HC Deb 26 June 1925 vol 185 cc1970-9

I beg to move, in page 2, line 36, at the end to insert the words (2) This Act shall extend to Northern Ireland. In all probability this Bill would extend to Northern Ireland, whether that was so stated or not, but, for the sake of clearness, I beg to move this Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

It may be of some interest to the House if I explain the purpose of this Bill. It is to improve the programmes of broadcasting companies, though that is not very visible on the surface of the Bill. At the present moment it is inadvisable for any first-rate artist to perform for the broadcast, for this reason, that the performance as broadcast can be taken down by a gramophone receiver and a gramophone negative can be made. The performer has no protection against this toeing done, and that illicit gramophone negative can be used to produce records which can be sold. That sale has the effect of breaking contracts between artists and the various gramophone companies, and in order to save their contracts it is impossible for most of them to have their performances broadcast. I have introduced this Bill in order to make it possible to improve broadcast programmes. I hope broadcasting companies will take notice of this possibility, and that broadcast programmes will be improved in consequence. I do not know that I have any right to delay the House any longer on this matter, but I thought Members would like to have the situation explained. The possibilities of broadcasting music of the finest quality are very great. Up to the present we have had very little experience of the finest music being scattered broadcast over the country. Amongst the multitudes of people who listen to the broadcast performances there probably exists, in embryo, a very high possibility of musical taste which could be cultivated, to the great advantage of the country, if the quality of broadcast programmes be improved. I will not detain the House longer, but thank hon. Members for thus far supporting me, and I trust the Third Reading may pass.


While I do not oppose this Bill, I cannot conscientiously let it pass without saying that I think the principle upon which it proceeds is thoroughly bad, because to meet a case which might have been met by an Amendment of the Copyright Act, a criminal liability is being imposed and enacted by this Measure. The tendency in modern legislation to try and cure every possible defect in the law by sending more and more people to prison, and increasing the jurisdiction of the police, is not the right way of dealing with this matter. I think if some of us who are interested in matters of this kind had been consulted, we should have advised that the object of this Bill could have been obtained by a simple Amendment of the Copyright Act, and nobody need have been sent to prison at all. I protest against this method of fining people, and sending them to prison if they fail to pay, simply because a person makes a record that interferes with somebody else's copyright.

You might as well make every possible breach of the Copyright Act a criminal offence. Here you have the promoters of this Bill, after having thought out the matter, finding an evil, and I do not deny that it is an evil, but which they could have remedied by amending the civil law, but instead of doing that they decide to make this a crime, and provide for sending another person to prison. This sort of legislation, which is designed to meet every evil that exists by procedure of this kind, is thoroughly bad, and for these reasons I object to the Bill. I realise, however, that there is an evil to be dealt with, and if this Bill is defeated there will be no other method of dealing with it. I hope, however, that the promoters of this Measure will recognise in future that we have a civil law quite adequate to deal with matters of this kind.


I am amazed at the statement which has just been made by my hon. and learned Friend on the Front Bench. He has just told us that this is a Bill the tendency of which will be to still further fill our prisons. If that he so, I sincerely hope that we are going to divide against a Measure of that kind. I have no reason to doubt the statement which has been made by my hon. and learned Friend, that the purpose of this Bill could have been secured by an amendment of the Copyright Act, instead of promoting legislation which will tend to make more criminals, make more difficult the administration of the law, and not help to deal with the object of this Measure in the way in which it could have been dealt with. Under these circumstances I think we ought to divide against the passing of this Bill.


I do not wish to enter into an argument with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Slesser) upon a legal point. All I need to say is that this Bill seems to me to give protection where it is needed, and where there is great danger of infringing the copyright law. It may be true that this is the wrong way to accomplish the object of the Bill, but it is a danger which has been produced by the remarkable development in the uses of wireless telegraphy during recent years. As a rule these great changes come about by gradual stages, and the law is able to keep pace with them. But frequently we have new discoveries, and the development of some new set of circumstances which open out an uncharted sea. This is such a case. My hon. Friend who is promoting the Bill has described what may happen, and what in fact, as I understand him, is actually happening. It is already the fact that people in their homes are able to take fairly clear and accurate records. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why should not they?"] I do not object to it. I understand that they are able to do it, and the hon. Member described to us the hardship to our great artistes of having their performances so reproduced. We cannot imagine what development might lead us to in the reproducing of music in our homes, heralded by that terrific announcement "London calling." Some of it is delightful and uplifting, and one can readily understand the attraction of reproducing beautiful music well performed if one is able to do so in one's own home without buying it, and possibly with the idea of trading the result of that reproduction. I entirely agree that this operation should not go unchecked, but in my view there is an aspect of the matter which is important and with which my hon. Friend has not dealt, but which makes it increasingly desirable that this kind of thing should not go unregulated. We have reason to believe—I have heard it rumoured—that the day is not far distant when an eager public may be listening to the proceedings of this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Heaven help us!"] I entirely agree, but we have been told that it may be possible to broadcast the proceedings of this House. As I have said, much of this broadcasting is delightful and inspiring.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this Bill refers to dramatic and musical performances.


I do not think, Sir, that you would call me to order even for saying that some of the results that might be listened to by the public could be anything but dramatic. I can imagine one of the masterly speeches to which we have been listening lately on the subject of Free Trade from the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn)—


We could easily switch those off.


—perfectly phrased with all his vigour and fervour; and I think it would be a national disaster—


On a point of Order. May I ask what Free Trade has to do with this Bill?


The question was as to whether the performances in this House could be described as musical or dramatic, and I think I must give the hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt.


I will not weary the House by dwelling further upon the point. But one aspect of the question is that there would be a national danger of the vision of the country being obscured by a perpetuation of some of the proceedings in this House. The view of the Government is that this Bill is a good Bill. I support it and give it my blessing.


I hope that my hon. Friends behind me will not divide against this Bill, even though there be a technical objection to it on the part of my hon. and learned Friend the late Solicitor-General. What does the Bill do? It says that if a performer has given a performance, no one shall have the right to take that performance and use it for his own profit.


May he use it in his own house? That is all we want to know.


Yes, the Bill definitely provides that it shall be a defence if the taker of a record proves that that record has not been taken for the purpose of trade. May I read the proviso? It says: Provided that it shall be a defence to any proceedings in respect of an alleged offence under the foregoing paragraph (a) if the defendant proves that the record in respect of which the offence is alleged was not made for purposes of trade. Therefore, a man has a perfect right to take a record of a performance for his own use if he so desire, but what the Bill prevents is that a man should take a record of a performance, and begin to sell it. Is that right, or is it not? Surely, a singer is entitled to payment for the performance he gives, and the gramophone companies pay artists for their performances in a reasonable way. The artist is paid for his or her work, and the gramophone company are able to sell the record for which they pay. This is to prevent a gramophone company or any other person from using the performance of the artist without any payment. There may be technical legal objections, but what are the penalties provided? Suppose that someone takes a record of a performance, and begins to sell it without paying the performer, is it unreasonable that that person should be liable to a fine not exceeding 40 shillings for each record? It seems to me absolutely unreasonable to complain about the principle of the Bill. Even under the Copyright Act there are, if I am not mistaken, penalties for offences.


It is a matter of civil action—of injunction and damages.


There may be a great difference, but I fail to see it.


It is the difference between being in the dock and sitting comfortably in a civil Law Court.


I say that the man who takes the voice of a performer, and uses it for his own profit without paying for it, ought to stand in the dock. That is the difference between myself and my hon. and learned Friend. I believe the artist has a right to be paid for his or her services, and I believe the person who sells those services without payment ought to be punished. And because I believe in the workman having the fruits of his labour and being paid for it, and because I believe this Bill will prevent anyone selling the artist's services without the artist's consent, I am going to vote for the Bill.


I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The performer who performs for his livelihood is entitled to payment for his performance, and it is utterly wrong for some unauthorised person, without his consent, to steal the benefit of his performance. That is the principle of the Bill. I really fail to see the objection taken by the late Solicitor-General. I fail to find in the Bill any penalty entailing imprisonment. All the penalties set out are fines, and no more. No doubt failure to pay that fine would entail imprisonment, but the fines are very moderate. The criticism of the penalties is that they are too light for the nature of the offence. After all, this is only a technical difficulty. There are good legal minds in another place who will consider the matter, and if there be anything in it no doubt we shall see the Bill again, and have an opportunity of making a correction. I am going to support the Bill.


The loyal Members on the Back Benches on this side of the House are in a difficulty. It is our duty as good Members of the party to follow our leaders. On this occasion we have a divided Front Bench, and it pains us. But, in having to decide as to which of our two Front Bench leaders we should follow on this occasion, it seems to me that we ought to come down on the side of the hon. and learned Gentleman. This is so obviously a question of law that we cannot do better in this case than follow the lead of the lawyers. I quite agree that this legislation is directed to imposing penalties against something which might legitimately be called an offence, but there is a very great principle in English law that you should "make the punishment fit the crime."


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."


The Debate will terminate in two minutes, and I think the House is ready to come to a decision.


I think my hon. and learned Friend has made it quite clear that, in his opinion, the punishment in this case does not fit the crime. It is far too excessive. It is making, as has been pointed out with a clearness and technical knowledge that I do not possess, a criminal offence of something which ought properly to be only a civil offence.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

Division No. 215.] AYES. [3.59 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Fielden, E. B. Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Albery, Irving James Forrest, W. Nuttall, Ellis
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Oakley, T.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Gates, Percy Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Greene, W. P. Crawford Power, Sir John Cecil
Berry, Sir George Gretton, Colonel John Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Blundell, F. N. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.) Rentoul, G. S.
Brass, Captain W. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Broad, F. A. Harland, A. Sandeman, A. Stewart
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Harrison, G. J. C. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Hartington, Marquess of Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Campbell, E. T. Haslam, Henry C. Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belfst.)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.) Smithers, Waldron
Charleton, H. C. Hume, Sir G. H. Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hurd, Percy A. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Jacob, A. E. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Kenyon, Barnet Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Cope, Major William Knox, Sir Alfred Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Couper, J. B. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Wallace, Captain D. E.
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L. Mac Andrew, Charles Glen Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. McLean, Major A. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Makins, Brigadier-General E. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Margesson, Captain D. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Dawson, Sir Philip Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Dixey, A. C. Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Wise, Sir Fredric
Drewe, C. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Moles, Thomas Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)
Falls, Sir Charles F. Murchison, C. K. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Fermoy, Lord Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Sir Martin Conway and Mr. Lamb.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Groves, T. Naylor, T. E.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Potts, John S.
Ammon, Charles George Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Remer, J. R.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hayes, John Henry Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Baker, Walter Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Scrymgeour, E.
Batey, Joseph Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bromley, J. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Cluse, W. S. Kelly, W. T. Snell, Harry
Crawfurd, H. E. Kennedy, T. Stephen, Campbell
Dalton, Hugh Lansbury, George Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Day, Colonel Harry Lindley, F. W. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton), E.)
Duncan, C. Livingstone, A. M. Viant, S. P.
Dunnico, H. Lowth, T. Windsor, Walter
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. MacLaren, Andrew Wright, W.
Gillett, George M. March, S.
Gosling, Harry Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. Thurtle and Mr. Westwood.

Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

The House divided: Ayes, 110; Noes, 52.

The House divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 30.

Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L. Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hume, Sir G. H. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Hurd, Percy A. Sandeman, A. Stewart
Dalton, Hugh Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Jacob, A. E. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)
Dawson, Sir Philip Kennedy, T. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Day, Colonel Harry Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Dixey, A. C. Knox, Sir Alfred Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Drewe, C. Lansbury, George Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Smithers, Waldron
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Lowth, T. Snell, Harry
Fairfax, Captain J. G. MacAndrew, Charles Glen Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Falls, Sir Charles F. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Fermoy, Lord McLean, Major A. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Fielden, E. B. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Forrest, W. Margesson, Captain D. Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Gates Percy Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Gibbs' Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Gillett, George M. Moles, Thomas Wallace, Captain D. E.
Gosling, Harry Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.(Bristrol, N.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Murchison, C. K. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Harland, A. Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Wise, Sir Fredric
Harrison, G. J. C. Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Hartington, Marquess of Nuttall, Ellis Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Haslam, Henry C. Oakley, T. Wright, W.
Hayes, John Henry Oman, Sir Charles William C. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Power, Sir John Cecil
Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Remer, J. R. Sir Martin Conway and Mr. Lamb.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Groves, T. Potts, John S.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Ritson, J.
Batey, Joseph Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Scrymgeour, E.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Bromley, J. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Stephen, Campbell
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Kelly, W. T. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton), E.)
Cluse, W. S. Kenyon, Barnet Viant, S. P.
Crawfurd, H. E. Livingstone, A. M. Windsor, Walter
Duncan, C. MacLaren, Andrew
Dunnico, H. March, S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Naylor, T. E. Mr. Thurtle and Mr. Westwood.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.