Gans: On the right to perform published stage plays, Berlin (1832)

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Gans: On the right to perform published stage plays, Berlin (1832), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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            Chapter 1 Page 9 of 9 total

385            of published stage plays

pay a fixed price, for this requires a special
arrangement with the author, who can sell his play to
one theatre more expensively than to another, who can
entrust its staging to one theatre, but deny it to
another. There is simply no reason why a country's
legislation should not want to recognise the system of
royalties, which is as straightforward and practical as
it is just, and which is equally practicable for the
authors and the theatres, since inherent in it is the
correct measure of [a given play's] success. The repeated
performance of a play can rightly be compared to a new edition,
for though it is true that both are just a repeated act,
the whole appears again afresh [before the public]: it makes
a new impression and must be prepared to face a new verdict.
How many books there are which didn't sell at all in their
second edition, even though the first edition was rapdily
exhausted, and how many plays there are whose second
performance has knocked them off the repertoire, even though
they had raised quite different expectations at their
premières! However, he who would see a contradiction
between the earlier assertion that a performance without
the author's consent constitutes a personal offence (injuria),
and the assertion made now that such permission should be
presupposed as inherent in publication, must only consider
that if this assumption were to be expressed by positive
law, it would then be possible for anyone to invalidate it
by not giving his permission for a performance, or by giving
it with qualifications, before his play has been published,
or also if he indicates that a special arrangement must be
made in each particular case.
      A principal objection which might be raised against such
a proposed law might first of all consist in how one is to
decide what counts as a stage performance and what doesn't.
It is a favourite recourse of sophistry to prevent good laws
by showing how an extension of these is logically necessary,
but at the same time absurd, thereby seeking to also undermine
those provisions that are feasible. From such a sophist's
perspective one could, for example, pose the question


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