§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Major BURNIE
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second "me."
I do this in order to protect the innocent from the law and with no desire still further to complicate the law of copyright. This latter is very imperfectly understood by the ordinary man in the street. An Act was passed in 1911. There was a previous Act in 1882. The Act of 1882 compelled the publishers of music to print on the copies issued what performing rights were reserved. I was astounded at a case brought before me last year by some hon. Members opposite, and it was this, and other similar cases, which have made me bring this Bill forward.
In many of our large industrial towns we have bands composed of workmen who play in what is—I am speaking of my own town—euphemistically called a park. Those of us who live in industrial towns know perfectly well what such parks look like. The bandsmen in my town saw the advertisement of a firm of music publishers in London, and they purchased a certain quantity of music. A few days later they played it in the so-called park. Within a week they received a letter from the society which owned the copyright, and of which the firm of publishers were members, pointing out to them that they had incurred a penalty of £50. They came to me and pointed out that there was nothing upon the music which indicated to them that any performing rights were reserved. They pointed out that they had no money, and, as a matter of fact, half the band were out of work at the time. They explained to me that in all good faith they had bought this music from the firm of publishers, that they had made no charge for admission to their concerts, and that they thought it was very unfair that they were not protected from the act of the society which I have mentioned.
It is a very simple little Bill, and simply asks the House to make plain the position in regard to the performing rights, and to make it what it was before 1911. I suppose I need not assure the House that we have no wish to interfere with the legitimate rights of the composer to the benefit of the produce of his brain. If he wishes to reserve any right, 815 all that he or any society which represents him has to do is to print upon the face of the music the rights he or they wish specifically to be reserved. Then theatres, cinemas, and other similar organisations will know to whom they have to apply if they wish to perform the music with which these rights are concerned. I have been told by some of my hon. Friends sitting beside me that the law has been complicated by the fact of a convention which was held in Berne in 1908. I am not a lawyer—my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City (Mr. F. Gray) will deal with any legal objections to the Bill—but I am told by those who have drafted the Bill that Clause 3, Subsection (2) which says:This Act shall not apply to works first published in a foreign country with which His Majesty has entered into a Convention relating to copyright"—is in accordance with that Convention. I will just put it into plain language. What this Bill is intended to do is, if a man has failed to make it clear that the performing rights are reserved, that innocent bandsmen in the North of England should not he prosecuted, but that upon the face of the music there should he printed what rights it is wished to reserve, and then bandsmen in the North of England and others, if they perform that music, will know where they are.
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I have been requested to oppose the Second Reading of this Measure, and, at any rate, to present to the. House the difficulties of the position. The Mover of the Motion has said that the purpose of the Bill is to protect the innocent person when he breaks the law inadvertently. My interpretation of it is that it is to enable piracy to take place the more easily from the musical author, and the brains of those concerned to be even much more easily picked. The subject is sometimes one for humour; but the law of copyright in this matter worked all right until the year 1882. There was no difficulty whatever about it. Then there was an unfortunate case brought 816 by a person who became assignee of a musical copyright. He brought a series of actions in a way that was quite intolerable, and the law was then altered. It gave the Judge absolute discretion in regard to the amount of damage and costs, so that an enterprising person like the one referred to was not likely to bring actions when he knew that he might be mulcted in costs, or, at any rate, that the damages might be nominal. It depended entirely upon the circumstances under which the publication was made.
The law was altered in 1882 to meet the new position. That is the condition of things which my hon. and gallant Friend opposite desires to alter. Not very long after that Act was passed a Convention met at Berne to discuss the whole question of international copyright. It is a strange thing that there should be absolute unanimity in regard to this question in the conclusions of the Berne Convention which met in September, 1886. I notice that the conclusions of that Convention were that dramatic or musical works and their lawful representations shall be protected during the existence of their exclusive right of translation against unauthorised representations or translations of their works, and that Article 2 shall apply to the performance of unpublished works. That took place within four years of the passing of the Act of 1882. In 1908 a Convention rather more numerously attended met at Berlin, and, after having considered this question of international copyright most comprehensively and exhaustively, came to the conclusion thatthe stipulations of the present Convention shall apply to the public representation of dramatic or dramatico-musical works and to the public performance of musical works whether such works be published or not.Authors of dramatic or dramaticomusical works shall he protected during the existence of their right over the original work against the unauthorised public representation of translations of their works.In order to enjoy the protection of the present article; authors shall not be bound, in publishing their works, to forbid the public representation or performance thereof.That was subscribed to by a large number of European countries attending the convention, and it was followed up immediately in the year 1909 by the appointment 817 of Lord Buxton who was then President of the Board of Trade, by a very representative Departmental Committee. I do not think for a moment that any hon. Member will question the authority or the capacity of the members of that Committee. The Chairman was no other than the distinguished judge Lord Gorell, and other members of the Committee were Sir Granville Barker, Mr. William Boosey. Mr. C. W. Bowerman, Mr. Henry Cust, Mr. Edward Cutler, a very well-known King's Counsel, Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, Sir W. Joynson-Hicks, Sir Algernon Law, the present Lord Justice Scrutton, and others. They sat for lb days and examined a number of witnesses and they paid particular attention to the question which this present Bill deals with. This is what they said. After having cited Article 11 of the Convention, which I have just read, the Report proceeds:The most important change made by this Article is in paragraph 3 with regard to musical works.According to this paragraph authors, in order to enjoy the protection of the Article, are not bound, in publishing their works, to forbid the public representation or performance thereof, whereas the first Section of the Copyright (Musical Compositions) Act, 1882, requires the proprietor of the copyright in any musical composition first published after the passing of the Act to print or cause to be printed upon the title page of every published copy of such musical composition a notice to the effect that the, right of public representation or performance is reserved.Upon this point the Committee had a considerable body of evidence of which die following is a short summary:The retention of the present compulsory notice was advocated by Mr. Arthur Boosey on behalf of a minority of the Music Publishers' Association, which was nearly equally divided on the question, and, less decidedly, Mr. Charles Wilmott and Mr. D. G. Day, the latter of whom finally admitted that his view was substantially in accordance with the revised Convention. The abolition of the compulsory notice was advocated by Mr. E. J. MacGillivray and Sir A. C. Mackenzie, representing the Society of Authors; Mr. W. W. A. Elkin, representing the official view of the Music Publishers' Association; Mr. P. G. Sarpy, representing the Societe des Auteurs Compositeurs et Editeurs do Musique; Mr. Herbert Lohr, Mr. Lionel Monckton, Mr. Will in in Wallace, representing the Society of British Composers; and M. Georges Maillard, representing the International Literary and Artistic Association.The chief points urged in favour of the retention of the notice were that its abolition might lead to a repetition of the Wall 818 scandal, and would create confusion in the minds of the public, who have become used to the present state of affairs; it might also cause a reduction in the sale of sheet music.In favour of the abolition of the notice it was urged that the requirement of notice should be abolished for the sake of uniformity, in view of the concensus of Continental opinion on the point; the requirement is an onerous one, especially in international relations, and logically there seems no reason why music alone should be subjected to it; it is chiefly professional singers that would be affected by it, and it is not unreasonable to expect them to ascertain the rights over the property they use; any possible confusion in the minds of the general public would be of short duration. If publishers wish the performing rights to be free, they could print a notice to that effect (as they frequently do at present), and cases of hardship could be met by giving the Judge full discretion as to damages and costs; it was not so much the notice required by the 1882 Act as the discretion as to damages amid costs given by the 1888 Act that put an end to the Wall scandal.It will thus be seen that there was a difference of opinion amongst the witnesses, but the Committee have come to the conclusion that the weight of the evidence is in favour of adopting the third paragraph of the Article, and of abolishing the necessity for the notice at present required by British law.It is extremely important, in the view of the Committee, that there should be uniformity amongst the countries of the union upon this point, and if Great Britain were to dissent from this Article, considerable difficulties would arise in relation to foreign composers, who might, in their own country, not be compelled to put any notice upon the songs or music produced by them….Further, there seems to be no reason in principle why such a notice should be required in this particular class of publication, except for the protection of the public, and although at the time of the passing of the Act of 1882 it was thought right to put this obligation upon the proprietors of the copyright, it does not seem at the present day to be necessary to maintain it, the provision that the Judge shall have discretion as to costs and penalties being found sufficient to defeat any claims put forward in a harsh manner against persons who perform musical compositions without any intention of infringing the rights of the proprietor of the copyright.Now I come to the last paragraph. I think I have been justified in dealing thus fully with the authoritative findings of a Committee of this House upon this subject. It reads—The Committee unanimously recommend the adoption of the Article and that the necessary Amendments be made in the British law both for the purpose of con- 819 forming to the Convention and for ultra-territorial purposes.I submit that that Report constitutes the strongest possible argument against any interference in this House, by a Bill which will bring us back to the old conditions that were found so troublesome. I am not going to inflict on the House the views of the witnesses who were called. I have them here, both question and answer, and they give specifically the reasons why music publishers held it to be desirable that this notice should be obliterated. They constitute a substantial argument for retaining the law as it at present stands, and I think the House should hesitate before, by means of a private Member's Bill, it repeals the principal Section of a public Act arrived at after full inquiry by such a Committee, and arrived at unanimously. I do sincerely hope that this House, young and inexperienced as it is—although I see the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) is taking a great interest in this Measure, and it cannot be said of him that he lacks Parliamentary experience—but I do sincerely hope that this House meeting substantially for the first time in the Session for the transaction of ordinary business, will pause before repealing, by means of a private Member's Bill, an Act which has been deliberately placed on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I have much pleasure in seconding the Amendment. When I started dealing with this question of musical copyright—a question which fundamentally lies behind this Debate—there existed an almost incredible state of affairs. A man in a little cellar in the East End of London used to obtain copyright music, produce it. in a cheap way on cheap paper, and sell it for 2d. or 4d. a piece, and the House will be astounded to hear that when musical comedy was being performed which contained several numbers for which there was a ready sale at 2s. or more by the author and publishers, the emissaries of this pirate were selling the same music for a sum of 2d. or 4d. The result was that many of the best and most popular composers of the country were being reduced to poiverty. One man, in fact, actually died as a result. of the action of this pirate. He had been in the habit of making £2,000 a year on the sale of his music, but in the two years before 820 his death he received only £4 2s. 6d. He died of a broken heart, and with a broken purse, and he left a widow and four children. He was only 42 years of age. That was the state of things that existed when I first took up this question. The emissary of the pirate could not be arrested. If he were challenged he gave a false name and address. With considerable trouble I was able to get passed through the House of Commons—after it had been adopted by the Ministry—it was then under the leadership of my friend, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman — an Act which, unlike most Acts, had an immediate and final effect on the pirate who was getting rich on the poverty, starvation and death of musical composers Then we had the Copyright Act.
Now we are asked almost without notice to change the law again not in favour of the composer but in favour of a new race of pirates who want to perform this music without paying the people who compose it. I am surprised someone has not come here on behalf of the gramophone people. When I took up this question, gramophones were able to produce music for which the singers had to be paid vast sums of money, but not a single penny to the man who composed the music. That was a case of wholesale plunder of musical copyright, and now we are asked to go back to that state of things. Remember that after all music is the product of a man's brain and to my mind it should he treated as the most sacred of all property. It is a creation of the individual and is entitled to more protection than any other form of property. Now it is suggested that a great change should be made in the law. My right hon. Friend who last spoke has pointed out that this matter is a subject of international agreement, and that if this Bill is carried we shall be quarrelling with the law affecting the rights of artists in Germany and in France. In fact, in an almost empty House on the very first working day of the Session we are being asked to make a change in the law which may bring us into conflict with International Law. What is the basis of my hon. Friend's case? You must be warned as to whether you are taking a man's property or not. I should say it is your business to ascertain whether it is his property or not before you take it. I might point out the defects of the Bill, and one of its 821 defects is that it is absolutely incapable of carrying out what it proposes to do. I hope that the House will either adjourn the Debate, in order that there may be a better opportunity of discussing it in a larger House, or that they will reject what I think is an attempt to take away from poor composers and musicians property which rightly belongs to them.
§ Mr. GRAY
It is, perhaps, fitting that I should make one or two observations with regard to this Bill, although I must at once disavow the intention, attributed to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Bootle (Major Burnie), of dealing with the legal aspect. I think it is fitting because in the last Parliament I introduced a Bill in all respects similar to this, and, in fact, I think I may claim to be the father of this Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle is simply its foster-mother. I was able to carry the Second Reading with complete unanimity in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield), who on that occasion was apparently not so observant and attentive as he is now; and, but for the intention of the late Prime Minister to commit felo de se, I should no doubt have succeeded in getting a Third Reading for it. There is one point that I should like to clear up. It has been suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, and by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor), that this is an attempt to facilitate the piracy of musical copyright. It has nothing whatever to do with it. I was particularly happy, as we all are always in listening to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, and I was especially pleased because it reminded me that my first meeting with the hon. Gentleman was in the Lobby of this House more than 20 years ago, when I came down here to invoke his aid to get through this House a Bill prepared by me, called the Musical Copyright Bill. The hon. Gentleman has spoken of the scandal, and it can be described as nothing else, which we sought to remedy by that Bill, namely, that gifted composers, who were entitled to adequate remuneration for their good work, were defeated and brought to poverty by pirates who printed copies of their music and sold them at the entrances to the theatres and elsewhere, sometimes even for so small a sum as a penny. I re 822 member that my master of those days went to see Mr. Balfour and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), and 1 was sent to try to cope with the matter here. The evil which we sought to remedy by that Bill—which became an Act through the good offices of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool—has nothing whatever to do with the matter now before the House, which is quite different. Under this Bill, all that composers and proprietors have to do to protect themselves is to put on the music the words "copyright reserved," or words to that effect; but, even if they did not do so, no one would be entitled, by virtue of the provisions of this Bill, to reprint that music and distribute it free or for money received. What it does seek to provide is that, where a person becomes possessed of a piece of music, and merely sings or plays it at one single concert in all innocence, he shall, because some music has a copyright and some has not, at least have the danger-signal shown to him by those words being put on the music, as could be so very easily done.
Before 1882, it was not necessary to put on those words, and a man named Wall, who was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, was guilty of what fell little short, of blackmail, because he made his living by becoming the assignee of rights and then instituting proceedings, or—which was very much worse--issuing threats and not taking proceedings and obtaining money as a condition of his abstention from taking proceedings. To meet that case a provision was introduced in the Act of 1882 the terms of which we admit were unsatisfactory, and we have attempted to remedy that in this present Bill. In 1911, as a result of the Berne and Berlin Conventions and the Inquiry, a new Bill was introduced from which this particular provision was omitted, and one of the arguments was—and the same argument has been used, quite fairly, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ealing tonight—that the scandal of the Wall case could never be repeated because the Judge had a discretion. We are here to-night, and had it been otherwise we should not have been arguing this case, because there exists to-day a scandal much greater than that of the Wall case. There is a society existing in our midst, and, so far as I know, a legitimate 823 society, acting within its legal rights; but, if that be so, no society or individual ought to be allowed to act as they act and claim to be within legal rights. For that reason we are asking for a remedy. Some amateur gets up at, perhaps, a village concert, and sings a song in all good faith; and this society, which takes in every local paper, large and small, to get accounts of these concerts, sees that Mary Jones sang very nicely "Tit Willow" or something of that sort, and they write to her and say, "Do you know the gravity of what you have done?" The poor girl, of course, does not know, and they then proceed, not to take proceedings, but to state the sum they require without taking proceedings. The Judge, therefore, never has the opportunity of exercising any discretion whatsoever.
What would the average man do if he were threatened with proceedings which might involve him in a lawsuit for £200 or £300, if his position had been found out in advance, as it would be, and his powers and resources sized up and it was said that he could square his illegality for £50? Would he risk the proceedings and claim the discretion of the Judge or would he pay the £50? In that way a large revenue is being made, not only out of these individuals who sing at perhaps local concerts, but claims have been made against municipal and other bands which have been only too glad to put down a sum of money to escape from the consequences of their innocent act. Probably the only reason I regret that the late Ministry is out of power is that possibly if they had been in power, there would have been more on the Front Bench than there are now, and we might have had the assistance of the late Minister of Health. Were he here, he would be able to say he has been the recipient of petitions from a very large number of corporations to support the Bill. I did not introduce it in this Parliament because I held an official position with my party, and this was essentially a non-party controversy, ant; the Bill is backed, as it was before, by every section of the House. We have had the Berne Convention and the Berlin Convention quoted. Interested parties They represent the music world. They do not represent the unfortunate indi- 824 viduals who have had to suffer as the result of existing legislation. If it was put to the Conservative party whether they would chop off my head at dawn to-morrow, they would be united about it. But directly you mix up different people with different interests the unanimity would not be the same—at least, I hope not.
But be that as it may, there are two answers to be made. One is that at the time of the Act of 1911, at the time of the sitting of the Committee and of the Conventions of Berne and Berlin, it was not foreseen that the evil that existed in the Wall case would, in the year 1920 and onwards, be reproduced in a much more violent and, I think, more discreditable form by a large organisation. Further, an attempt has been made by the great skill in advocacy of the right hon. Gentleman on my right and I think even greater, though he is not a lawyer, of my hon. Friend on the left, to say that we propose to change the whole of the law and, worse than that, I think the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) has suggested that this would bring on a European war. To that there is this to be said, that under Clause 3, Sub-section (2)—my hon. Friend did not draw attention to this; I have always been told that skill in advocacy lies not what you say, but what you omit—it is expressly stated:This Act shall not apply to works first published in a foreign country with which His Majesty has entered into a Convention relating to copyright.We desire to put an end to this existing scandal and, so far as possible, to save people from the serious consequences which, by reason of the existence of the society, follow an innocent act. We want to do it without interfering with any Convention, although I am of opinion, for what it is worth, that even if Clause 3 were not in at all, we could well pass this Bill without interfering with the conclusion of these Conventions, because all we do under those Conventions—which has not been stated to-night—is to give to the foreigner the same rights, whatever they may be—not what they were, but whatever they may be—which are possessed by publishers in this country, and no more. So I do not. think Clause 3 is necessary. What we want to do, and what we think we achieve by this Bill, 825 is to protect those people. If there is a slightest risk that we are interfering with the Convention, there is the Committee and there are the Law Officers of the Crown to see that nothing of that kind is done. I think the Bill should be given a Second Reading. If there are any defects, the Committee stage is the time to remedy them.
§ Mr. LAVERACK
I have listened very carefully to the arguments on both sides. I am somewhat diffident in addressing the House as, in all probability, I am one of the youngest so far as membership of the House is concerned. But it seems to me that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Major Burnie), who started by saying the whole Bill was a very simple matter, was followed very quickly by other speakers who led us to understand that instead of being simple it was complex. First of all there is the great principle at stake of justice. The last speaker has made a great point of justice, but surely, first of all, justice should be meted out to those whose brainwork the public enjoy. I was rather amused when the hon. Member cited the hypothetical case of Mary who had a little lamb, in other words, a Mary Jones who might possibly come into conflict with the Society the hon. Member has in mind. A very similar case to this arose only a year or 18 months ago, when a very infantile society, only having some three or four years to its credit, and barely past the toddling stage, tried to raise its puny fist at. the other society which I fancy the hon. Member has in mind. There was a libel case in the High Court before the Lord Chief Justice, and, if I remember correctly, after two or three days' hearing this small society had to retire somewhat ignominiously by withdrawing from the case. They were unable to prove a single word of innuendo or anything else, and I believe I am right in saying—my hon. Friend will perhaps correct me if I am wrong—that judgment was given for the larger company and the other side had to pay the costs of both sides. I do not know what the defendants' costs were, but I think the plaintiffs' costs amounted to something over £2,000. I believe I am right in saying that in the judgment the defendant company had to withdraw all imputations and to express regret for what had been said and to promise that there should be 826 no further publication of the offending paragraphs or articles, besides paying all costs.. That, I fancy, will dispose of the hypothetical case put forward by the hon. Member for Oxford City.
This is a largo question, touching those ladies and gentlemen who do their best to delight the public and, at the same time, to remunerate themselves reasonably and modestly. Those people are entitled to remuneration for their work. They are equally entitled to remuneration for the work of their brain, and they have the right to safeguard that work just as much as any inventor who may invoke the aid of the Patents Acts. That is a very important matter which we must bear steadfastly in mind. From the speeches on both sides, it seems to me that this is not a matter which should be dealt with in a private Bill, but one that should receive grave and serious consideration from the Government, because it outrages international conventions. [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] And it outrages several treaties. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Notwithstanding the dissent of hon. Members, I maintain that it outrages treaties from beginning to end, and treaties not as recently as 1911 or 1908, but as far back as 1844 or 1846.
Various treaties have been entered into by Great Britain with other countries, because it was found not only advisable but absolutely necessary that there should be some uniformity of action between Great Britain and other countries with respect to the great essential of copyright law. For that reason the Berne Convention was brought into existence. After that Convention had been brought into existence, and Great Britain agreed with the Convention's findings, a great Commission sat in London under the presidency of Lord Gorell. The findings of that Commission were communicated to this House, and, after very careful consideration and prolonged deliberation, the Government decided that the findings of the Commission ought to be confirmed in every single particular. The findings of the Commission were unanimous; not a single individual raised his hand or his voice to the contrary. The unanimous findings of that Commission, confirmed by the British Government, led immediately to another Convention, the Berlin Convention, I believe, in 1911, to which Great Britain again agreed. The great point of that. Convention—again I 827 speak with all reserve and with some hesitation—was that, the procedure which had obtained in this country prior to 1886 should be absolutely abolished, and that the original idea of inscribing upon every particular copy of music words to the effect that the copyright was reserved to such and such a person was done away with entirely.
At the Commission presided over by Lord Gorell, the overwhelming majority, if not the whole, of the witnesses, were agreed on this point, that there should be the elimination of that particular sentence, and also that there should be complete uniformity as between this country and other countries. The result was that shortly afterwards the authors, composers and owners of copyright met, and I believe I am right in saying that the great society which has been mentioned in this Debate arose out of that particular conference. I think it is a fact that the overwhelming majority of the largest music publishers, as well as the authors of musical compositions with the largest output, are members of that society. These people, presumably, know how to guard their own interests and their own welfare, and the labour of their brains. Therefore, if the law is in favour, if the Commission's findings are in favour, the British Government is in favour, and if the different authors and publishers of music are in favour, there must be a very hard case to upset. It seems to me that the case presented by the hon. Member for Bootle (Major Burnie) and the hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Gray) begged the question to a large extent. I support the Amendment, and I hope that this matter will be deferred to this day six months.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Webb)
This is a private Member's Bill, and the Government take no responsibility for it. The House, however, will probably think that there ought to be some words of warning or some words of guidance before we proceed to vote upon the question. There is a large number of concerts of one sort or another, municipal, Sunday school, Christian Association, band concerts, and all sorts of concerts, up and down the land, and songs are sung and music is performed at these concerts without any talk whatever of any obligation to pay for the privilege 828 of reproducing these works. Undoubtedly I have heard the word "innocently" mentioned once or twice. It is said that this is done innocently, but speaking as one who is not a musical composer—I have not taken to that yet—but who has some practice in other forms of composition, I cannot help wondering where the innocence comes in.
Still one knows that underneath the general question there is the particular question, and apparently what are supposed to be the author's or composer's rights have fallen into the hands, as so often happens to the poor author, of someone who has not himself actually composed the work, and those rights have been used perhaps harshly and in a way which we could not justify. But I suggest that we have no business to seek to interfere with the rights of brain workers merely because in some cases they are exercised harshly or unjustly. It is true that we have a certain volume of demand for this measure, chiefly on the part of those whose concerts have been interfered with, who have found some difficulty in knowing what works could be performed without paying anything for authorial rights, and those works for which they have to pay for such rights. On the other hand, this Bill is opposed, not only by the Performing Rights Society, which, whatever merits they have, actually includes a large number of owners of musical copyright, but also by the Society of Authors, which speaks for a larger body of brainworkers.
If this Bill were passed in its present form or in any form following the lines indicated it would not afford a remedy, or at any rate any adequate or complete remedy for the evil that is complained of. It will be noticed that it is proposed to give warning to persons concerned with any of these concerts by causing to be printed on copies of music the fact that the copyright is reserved and that the music cannot be performed without agreement with the proprietors. Therefore it is suggested that Mary Jones will be protected. She will know, if she is singing any of these songs which have printed this notice on the outside that she will be doing so with full knowledge, but she will be free to sing any other work which is not so described. But that can hardly be the case because the Bill is only to apply to works first published 829 on or after the 1st January, 1925. Consequently all copies of music which are now floating round the country in the possession of municipal bands and other bands, village clubs, or the bene volent rector who wants to develop music among his parishioners cannot be stamped now and are not required to be stamped. So I would point out to the hon. Member for Bootle that this is only making the last state of things worse than the first, because it advertises to Mary Jones everywhere that she may perform any piece of music which has not got the imprint, whereas the great majority of pieces of music which she has seen, or on which she has practised her singing, will riot be stamped, and yet if she relies on the absence of a stamp in reference to them she will receive a threatening notice from the society.
The position is complicated still further. At the present time works published before 1882 require no notice of registration. Those published between 1882 and 1912 do require it. After 1912 they require no notice. Now according to the hon. Member music published after 1925 will require notice. Consequently I can imagine that Mary Jones will have to take counsel's opinion to discover if she can legally sing a particular song. It is said that it has been a matter of dispute as to whether this Bill infringes any international conditions. I think that perhaps it does not infringe any, because it is not to apply to any works in any foreign country with which His Majesty's Government has entered into an agreement of copyright. It will not apply to music published in Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, and most other countries, the only exceptions being Denmark, Italy, Japan or Sweden. Apparently, therefore, this is not a measure of protection but of what I may call anti-protection. That is to say you are going to impose restrictions on British music, but works published in Germany, Austria, Hungary and France are to be free.
Accordingly, I am advised that if this Bill were passed it would make the evil worse rather than remedy it. While, personally, I have every sympathy with 830 those who wish to remedy the evil which we all have in our minds, it is not quite so easy to do so. It is suggested that the remedy ought to be sought in another direction, in the direction of the publication of lists of works on which performing rights are claimed. If there were lists of works on which performing rights were claimed by any society, it would then be possible for Mary Jones, at any rate, to know whether the work which she desired to sing was included in the list. Under this Bill she never could know. Therefore, I can only suggest to the House to take the path of wisdom and not to give a Second Reading to this Bill, because I think that it is impossible to amend it satisfactorily in Committee except by leaving out all 'the words after "that."
I would make this practical suggestion about it. If the Bill is not to be eviscerated in Committee in order to make it workable, then it would be unfair that this Bill, which by ingenuity has been put down for to-night, and has not been balloted for, should go upstairs and block the way of other Bills in which hon. Members are more keenly interested, and I would throw out the suggestion that hon. Members ought to close their ranks against such piracy which steals their chances of proceeding with Bills which they desire. Consequently, without saying that the Government attaches any great importance to this Bill one way or another, and, indeed, expressing only my own personal view, I am going to vote against it.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand, art of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.