Billeder på siden

conferred upon all authors who published their books in Great Britain or Ireland copyright throughout the British dominious, and any person who in any part of the British dominions failed to respect this imperial copyright was liable to pains and penalties.

Imperialism is a fine idea; one flag, one law, and so on; but self-governing colonies like to make their own laws, and Canada especially complained loudly of not being able to bring across her borders cheap American reprints of British authors, and her complaints were so far heard that in 1847 the Act of 1842 was suspended by statute in the case of those British possessions who by local legislation tried to do their best to give the British author a share in the plunder of his books. Canada accordingly passed a law allowing American cheap reprints to come within their borders on payment of a customs duty which was never collected. Nor did the Act of 1847 (the Foreign Reprints Act) satisfy the Canadians, who thought it hard measure that their publishers should be obliged to take American cheap reprints instead of reprinting the British author for themselves.

The real legal grievance of the colonies was that under the Act of 1842 a book published for the first time in a British colony had no copyright at home or in any other British colony. This wrong was remedied by statute in 1886, and now a book first published in a colony enjoys the same protection as a book published within the United Kingdom.

The Canadians, however, have always been hard to please about their supply of books, and have for years continued to complain of being insufficiently supplied with copyright British authors at cheap prices. Their complaints, indeed, were so much louder than any general love of reading would lead us to expect that it was hard not to believe that in many cases at all events the voice of complaint was not so much that of the Canadian book-lover bereft of his literature as of the Canadian printer and paper-maker robbed of a job.

In 1875 Canada passed a Copyright Act of her own, giving 28 years' protection to foreign authors, upon condition of their republishing in the colony, either simultaneously with or at any time after publication elsewhere. This Act, as it interfered with the imperial statute of 1842 was expressly authorised by a British statute. In 1889 Canada passed another Copyright Act which has given rise to an Iliad of troubles, and countless folios of correspondence between the

Canada printer and so over bere

Dominion and the Home Government. The Act of 1889 provides (1) that, in order to obtain copyright in Canada, works must be registered with the Minister of Agriculture before or simultaneously with their first publication wherever such publication takes place, and must be reprinted and republished in Canada within one month of their publication elsewhere, and (2) if the author does not comply with these conditions the Minister in question may grant licenses for the publication of the work on the terms of a royalty of ten per cent. for the benefit of the author.

This is not the place to consider the equities of the question. To make imperial statutes harmonise with selfgoverning colonies is often difficult, and it would be a thousand pities if the friendly relations of the Empire should be endangered by a collision between British novelists and colonial printers. The colonies will probably get the better of the Home Government. In the bad old days our Colonial Secretaries used to snub the colonies, but under the present-day rule of Tory democracy Colonial Secretaries are more likely to be frightened of them.

The great increase in the production of Newspapers is a feature of the times not likely to escape observation. We are not quite so proud of the Fourth Estate as we used to be. We have been allowed too frequently to peep into the works. We have heard the pulse of the machine. There are not many secret processes now-a-days. The mystery that used to envelop editors and their proprietors has been dissipated. But there the press is, still a great fact and a far from untruthful mirror of the society it serves. Day by day it caters for its public, supplying it with war news, with sporting news, with trade news, and all at a great expense. It is easy to sneer at the press and to ridicule Mr. Cobden for his too famous remark about Thucydides and a copy of the 'Times ; ' but could that great historian revisit the world for a couple of brief hours we do not know that anything would be more likely to interest and inform him than to hold in his hand a copy of the Times and to have explained to him the changes and discoveries that bave made such a daily spectacle possible.

How far are the contents of a newspaper entitled to copyright under the existing law of 1842 ?

There is an axiom often in the mouths of the managing editors of provincial and evening papers: “No copyright in news.' This soothing truth these gentlemen, so it is reported, are accustomed to murmur softly to themselves as they sit

snipping extracts from the morning issues of their contemporaries. The amount of uplifting' that goes on in the newspaper trade is amazing, even staggering. The axiom is sound enough. Copyright is a statutory monopoly of what, but for the law, would be in general circulation, and it would be intolerable were it to apply to general ideas or to bald statements of fact. If anybody is good enough to tell us that

Man was made to mourn' or that the Sultan of Turkey is dead (a permissible hypothesis) we must be left at liberty to repeat the intelligence in talk, writing, or in print, as often as we like, and either with or without commentary of our own. But supposing the news has been specially obtained and transmitted at great expense by one particular newspaper-supposing horses have been spurred to death, and ocean cables set a-quivering at a pound a word to let Fleet Street know the result of a cricket match at the Antipodes a couple of hours earlier than in the ordinary course—what then ? The answer surely must be that if the people of this country wish to protect the newspaper industry from the predatory instincts of rival editors they must do so by special legislation, and give not so much copyright as property in news specially procured and transmitted. The duration of this property need not be long. Twenty-four hours would suffice.

But newspapers are not all news, and almost every issue of a respectable paper contains much that is properly enough the subject-matter of copyright. It was doubted at one time whether a daily paper was a periodical within the meaning of sections 18 and 19 of the Act of 1842, which are the sections giving copyright to such things as periodicals, encyclopædias, and the like. But in 1881 Sir George Jessel held that a daily paper was within the section, and subsequent decisions have made it quite plain that the newspaper proprietor is entitled to a term of copyright in original articles written for and paid for by him, unless the terms of the bargain between him and the writer forbid the supposition that anything of the kind was intended. The proprietors of the 'Times,' the paper most exposed to the forays and excursions of its rivals, have on more than one occasion obtained injunctions restraining the reprinting of original matter purloined from their columns.

The feverish activity and more than feminine susceptibility of press men’have succeeded in imparting a spurious interest to a very recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Walter v. Lane. Were we condemned to gain

our knowledge of legal decisions from the correspondence columns of the newspapers we might have supposed that the tbree distinguished lawyers who composed the Court had decided that at no times and in no circumstances can the compiler of a report of any public proceeding have a copyright in the report he has compiled. As a matter of fact, what the Court decided was that the gentleman who took down from Lord Rosebery's lips five short and highly finished addresses in the very words of the speaker, or as near thereunto as he could get, was not the author of these five reports within the meaning of the Act of 1842, and that, as a consequence, neither he nor Mr. Walter, his assign, was entitled to the exclusive right of multiplying copies of such reports.

Lord Macaulay, in his preface to his own edition of his speeches, bitterly complained that Mr. Vizetelly, who had published an unauthorised and incorrect edition, had not gone to the “Times' for his reports. The least that he

should have done was to consult the files of the “ Times” 'newspaper.' The editor of Lord Rosebery's addresses was apparently of the same way of thinking as Lord Macaulay. As a matter of business the decision in the case of Walter v. Lane is of infinitesimally small importance, though some of the comments upon it in the press show how little respect is thought to be the due of the legal tribunals of this country if they wound the amour propre of any class of the community. One evening paper, which not so long ago was itself forbidden to steal from the “Times,' had the impertinence to declare that the judgment of Sir Nathaniel Lindley in Walter v. Lane was a disgrace to his office of Master of the Rolls. Yet, if a poor Irish tenant were to curse the judge that fixed his rent too high, the moral indignation of this mid-day print would impinge on the sublime.

It seems now to be admitted that the time is approaching for Parliament to consolidate and amend the law relating to copyright. The Publishers' Association, a powerful and (on this matter) well-informed body of men, have long considered the subject and are ready with their own proposals. The Authors' Society, from another point of view, advocates reform. The big newspaper men are on the alert to protect their columns from the inroads of their evening contemporaries, whose evening begins with a second edition published at noon. Individual authors, artists, photographers, dramatists, and their sons and daughters not unnaturally are interested in what so nearly concerns them.

The subject was left in the hands of the late Lord Herschell, who knew it as he knew so many other subjects from beginning to end. Lord Herschell's too early death was a public calamity. He was the most useful man in the United Kingdom.

Lord Herschell introduced a Bill into the House of Lords, in March 1898, to consolidate and amend the law relating to copyright, both literary and artistic. Lord Herschell did not attempt to define an author; but the first clause of his Bill runs as follows:

" The author of an original literary or artistic work first published in any part of Her Majesty's dominions, or first published simultaneously therein and elsewhere, shall have copyright in his work throughout Her Majesty's dominions, whether he is or is not a British subject.' And he adopted, with regard to the duration of copyright, the recommendation of the famous Copyright Commission, 1878, and proposed to make the term of copyright in a book last during the author's life and thirty years after the end of the year in which he dies. The Bill further provides that no one but the owner of the copyright is to be at liberty to make any adaptation or abridgment of a book, or any translation of it, or to perform any dramatised version of the book or any part of it, without the permission of the owner of the copyright.

Abridgments are not so popular as once they were, but these provisions as to translations and dramatisations are of considerable importance, for though translation appears to be an infringement of copyright in England, the point is one which it is desirable to have cleared up.

The dramatisation of novels without the permission of the novelist has given rise to a good deal of discussion and some litigation. The general feeling seems to be that it should be prohibited, although a difficulty is sure to arise in considering whether the dramatist has appropriated more of the novel than he is entitled to do. Plots and situations are usually old properties.'

The harmless necessary reviewer is to be protected by a special provision, which runs as follows:

Provided that the making of fair and moderate extracts from a book which is the subject of copyright, and the publication thereof for the purposes of review, shall not be an infringement.'

Given two volumes of Reminiscences and Anecdotes,' sent out for review the day before publication, and actually reviewed in a newspaper appearing on the day of publication,

« ForrigeFortsæt »