Page images

their country, and feel themselves in that reverence not wholly strangers to the great body of associations they nourish.

The next act, 41 George III., c. 107, passed immediately after the Union, did little besides including Ireland in the general law of copyright; conferring on Trinity College, Dublin, the privilege of English universities; prohibiting the importation of books from abroad which had been originally printed in the United Kingdom; and increasing the penalty on piracies from 1d. to 3d. per sheet. But in the year 1814, by the statute of 54 George III., c. 156, which is the principal subsisting act on the subject of literary copyright, reciting "That it would afford further encouragement to literature, if the duration of copyright were further extended," enlarges it to the absolute term of twenty-eight years; and if the author shall survive that time, secures it to him for the remainder of his life. Since then the legislature has extended its protection to two classes of composition which before were left in a condition to invite piracy-to the actual drama, by the measure of 3 William IV., c. 15, and to lectures, by 5 and 6 William IV., c. 65-and has, by an act of last session, lightened the load of one of the blessings conferred by the legislature, by reducing the copies which authors are privileged to render to five; but the term of twenty-eight years, with the possible reversion beyond that time for life, is all authors have yet obtained in return for that inheritance of which the statute of Anne incidentally deprived them.

registered in like manner in a form also to be given by the act; that such transfer shall be proved by a similar copy; and that in neither case shall any stamp be requisite.

At present great uncertainty prevails as to the original right of property in papers supplied to periodical works or written at the instance of a bookseller, and as to the right of engraving from original pictures. However desirable it may be that these questions should be settled, it is impossible to interfere with the existing relations of booksellers and aathors, or of patrons of art and artists. Neither, for the future, do I propose to lay down any rule as to the rights which shall originally be expressed or implied between the parties themselves; but that the right of copy shall be registered as to such books, pictures or engravings, only with the consent of both expressed in writing, and when this is done shall be absolute in the party registered as owner. At present, an engraver or publisher, who has given a large sum for permission to engrave a picture, and expended his money or labour in the plate, may be met by unexcepted competition, for which he has no remedy. By making the registration not the condition of the right itself, but of the remedy by action or otherwise, the independence of contracting parties will be preserved, and this evil avoided for the future. A competent tribunal will still be wanting; its establishment is beyond the scope of my intention or my power; but I feel that complete justice will not be done to Literature and Art until a mode shall be devised for This limitation of the ancient rights of au- a cheap and summary vindication of their inthorship has not been compensated by uni-juries before some parties better qualified to formity in the details of the law, by simplicity in the modes of proving the right or of transferring it, or by the cheapness or adequacy of the remedies. The penal clauses have proved wholly worthless. Engravings, etchings, maps, and charts, which are regulated by other statutes, are secured to the author for twentyeight years, but not, like books, for the contingent term of life. Instead of the registration at Stationers' Hall, which has been holden not necessary to the right of action, the work must bear the date and the name of the proprietor; but no provision is made in either case for cheap transfer. Now, I propose to render the law of copyright uniform, as to all books and works of art; to secure to the proprietor the same term in each; to give one plan of registration and one mode of transfer. As the stationer's company have long enjoyed the control over the registration of books, I do not propose to take it from them, if they are willing to retain it with the increased trouble, compensated by the increased fees which their officer will be entitled to receive. I propose that, before any proceeding can be adopted for the violation of copyright, the author, or his assignee, shall deposit a copy of the work, whether book or engraving, and cause an entry to be made in the form to be given in the act of the proprietorship of the work, whether absolute or limited; and that a copy of such entry, signed by the officer, shall be admitted in all courts as primâ facie evidence of the property. I propose that any transfer should be

determine it than judges who have passed their lives in the laborious study of the law, or jurors who are surrounded with the cares of business, and, except by accident, little acquainted with the subjects presented to them for decision.

But the main object of the bill which I contemplate is-I will not use those words of ill omen, "the further advancement of learning," but—for additional justice to learning, by the further extension of time during which authors shall enjoy the direct pecuniary benefit immediately flowing from the sale of their own works.

Although I see no reason why authors should not be restored to that inheritance which, under the name of protection and encourage ment, has been taken from them, I feel that the subject has so long been treated as matter of compromise between those who deny that the creations of the inventive faculty, or the achievements of reason, are the subjects of property at all, and those who think the property should last as long as the works which contain truth and beauty live, that I propose still to treat it on the principle of compromise, and to rest satisfied with a fairer adjustment of the difference than the last Act of Parliament affords. I shall propose subject to modification when the details of the measure shall be discussed—that the term of property in all works of learning, genius, and art, to be produced hereafter, or in which the statutable copyright now subsists, shall be extended to

sixty years, to be computed from the death of the author; which will at least enable him, while providing for the instruction and the delight of distant ages, to contemplate that he shall leave in his works themselves some legacy to those for whom a nearer, if not a higher duty, requires him to provide, and which shall make "death less terrible." When the opponents of literary property speak of glory as the reward of genius, they make an ungenerous use of the very nobleness of its impulses, and show how little they have profited by its high example. When Milton, in poverty and in blindness, fed the flame of his divine enthusiasm by the assurance of a duration coequal with his language, I believe with Lord Camden that no thought crossed him of the wealth which might be amassed by the sale of his poem; but surely some shadow would have been cast upon "the clear dream and solemn vision" of his future glories, had he foreseen that, while booksellers were striving to rival each other in the magnificence of their editions, or their adaptation to the convenience of various classes of his admirers, his only surviving descendant-a womanshould be rescued from abject want only by the charity of Garrick, who, at the solicitation of Dr. Johnson, gave her a benefit at the theatre which had appropriated to itself all that could be represented of Comus. The liberality of genius is surely ill urged as an excuse for our ungrateful denial of its rights. The late Mr. Coleridge gave an example not merely of its liberality, but of its profuseness; while he sought not even to appropriate to his fame the vast intellectual treasures which he had derived from boundless research, and coloured by a glorious imagination; while he scattered abroad the seeds of beauty and of wisdom to take root in congenial minds, and was content to witness their fruits in the productions of those who heard him. But ought we, therefore, the less to deplore, now when the music of his divine philosophy is for ever hushed, that the earlier portion of those works on which he stamped his own impress-all which he desired of the world that it should recognise as his-is published for the gain of others than his children-that his death is illustrated by the forfeiture of their birthright? What justice is there in this? Do we reward our heroes thus? Did we tell our Marlboroughs, our Nelsons, our Wellingtons, that glory was their reward, that they fought for posterity, and that posterity would pay them? We leave them to no such cold and uncertain requital; we do not even leave them merely to enjoy the spoils of their victories, which we deny to the author; we concentrate a nation's honest feeling of gratitude and pride into the form of an endowment, and teach other ages what we thought, and what they ought to think, of their deeds, by the substantial memorials of our praise. Were our Shakspeare and Milton less the ornaments of their country, less the benefactors of mankind? Would the example be less inspiring if we permitted them to enjoy the spoils of their peaceful victoriesif we allowed to their descendants, not the tax assessed by present gratitude, and charged on

the Future, but the mere amount which that Future would be delighted to pay-extending as the circle of their glory expands, and rendered only by those who individually reap the benefits, and are contented at once to enjoy and to reward its author?

But I do not press these considerations to the full extent; the Past is beyond our power, and I only ask for the present a brief reversion in the Future. "Riches fineless" created by the mighty dead are already ours. It is in truth the greatness of blessings which the world inherits from genius that dazzles the mind on this question; and the habit of repaying its bounty by words, that confuses us and indisposes us to justice. It is because the spoils of time are freely and irrevocably ours-because the forms of antique beauty wear for us the bloom of an imperishable youth-because the elder literature of our own country is a free mine of wealth to the bookseller and of delight to ourselves, that we are unable to understand the claim of our contemporaries to a beneficial interest in their works. Because genius by a genial necessity communicates so much, we cannot conceive it as retaining any thing for its possessor. There is a sense, indeed, in which the poets "on earth have made us heirs of truth and pure delight in heavenly lays ;" and it is because of the greatness of this very boon-because their thoughts become our thoughts, and their phrases unconsciously enrich our daily language-because their works, harmonious by the law of their own nature, suggest to us the rules of composition by which their imitators should be guided-because to them we can resort, and "in our golden urns draw light," that we cannot fancy them apart from ourselves, or admit that they have any property except in our praise. And our gratitude is shown not only in leaving their descendants without portion in the pecuniary benefits derived from their works, but in permitting their fame to be frittered away in abridgments, and polluted by base intermixtures, and denying to their children even the cold privilege of watching over and protecting it!

There is something, sir, peculiarly unjust in bounding the term of an author's property by his natural life, if he should survive so short a period as twenty-eight years. It denies to age and experience the probable reward it permits to youth-to youth, sufficiently full of hope and joy, to slight his promises. It gives a bounty to haste, and informs the laborious student, who would wear away his strength to complete some work which "the world will not willingly let die," that the more of his life he devotes to its perfection, the more limited shall be his interest in its fruits. It stops the progress of remuneration at the moment it is most needed, and when the benignity of Nature would extract from her last calamity a means of support and comfort to survivors. At the season when the author's name is invested with the solemn interest of mortality-when his eccentricities or frailties excite a smile or a sneer no longer-when the last seal is set upon his earthly course, and

his works assume their place among the clas- fortune-not seeking his triumph in the tem sics of his country, your law declares that his pest of the passions, but in the serenity which works shall become your property, and you lies above them-whose works shall be scoffed requite him by seizing the patrimony of his at-whose name made a by-word-and yet children. We blame the errors and excesses who shall persevere in his high and holyof genius, and we leave them-justly leave course, gradually impressing thoughtful minds them for the most part, to the consequences with the sense of truth made visible in the of their strangely blended nature. But if ge- severest forms of beauty, until he shall create nius, in assertion of its diviner alliances, pro- the taste by which he shall be appreciatedduces large returns when the earthly course influence, one after another, the master-spirits of its frail possessor is past, why is the pub- of his age-be felt pervading every part of the lic to insult his descendants with their alms national literature, softening, raising, and enand their pity? What right have we to moral- riching it; and when at last he shall find his ize over the excesses of a Burns, and insult confidence in his own aspirations justified, his memory by charitable honours, while we and the name which once was the scorn adare taking the benefit of his premature death, mitted to be the glory of his age-he shall look in the expiration of his copyright and the forward to the close of his earthly career, as vaunted cheapness of his works? Or, to ad- the event that shall consecrate his fame and vert to a case in which the highest intellec- deprive his children of the opening harvest he tual powers were associated with the noblest is beginning to reap. As soon as his copymoral excellence, what right have we to take right becomes valuable, it is gone! This is no credit to ourselves for a paltry and ineffectual imaginary case-I refer to one who "in this subscription to rescue Abbotsford for the fa- setting part of time" has opened a vein of the mily of its great author, (Abbotsford, his ro- deepest sentiment and thought before unknown mance in stone and mortar, but not more indi--who has supplied the noblest antidote to the vidually his than those hundred fabrics, not made with hands, which he has raised, and peopled for the delight of mankind,) while we insist on appropriating now the profits of his earlier poems, and anticipate the time when, in a few years, his novels will be ours without rent-charge to enjoy-and any one's to copy, to emasculate, and to garble? This is the case of one whom kings and people delighted to honour. But look on another picture-that of a man of genius and integrity, who has received all the insult and injury from his contemporaries, and obtains nothing from posterity but a name. Look at Daniel De Foe; recollect him pilloried, bankrupt, wearing away his life to pay his creditors in full, and dying in the struggle!-and his works live, imitated, corrupted, yet casting off the stains, not by protection of law, but by their own pure essence. Had every school-boy, whose young imagination has been prompted by his great work, and whose heart has learned to throb in the strange, yet familiar, solitude he created, given even the halfpenny of the statute of Anne, there would have been no want of a provision for his children, no need of a subscription for a statue to his memory!

freezing effects of the scientific spirit of the age-who, while he has detected that poetry which is the essence of the greatest things, has cast a glory around the lowliest conditions of humanity, and traced out the subtle links by which they are connected with the highest. of one whose name will now find an echo, not only in the heart of the secluded student, but in that of the busiest of those who are fevered by political controversy-of William Wordsworth. Ought we not to requite such a poet, while yet we may, for the injustice of our boyhood? For those works which are now insensibly quoted by our most popular writers, the spirit of which now mingles with our intellectual atmosphere, he probably has not received through the long life he has devoted to his art, until lately, as much as the same labour, with moderate talent, might justly produce in a single year. Shall the. law, whose term has been amply sufficient to his scorners, now afford him no protection, because he has outlasted their scoffs-becausehis fame has been fostered amidst the storms, and is now the growth of years?

There is only one other consideration to which I will advert, as connected with this. The term allowed by the existing law is subject-the expedience and justice of ac-. curiously adapted to encourage the lightest knowledging the rights of foreigners to copyworks, and to leave the noblest unprotected. right in this country, and of claiming it from Its little span is ample for authors who seek them for ourselves in return. If at this time only to amuse; who, "to beguile the time, look it were clear that our law afforded no proteclike the time;" who lend to frivolity or corruption to foreigners, first publishing in other tion "lighter wings to fly;" who sparkle, countries, there would be great difficulty in blaze, and expire. These may delight for a dealing with this question for ourselves, and, season-glisten as the fire-flies on the heaving we might feel bound to leave it to negotiation sea of public opinion-the airy proofs of the to give and to obtain reciprocal benefits. But intellectual activity of the age;-yet surely it if a recent decision on the subject of musical is not just to legislate for those alone, and deny copyright is to be regarded as correct, the all reward to that literature which aspires to principle of international copyright is already endure. Let us suppose an author, of true acknowledged here, and there is little for us to original genius, disgusted with the inane phra- do in order that we may be enabled to claim its seology which had usurped the place of poetry, recognition from foreign states. It has been and devoting himself from youth to its service; decided by a judge conversant with the busidisdaining the gauds which attract the care- ness and with the elegancies of life to a degree less, and unskilled in the moving accidents of unusual with an eminent lawyer-by one who

if this our literature shall be theirs; if its diffusion shall follow the efforts of the stout heart and sturdy arm in their triumph over the obstacles of nature; if the woods, stretching beyond their confines, shall be haunted with visions of beauty which our poets have created; let those who thus are softening the ruggedness of young society have some present interest about which affection may gather, and at least let them be protected from those who would exhibit them mangled or corrupted to their transatlantic disciples. I do not in truth ask for literature favour; I do not ask for it charity; I do not even appeal to gratitude in its behalf; but I ask for it a portion, and but a portion, of that common justice which the coarsest industry obtains for its natural reward, and which nothing but the very extent of its claims, and the nobleness of the associations to which they are akin, have prevented it from

was the most successful advocate of his time, | old poets as their own immortal ancestry. And yet who was not more remarkable for his skill in dealing with facts than for the grace with which he embellished them-by Lord Abinger that the assignee of foreign copyright, deriving title from the author abroad to publish in this country, and creating that right within a reasonable time, may claim the protection of our courts against any infringement of his copy. If this is law-and I believe and trust it is we shall make no sacrifice in so declaring it, and in setting an example which France, Prussia, America, and Germany, are prepared to follow. Let us do justice to our law and to ourselves. At present, not only is the literary intercourse of countries, who should form one great family, degraded into a low series of mutual piracies-not only are industry and talent deprived of their just reward, but our literature is debased in the eyes of the world, by the wretched medium through which they behold it. Pilfered, and disfigured in the pilfer-receiving from our laws. ing, the noblest images are broken, wit falls Sir, I will trespass no longer on the patience pointless, and verse is only felt in fragments of broken music;-sad fate for an irritable race! The great minds of our time have now an audience to impress far vaster than it entered into the minds of their predecessors to hope for; an audience increasing as population thickens in the cities of America, and spreads itself out through its diminishing wilds, who speak our language, and who look on our

of the house, for which I am most grateful, but move that leave be given to bring in a bill" to consolidate and amend the laws relating to property in the nature of copyright in books, musical compositions, acted dramas, pictures, and engravings, to provide remedies for the violation thereof, and to extend the term of its duration."

The motion, seconded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and supported by Sir Robert Harry Inglis, was carried without opposition; and the bill was ordered to be brought in by Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Lord Mahon, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in conjunction with the mover. The bill which under these auspices was introduced, contained, according to the proposition, clauses for the protection of the arts of painting and engraving, and provided for the recognition and security of copyright in the works of foreign authors, on certain conditions. Its second reading was carried without debate or division; and it stood for committal when the death of the king precluded the further progress of all measures except those of urgency, and in a few weeks produced the dissolution of parliament. On the 14th December, 1838, the motion for leave to introduce the bill was renewed-with the difference that it had been found expedient to confine the measure to literature, and to defer until a suitable opportunity the introduction of a separate measure for consolidating and amending the laws affecting the arts of painting, engraving, and also that of sculpture, which had not been included in the original measure. This separation of the objects of the bill received the approbation of Lord Mahon, who had previously concurred in its necessity, and of Sir Robert Peel, who suggested the expedience of appointing a select committee to report on the state of the law relating to the fine arts, before proceeding to the arduous but most needful work of legislating for their protection, and securing their reward. On this occasion, also, that part of the original measure which related to international copyright was, at the request of Mr. Poulett Thomson, resigned into the hands of ministers, under whose auspices a bill has since passed, enabling them to negotiate on this important subject with foreign powers. After expressions of approval from Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer and Mr. D'Israeli, leave was given to bring in the bill. The circumstances and character of the opposition which had, in the interval, been raised against it, sufficiently appear from the following speech on the motion that it be read a second


D'Almaine and another v. Bossey, 1 Younge and Collyer's Reports, 288.

This case has been since overruled by that of Chappell . Purday, in which the Court of Exchequer decided that a foreigner has no copyright in a work first published abroad'




MR. SPEAKER, When I had the honour last year to move the second reading of a bill essentially similar to the present, I found it unnecessary to trouble the house with a single remark; for scarcely a trace then appeared of the opposition which has since gathered around it. I do not, however, regret that the measure was not carried through the legislature by the current of feeling which then prevailed in its favour, but that opportunity has been afforded for the full discussion of the claims on which it is founded, and of the consequences to individuals and to the public that may be expected from its operation. Believing, as I do, that the interests of those who, by intellectual power, laboriously and virtuously exerted, contribute to the delight and instruction of mankind-of those engaged in the mechanical processes by which those labours are made effectual-and of the people who at once enjoy and reward them, are essentially one; believing that it is impossible at the same time to enhance the reward of authors, and to injure those who derive their means of subsistence from them-and desiring only that this bill shall succeed if it shall be found, on the fullest discussion, that it will serve the cause of intellect in its noblest and most expanded sense; I rejoice that all classes who are interested in reality or in belief in the proposed change have had the means of presenting their statements and their reasonings to the consideration of Parliament, and of urging them with all the zeal which an apprehension of pecuniary loss can inspire. I do not, indeed, disguise that the main and direct object, of the bill is to insure to authors of the highest and most enduring merit a larger share in the fruits of their own industry and genius than our law now accords to them; and whatever fate may attend the endeavour, I feel with satisfaction that it is the first which has been made substantially for the benefit of authors, and sustained by no interest except that which the appeal on their behalf to the gratitude of those whose minds they have enriched, and whose lives they have gladdened, has enkindled. The statutes of Anne and of George III., especially the last, were measures suggested and maintained by publishers; and it must be consoling to the silent toilers after fame, who in this country have no ascertained rank, no civil distinction, in their hours of weariness and anxiety to feel that their claim to consideration has been cheerfully recognised by Parliament, and that their cause, however feebly presented, has been regarded with respect and with sympathy.

In order that I may trespass as briefly as I can on the indulgence with which this subject has been treated, I will attempt to narrow the

controversy of to-night by stating at once what I regard to be the principle of this bill, and call on honourable members now to affirm-and what I regard as matters of mere detail, which it is unnecessary at this moment to consider. That principle is, that the present term of copyright is much too short for the attainment of that justice which society owes to authors, especially to those (few though they be) whose reputation is of slow growth and of enduring character. Whether that term shall be extended from its present length to sixty years, or to some intermediate period-whether it shall commence at the death of the author or at the date of first publication-in what manner it shall be reckoned in the cases of works given to the world in portions-are questions of detail on which I do not think the house are to-night required to decide. On the one hand, I do not ask honourable members to vote for the second reading of this bill merely because they think there are some uncertainties in the law of copyright which it is desirable to remove, or some minor defects which they are prepared to remedy. On the other hand, I entreat them not to reject it on account of any objections to its mere details; but as they may think the legalized property of authors sufficiently prolonged and secured, or requiring a substantial extension, to oppose or to support it. In maintaining the claim of authors to this extension, I will not intrude on the time of the house with any discussion on the question of law-whether perpetual copyright had existence by our common law; or of the philosophical question, whether the claim to this extent is founded in natural justice. On the first point, it is sufficient for me to repeat, what cannot be contradicted, that the existence of the legal right was recognised by a large majority of the judges, with Lord Mansfield at their head, after solemn and repeated argument; and that six to five of the judges only determined that the stringent words "and no longer" in the statute of Anne had taken that right away. And even this I do not call in aid so much by way of legal authority, as evidence of the feeling of those men (mighty, though few,) to whom our infant literature was confided by Providence, and of those who were in early time able to estimate the labour which we inherit. On the second point I will say nothing; unable, indeed, to understand why that which springs wholly from within, and contracts no other right by its usurpation, is to be regarded as baseless, because, by the condition of its very enjoyment, it not only enlarges the source of happiness to readers, but becomes the means of mechanical employment to printers, and of speculation to publishers. I am content to adopt the interme

« PreviousContinue »