to us, absolutely vital. The loss of books has been very very considerable during the last hundred years, and we cannot tolerate such loss again when the thing can be put right by a simple addition to Clause 17 of this Bill. On those grounds I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remedy this, and the matter is so serious that we shall have no alternative but to offer opposition from the start to the finish if he cannot meet us in a reasonable way.
§ Mr. BUXTON
In answer to my hon. Friend I may say that the other day I had the pleasure of seeing a deputation from Wales interested in this question, which really does not affect the principle of the Bill at all. It is a question which necessarily would come up in Committee, and when it does I shall be very glad to consider the various representations and arguments put forward. The hon. Member has now made an offer to me which I, at all events, shall be glad to consider. Quite apart from any further proposals, I shall give the greatest possible attention, as I stated in my opening speech, to all these matters in Committee, and which really do not affect the larger question. I can assure the hon. Member I shall be very glad to consider the representations, and to discuss them with a full desire, as far as possible, to meet my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I would remind the House there has not been one single speaker called upon who was root and branch against this Bill. I think it would be unfair if hon. Members would not allow me for a moment or two to state why I oppose the Bill. I have listened with great patience to a great deal of the speaking. Some of it has been speaking with 2657 which I entirely agreed, and the speeches have shown very great talent and learning. This Bill attacks the great principle of Free Trade and the great principle of the liberty of the subject. It is astonishing to me, and I say it with great pain and regret, to find that I am the solitary Free Trade voice in this House today. We sit here returned by our constituencies for Free Trade, and we have heard from our Front Bench, and from the Front Bench opposite, the sacred word Protection time after time, hour after hour. I shall never while I have the privilege of being a Member allow the whole of the speaking in the House to be from the Protectionist standpoint. I shall simply state my view in deference to my friends. No single argument has been produced in favour of the author and the architect which could not be brought forward in favour of the medicine man, the surgeon, the legal man, the politician, and the religious man. Why should not sermons and legal speeches and legal arguments be protected, and why should not the children and the grandchildren of any eminent man in those professions be kept at the public expense? The whole argument of the two Front Benches consists in the doctrine that the State ought to keep a man of genius and his descendants for a period of fifty years. That is exactly what it does mean. I cannot conceive how any kind of liberty can pass a Bill which, in my opinion, and I do not want to use too strong language, contravenes all principles of English liberty. Clause 11 tells a man that unless he proves his innocence he shall be found guilty. I say that that is a damnable doctrine in any Bill. I do not hesitate to say that, and I cannot understand either side of the House supporting a Bill with a Clause like that in it. I submit my views on this occasion because, since they neither want the Leader of the Opposition nor myself to go into Grand Committee, it is the only chance I have. I would remind politicians, who think they are the leading people, that the poacher, the smuggler and the pirate kept the banner of liberty flying, and we owe a great deal to those men. They initiated the gospel of Free Trade when it was little accepted. In deference to my hon. Friends I will not pursue the theme, but I thought it necessary that a word should be spoken, and particularly to the Liberal Front Bench. Would they suggest the application of such a measure as this to the Epistles of St. Paul or to the works of Adam Smith? They are 2658 accustomed to be dominated by Scotsmen and Scottish Members, just as we are in the Grand Committee. But what good would it have been to have had an Act of copyright relating to the "Wealth of Nations," written by the greatest Scotsman who ever lived?
§ Mr. BOOTH
Even the great race of Scotsmen has never been able to produce a Paul, but it did produce Adam Smith, who wrote a book which has done more than any other book since the Bible to transform the face of European politics and commerce. What advantage would it have been to have a book like that locked up for fifty years? Ought it to be in the power of degenerate descendants or trustees or legal representatives to prevent the masses of the people from having a cheap edition of the "Wealth of Nations"? What about Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" in cheap editions? I am astonished that representatives of the working men have not been more vigorous in their appeal that the free issue of literature should be safeguarded. I will deny myself the right of further speech solely out of consideration for my hon. Friends from Ireland. But I detest this Bill, and I am only sorry that no other speaker got up earlier to denounce it from the standpoint of liberty, Liberalism, and Free Trade.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
May I respectfully appeal to the House to come to a decision now on this Bill? The second order on the Paper is a Bill of great interest and of great importance to Ireland, and in regard to the principle of which there is no difference of opinion at all. We desire to get the Bill before a Grand Committee where it can be dealt with, and any points of difference threshed out. The Irish Members would be most grateful to all parties if they would give us the small remaining portion of time to enable what is in this case only a technical stage to be carried.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not know to what Bill the hon. Member refers, but I assume it is a Government Bill next on the Paper. May I point out to him that the Government have taken the whole time of the House, including private Members' time, and that if it is necessary that that Bill should be brought in, he and his friends, especially in view of the influence they have, can easily induce the Government to put it down at the commencement 2659 of a sitting when it could be properly discussed.' At present we are dealing with a very important Bill, on which there has been extremely few speeches, and as far as I am concerned it is necessary that a few words should be said in reply to one or two previous speakers. I have no intention of prolonging the discussion beyond five o'clock. I do not intend to interfere with the passing of the Second Reading, though on the whole I am not very enamoured of the Bill. We have had a very interesting contribution in the Debate from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I am not quite sure that I agree with all the sentiments he has expressed, but I hope I am not misrepresenting what he said when I say I understood him to say that pirates and smugglers have done a great deal to promote the prosperity of this country. May I point out that while he was speaking he was—doubtless he was not aware of it—pointing to the occupants of the Front Bench, though I do not suppose he meant to include them in the terms he used. I am not sure whether his remarks were in order, because this Bill has nothing to do with trade improvement. All it does is to protect the work of a certain person. I did not think that even a strong Free Trader would object to that.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I really do not see how that can be objected to. A person who purchases something for a valuable consideration is entitled to some protection. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich said that a great deal of exaggeration existed with regard to the authorship of a book or a poem or anything of that sort, and as to what we called the genius of a certain person. The hon. Member said that genius was an accumulation of the inherited genius of generations. What, then, about the hereditary House of Legislators? If genius, the ability to write or do similar work, comes from heredity, then that is the strongest argument that I have heard brought forward by anyone in favour of another place.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
The hon. Member for Norwich did not say "heredity." What he said had reference to past generations of society.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I very carefully listened to the hon. Member, and he certainly used the word "heredity," and surely if he had not said that there would be nothing at all in the point. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke will not contend that my son is going to be a genius because of the qualities of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The question of the length of copyright has been discussed at considerable length this afternoon. I do not think that the particular view I propose to put has been ever put before the House. That is that the effect of putting in a fixed period, whether of forty-two years, and seven years after the death of the author, whichever shall be the longest—which is the law at the present time—the effect I say is this. If a man has the advantage of being a strong man and lives a long time, and has a family, he gains a considerable advantage; but where, as is generally the case, the man of genius is a man of delicate health, if he dies early his family suffers a disadvantage as compared with that of a strong, healthy man. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his very interesting speech said that forty-two years had not the advantage of being a round figure. I fail to see where the advantage of a round figure comes in in a question of this sort; the real thing that does matter is to find out such a figure as shall prove fair to the author and his descendants and to the public generally. The Clause which permits the Controller to come in and say that a book or a work must be sold and a price fixed is, in my opinion, very bad. If you are going to give a man protection, give it, and make it genuine. The Leader of the Opposition was mistaken when he said there was no appeal here. There is an appeal under Sub-section 5 of Clause 4 to a judge of the High Court. But the author is generally a poor man, and his heirs are not usually blessed with this world's riches. Appeals cost money and it may be that this official appointed by the Government may not always give decisions which are regarded as right, and the result will be that these unfortunate people, if they are to preserve their rights, will be put to very considerable expense. We have had cases recently—the Swansea case for instance—which show that the Government do not hesitate to use all the advantages of the law against private persons, and the private persons have to employ gentlemen of the long robe at great expense to fight 2661 their cause. There is a Clause here which I do not understand, and that is Sub-section 2 of Clause 1, which says:—
"For the purposes of this Act 'copyright' means the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form whatsoever and in any language; to perform, or in the case of a lecture to deliver, the work or any substantial part thereof in public; if the work is unpublished, to publish the work; and shall include the sole right (a) in the case of a dramatic work, to convert it into a novel or other non-dramatic work; (b) in the case of a novel or other non-dramatic work, to convert it into a dramatic work, either by way of multiplication of copies or by way of performance in public."
What does that proposal mean?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Thank you, that will satisfy me. There is another point I wish to raise in Sub-section (3) of Clause 2, which says:—
"Copyright in a work shall also be deemed to be infringed by any person who for private profit permits a theatre or other place of entertainment to be used for the performance in public of the work without the consent of the owner of the copyright, unless he proves that he acted innocently."
I think that is a most extraordinary provision to put into an Act of Parliament, because it alters the English law that a man is considered to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty. The word "innocently" is a new word in this connection, and I have never before seen it in an Act of Parliament. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay attention to that.
§ Dr. HILLIER
We have had this afternoon an extremely interesting and instructive Debate, and the time given to the discussion of this important Bill has been by no means too long. The Debate proceeded on calm and philosophic lines until the speaker before the last intervened, and he for the first time in this Debate sounded a note of alarm. What was the cause of this alarm? It was that during the course of this Debate there had been too frequent a use of that terrible word "protection" in the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Ministerial Bench.
§ Dr. HILLIER
That ought to have mitigated the hon. Member's alarm, but apparently it has only increased it. The hon. Member went on to say that (his Bill was an abuse of the sacred principles of Free Trade, and he asked hon. Members to conjecture what might have been the results to mankind and civilisation if this extended privilege of copyright had been enjoyed by Adam Smith. I would like to ask the hon. Member if he considers that Free Trade involves the free pilfering of the goods of other people? Unless he takes that view I cannot for the life of me see how he defends what he was pleased to describe as free trade in the works of an author without any limit of copyright whatever. Such argument as that is absolutely untenable.
§ Dr. HILLIER
I rejoice to hear it. I am glad, at any rate, the hon. Member goes this length with us, and does recognise there is something in the nature of the work of a literary man or an artist which does call for some form of protection in order that literary men and artists may really enjoy the fruits of their labour. All that is alleged by this Bill is that that principle of protection has not been extended with sufficient consideration for the rights of literary men. I for one am glad that this hard-working section of the community have received some recognition, though tardy, by the introduction of this Bill. I do not think it is too ample a recognition, but at any rate it is a step further in the interest of this class than the Government has hitherto taken. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. George Roberts) delivered a very thoughtful and moderate speech from the point of view of the reading public, and more especially the poorer classes, and I have every possible sympathy with the views he expressed. I believe the claims of the poorer classes of readers can be perfectly well reconciled with such reasonable protection as this Bill will give to the rights of authors and artists. I should have liked to have said something with regard to the "racket of immortality "' referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but I fear the subject is too delicate a one in the short time at my disposal, and therefore I will conclude by saying I am extremely glad this Bill, though somewhat tardily introduced, has at length brought some assurance to authors in future.
§ Mr. BUXTON rose in his place, and claimed to move, that the Question be now put.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Whereupon, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Two minutes after Five o'clock till Monday next, 10th April.