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came Law. Acting as the agent of Justice, Law does the Government of the United States refuse protected property. In those days of moral im- to foreign writers the copyright in their works provement, if an Indian stole a Dutchman's watch, which it concedes to the works of its own he committed an offence, and he was punished ac- citizens ? cordingly-for, observe, a watch was now property. Colonel, when honest men perceive an act of
Later dates brought their changes with them. justice to be done, and determine really to do it, The English forced themselves into the Dutch- there are never any insuperable difficulties in the men's places. New Amsterdam became New way. On the plain merits of the case-work that York. As time went on, a foolish English King, if you please, you will see why—there are no more and a tyrannical Government were deservedly difficulties in the way of international copyright beaten on a trial of strength with the descendants between England and America than between of the first English settlers. The Republic of the England and France, England and Germany, United States started on its great career. With England and Italy. The cases run on parallel peace came the arts of peace. The American lines; the necessity of foreign translation, in the author rose benignly on the national horizon. European case, being an accidental circumstance
And what did the American Government do? which adds to the expense of publishing the book,
The American Government, having all other and nothing more. My work is republished in property duly protected, bethought itself of the America in English, and republished in French. claims of Literature ; and, looking towards old Whatever difference there may be in the language Europe, saw that the work of a man's brains, pro- of the republication, the fact of the republication duced in the form of a book, had been at last remains the same fact in both instances. recognised as that man's property by the Law. I am very careful to put this plainly; there must Congress followed this civilised example, and re- be some clear ground to stand on before I can cognised and protected the published work of an attempt to clear away the extraordinary accumuAmerican citizen as that citizen's property.
lation of delusions under which the unfortunate Having thus provided for the literary interests question of copyright has been suffering in recent of its own people within its own geographical years. If you see any difficulty in accepting my limits, Congress definitely turned its back on all statement of the case thus far, let us revert to first further copyright proceedings in the Old World. principles, and ask ourselves—What is the object After a certain lapse of time, the three greatest to be obtained by the thing called International nations on the Continent of Europe, France, Ger- Copyright? many, and Italy, agreed with England that an act In answering this question I will put it personof justice to Literature still remained to be done. ally for the greater facility of illustration. The Treaties of international copyright were accord- object of International Copyright is to give me, by ingly exchanged between these States. An author's law (on considerations with which it is possible for right of property in his work was thus recognised me to comply), the same right of control over my in other countries than his own. It was legally book in a foreign country, which the law gives me forbidden to a foreign bookseller to republish his in my own country. work for foreign circulation without his permission ; In Europe, this is exactly what we have done. for the plain and unanswerable reason that his When I publish my book in London, I enter it work belonged, in the first place, to him and to no at Stationers' Hall, and register it as my propertyother person.
and my book is mine in Great Britain. When I With this honourable example set before it by publish my book in Paris, I register it by the perother Governments, what has the United States formance of similar formalities--and again my book done ? Nothing! To this day it refuses to the is mine in France. In both cases my publisher literary property of other people the protection (English or French) is chosen at my own free will. which it gives to the literary property of its own His position towards me is the position of a person people. To this day the President and Congress who takes the business of publishing and registering of America remain content to contemplate the off my hands, in consideration of a bargain prehabitual perpetration, by American citizens, of the viously made between us—the essence of which act of theft.
bargain is, that the book is my property, and that
my written permission is necessary before he can 111.
obtain his right to publish the book, and his ex
clusive claim (for a greater or lesser period of time) Having now done with our historical survey-in to the privilege of selling it. Why can I not do plainer words, having now got our facts—we may the same thing in the free Republic of the United conveniently confront the grave question :—Why
the English market. Our circulating Library system
is cited as a proof of the truth of this assertion. Here the Colonel lays down my letter for a There can be no two opinions on the absurdity of while, and looks bewildered.
that system—but, such as it is, let us, at least, "The copyright difficulty, as stated by Mr. have it fairly understood. When a novel, for Wilkie Collins,” he says, “appears to be no diffi- example, is published at the preposterous price of culty at all. What am I to think of the multitu
a guinea and a half, nobody pays that price. A dedinous objections from the American point of view, duction of one-third at least is made. An individual raised in leading articles, pamphlets, speeches, and speculator buys the book, and lends it to the public. so forth ?” My good friend, a word in your ear. Even this man, as an annual subscription, demands The American objections (I say it with all due
the nominal price originally asked for the book (a respect for the objections) are, one and all, Ameri- guinea and a half), and he will send you at least can delusions. The main object of this letter is, three novels a week, for a whole year. If this is if possible, to blow these delusions away. I not cheap reading, what is ? But you will say promise not to be long about it, and to keep my THE public may want to buy some of the best of temper—though I have lost some thousands of
these novels. Very well. Within a year from the pounds by American pirates.
date of its first issue, the book is republished at Let us begin with the delusion—the most extra- five or six shillings (a dollar and a half); and is ordinary in the whole list—that the American again republished at two shillings (fisty cents). people have something to do with the question of Setting the case of stolen literary property out of International Copyright.
the question, are these not correct American prices? An American citizen sees a reprinted English But why should the purchaser be made to wait book in a shop window, or has it pitched into his till the book can be sold at a reasonable price? lap by a boy in a railway train, or hears from a I admit the absurdity of making him wait. But friend that it is well worth reading. He buys the
is that absurdity likely, under any conceivable book, and reads it-and, as I can gratefully testify circumstances, to be copied in America ? In from my own personal experience, he feels, in the England the circulating library is one of our old great majority of cases, a sincere respect for litera
institutions which dies very slowly. In America ture and a hearty gratitude to the writer who has it is no institution at all. Is it within the limits of instructed or interested him, which is one among probability that one of your citizens should prefer the many honourable distinctions of the national lending á novel to a few hundred subscribers, character. When he has done all this, what in when he can sell it to purchasers by the thousand ? Heaven's name has author, publisher, orator, or It is a waste of words to ask the question. The leading-article writer any further right to expect one thing needful, so far as works of fiction are from him ? When I have paid for my place at concerned, is to show you that our popular price the theatre, and added my little tribute of applause for a novel is the American popular price. Look in honour of the play and the actors, have I not at the catalogue of “ Harper's Library of American done my duty as one of the audience? Am I Fiction," and you will find that the prices range expected to insist on knowing whether the author's from two to three shillings---fifty to seventy per rights have been honestly recognised by the mana- cent. ger, and the players' salaries regularly paid without Turning to literature in general let us consult reductions once a week? It is simply ridiculous Messrs. Harper again. I am away from home to mention the American people in connection while I write, and I have no means of quoting from with the settlement of the copyright question. a more recent catalogue than the summer list of The entire responsibility of honourably settling the 1878. However, the prices of less than two years question in my country rests with the Legislature.
ago in New York cannot be obsolete prices yet. In the United States the President and Congress Here are some specimens :are the guardians and representatives of American honour. It is they, and not the people, who are “The Atlantic Islands." Illustrated. 8vo. to blame for the state which book-stealing has set Cloth. $3 (twelve shillings). on the American name.
" Annual Record of Science and Industry for Let us get on to another delusion which has amused us in England.
1877." Large 12mo. Cloth. $2 (eight We are gravely informed that the United States
shillings). is the paradise of cheap literature, and that In- “The Student's French Grammar.” ternational Copyright would raise the price of
Cloth. $1.40 (say five shillings and sixAmerican books to the inordinately high level of pence).
“Art Education applied to Industry.” Illus- in the country, and by a subject or citizen of the
trated. 8vo. Cloth gilt. (Sixteen shillings.) country in which such registration has been made.” "Harper's Travellers' Handbooks for Europe Mr. W. H. Appleton, writing to the London Times
and the East. $3 per volume (twelve (in a curiously aggressive tone), expresses himself shillings).
more plainly. “Our people,” he says, evidently I am quite ready to believe that every one of rejoice to open this vast opportunity of your
meaning our printers and publishers, “would these books is well worth the price asked for it.
intellectual labours . . . But they hold themBut don't tell me that American books are always
selves perfectly competent to manufacture the cheap books, and let it at least be admitted that
books that shall embody your authors' thoughts, in English publishers are not the only publishers who
accordance with their own needs, habits, and tastes, charge a remunerative price for a valuable work,
and in this they will not be interfered with." which has proved a costly work to produce and
(Extracted from Messrs. Harper Brothers pamphlet, which is not always likely to command a large circu
New York, March 17th, 1879.") lation. To sum it up, literature which addresses all classes of the population is as cheap in England as it
To argue the question with men who are of this is in America. Literature which addresses special time and mine. It we are ever to have international
way of thinking would be merely to waste your classes only will on that very account always be
copyright between the two countries we must have published at special prices (with or without international copyright) on both sides of the Atlantic.
the same unreserved recognition of a moral right, the same ungrudging submission to the law of
honour, which has produced the treaties exchanged V. between the European Powers.
In this respect I must not try your patience too severely, England has set the example to the United States. Colonel. Let me leave unnoticed some of the And, let me add, England has no fear of compeminor misunderstandings which obscure the tition. I have put the question myself to eminent American view of the copyright case, and let me London publishers; they have no idea of intruding occupy the closing lines of this letter with a really their trade interests into a great question of national mischievous delusion. Just consider what this extra- justice. They are ready to welcome wholesale ordinary delusion really amounts to. “We don't competition in an open market. If they set up deny (the American publishers say) that you branch establishments in New York, the American English authors have a moral right of property in publishers shall be free to follow their example in your books, which we are quite ready to make London. What does Mr. Marston (of the London a legal right, on conditions that we are to dictate firm of Sampson Low, Marston and Co.) say on this the use which you make in America of your own subject, in his letter to The Times, published May property. If we confer on you international copy- 12th, 1879?right, we see with horror a future day when English publishers and English printers may start
“ As a publisher, I trust I shall be absolved from the
charge of advocating trade interests, when I express my in business under our very noses, and we will only strong conviction that the only Convention between the give you your due, with the one little drawback that two countries which can possibly bear the test of time, must be we prohibit you to employ your countrymen to pub
one based upon the original and inherent rights of property! lish your books in our country. Our respect for
Let registration in Washington and London, within a month
or two months of first publication in either country, convey justice is only matched by our respect for our respectively to English and American authors the same right purses. Hurrah for honourable dealings with the in each other's country as in their own, and one's sense of British author—so long as there is no fear of a justice will be satisfied.
Such restrictions as those decrease in the balance at our bankers ! Down
proposed by American publishers exist in no other Conven
tions; they arise out of a most unfounded and unnecessary with the British author, and away with the national fear of competition by English publishers !" honour if there is the slightest danger of the almighty dollar finding its way into other pockets There is the opinion of one member of the than ours !”
representative of the trade.
I could produce Am I exaggerating ? Let two of the American similar opinions from other members, but I must publishers speak for themselves.
not needlessly lengthen my letter. Hear, instead, Hear Messrs. Harper Brothers first. After an American citizen who agrees with Mr. Marston, reciting the general conditions on which they pro- and with me. Let Mr. George Haven Putnam pose to grant us copyright in the United States, speak—delivering an address on International they proceed as follows :-“And provided further, Copyright in New York, on the 29th of January, that within six months after registration of title the 1879:work shall have been manufactured and published “I believe that in the course of time the general
laws of trade would and ought to so regulate the of this one novel of mine-published without my arrangements for supplying the American public deriving any profit from them-made their appearwith books that, if there were no restriction as to ance in America ? I can only tell you, as a basis volumes, the author would select the publishing for calculation, one American publisher informed a agent, English or American, who could serve him friend of mine that he had sold one hundred and to best advantage, and that agent would be found twenty thousand copies of “The Woman in White." to be the man who would prepare for the largest He never sent me sixpence ! possible circle of American readers the editions Good-bye for the present, Colonel. I must go best suited to their wants ... If English pub- back to my regular work, and make money for my lishers settling here could excel our American American robbers, under the sanction of Congress. houses in this understanding and in these facilities they ought to be at liberty to do so, and it would be for the interest of the public that no hindrance should be placed in their way.”
THE TROUBLES OF A BEGINNER. I have now, I hope, satisfied you that I do not stand quite alone in my way of thinking. If you HE perusal of Hard Case" in the first make inquiries you will find that other American
issue of The Author tempts me to put on citizens, besides Mr. Putnam, can see the case
paper my own experiences as a beginner, plainly as it stands on its merits.
Owing to what might be called a mild inoculation Thus far I have been careful to base our claim of the fraudulent publisher at the commencement to international copyright on no larger ground than of my career, the consequences of my gullibility the ground of justice. Would you like, before I have not proved so pecuniarily serious as they conclude, to form some idea of the money we lose were in a “Hard Case"; but that has not been by the freedom of robbery which is one of the for lack of trying on the part of the various so-called freedoms of the American Republic?
societies, or dishonest tradesmen, who thrive on Take the illustrious instance of Charles Dickens. the inexperience and vanity of the literary fledgling. The price agreed on with his English publishers for I launched my first effort in the shape of a short the work interrupted by his death, "Edwin Drood," story, under the auspices of the “London Literary was seven thousand five hundred pounds, with a Society.” Their prospectus was all that could be promise of an addition to this sum if the work desired. For the modest sum of one guinea per exceeded a certain circulation. Even Dickens' annum my literary success was assured. They enormous popularity in England is beaten by his undertook to place MSS. in the hands of magazine popularity in the United States. He was more editors, who apparently) had no other means of read in your country than in mine, and, as a obtaining copy for their publications. Thus young necessary consequence (with international copy- and unknown authors were placed upon the first right) his work would be worth more in America rung of the ladder of fame, and it would be their than in England. What did he get in America own fault if they did not eventually reach the top. for the “advance sheets?” With the pirates to By thus establishing a regular method of communibe considered in making the bargain? Less than cațion between author and publisher, interest and a seventh part of what his English publisher has prejudice, so fatal to beginners, would be overagreed to give him before a line of his novel was ridden, and a long-felt want supplied. So it would, written-one thousand pounds!
- but the long-felt want " was that experienced But the case of Charles Dickens is a case of a by the organizers of the Society. writer who stands apart, and without a rival in I sent in my guinea and my MS., and waited popularity. Take my case, if you like, as repre- hopefully for the result. The receipt for the money sentative, the position of writers of a lesser degree was a work of art; it was no common receipt, it was of popularity. I fail to remember the exact price a Diploma informing me that I had been enrolled a which Messrs. Harper paid me for the advance member of the London Literary Society, and resheets of "The Woman in White.” It was certainly questing that in future I would add L.L.S. after not a thousand pounds; perhaps half a thousand, or my name when communicating with the Secretary. perhaps not so much. At any rate (with the In due course I received an official looking docupirates in the background waiting to steal) the ment which proved to be a criticism of my story. great firm in New York dealt with me liberally. Then for the first time I knew, what I had hitherto
It has been calculated by persons who under. only suspected, that I was undoubtedly a writer of stand the matter better than I do that for every merit ! According to the criticism nothing stood one reader in England I have ten readers in the between me and success but the narrow-mindedUnited States. How many nnauthorized editions ness and prejudice of undiscriminating editors.
The document concluded by recommending me to subscription, which was quickly followed by a letter send my story to a publication entitled Lloyd's threatening me with the law. Whether further Magazine.
proceedings would have been taken against me I Of course I was delighted. Certainly I could never knew, as the Secretary solved the question not remember having ever heard of Lloyd's Maga- by going bankrupt. The Court of Bankruptcy zine, but then it was hardly to be expected that I informed me that I was down on the books of the had heard of all the magazines published, and at Society for two guineas, but on explaining matters any rate I hoped they would pay well.
the affair was dropped, and my dealings with the probably connected with Lloyd's paper. The London Literary Society became a thing of the editor was very civil, and assured me he would be past. I think that I bought my experience pleased to print my story, adding casually that cheaply. some alterations would have to be made, and little One of the most ingenious attempts at fraud of technicalities attended to, before the MS. would be the kind was perpetrated by a Society calling itself ready for the printer's hands, but that half a guinea the “Southampton Association.”. Upon seeing would cover these necessary expenses. Hard as it the advertisement of a new magazine entitled Pen may be to believe, I sent my half guinea! How I and Ink, I sent in a sample MS. In response, I marvel at my credulity. But then I knew nothing got a letter informing me that, after looking through of such things, and it seemed quite possible that a my MS., the Society was prepared to accept me as tyro like myself might have made technical mistakes staff member” of the Association. This, at that would entail a certain amount of trouble. first sight, seemed all I could wish for-there is a
I also received a prospectus setting forth the peculiarly fascinating ring about the word “staff” advantages enjoyed by subscribers to Lloyd's to a beginner's ear. The letter, however, went on Magazine. “Every talented author would ensure to explain what the privileges of a staff member immediate appearance in print ;” this, it was as- were, i.e., "one whose contributions can be accepied serted, would prove most beneficial in treating with and paid for,” not will be “inmediately proofs are editors who objected to unknown writers. “Ster- passed by the editor.” ling merit would be amply remunerated;" this was The wording of this sounded suspicious, and satisfactory, as the verdict of the Literary Society when the epistle concluded by a casual request had inferred that my particular qualifications came that I would fill up the form enclosed and return under that head. In fact, the advantages were so it, the said form being a pledge on my part to pay great, and so plausibly set forth, that I felt I really a guinea to the Society, I decided to have nothing must get into Lloyd's Magazine at any price. further to do with it. My course of the Literary
Finally, the editor wrote to say that the MS. was Society had rendered me proof against any more now corrected and ready for the press, and that if attacks of the same sort. I invested in twenty-four copies of the magazine, at I was very nearly falling a prey, however, to the 6d. apiece, my story should appear in the next wiles of the fraudulent publisher. I had perpetrated issue! Having already paid so much, I took the a one volume novel, and sent it up to Messrs. twenty-four copies, thinking, as so many beginners A. and B. Of course it was "favourably reported do, that to get a story printed in anything was on by the reader, and was going to make a better than not getting it printed at all, and trust- great impression. The firm offered to publish it ing to the promises of the prospectus as to the and pay half expenses, if I would pay the other future. However, one glance at Lloyd's Magazine half, the profits to be also equally shared. This was sufficient to dispel any such hopes. To judge offer sounded reasonable to inexperienced ears, by the calibre of its contents all the contributors and I asked for an estimate. The answer was, that must have paid as heavily as myself, to induce half share would amount to £55 1os. (Referanyone to print their productions; and heartily ence to a little book since published by the Society disgusted I sent in my resignation to the London of Authors will show that the entire cost of publishLiterary Society.
ing such a volume is £23 18s. 9d. !) Fortunately I was informed in return that not having given I was alarmed at the sum asked, and declined the three months' notice I was liable for my subscrip- offer. They wrote again, offering to publish the tion. I sent it, and at the same time an intimation book if I would pay £40 towards it, and receive that I wished to withdraw. The following year I one-third of the profits; this I also declined. received a claim for my subscription, upon which They then suggested bringing it out in is. form I drew the attention of the Secretary to my previous for the book stalls, my share to be £ 28 10s. communication. The only answer to this was At this point, however, I became a member of another claim, of which I took no notice. Again, the Society of Authors, and on sending the whole the year after I was sent a request for two years correspondence to the Secretary, received a letter