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The International Copyright Bill, New York (1888)

Source: The University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Library: 'The International Copyright Bill,' The Nation (1888) 30: 44.

The International Copyright Bill, New York (1888), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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Chapter 1 Page 1



devoted to



from January 1, 1888, to June 30, 1888




Chapter 1 Page 2

44                                    The Nation.                        [Number 1177

[3rd column:]


The bill which has been presented to the
Senate by Mr. Chace, but which it is an open
secret was drawn up by a well-known Phila-
delphia publisher, may be briefly described
to be a bill amending that portion of the Re-
vised Statutes of the United States which ac-
knowledges an author's or artist's equitable
claim to the fruits of his mental labor, and
grants a certain legal protection therefor—in
such wise that this protection is secured not
only to authors or artists who are citizens
of the United States, but to mental workers
the world over. The United States has been,
for many years, perhaps the only civilized
country which has failed to recognize the
claims of the author to a reward for his labor
without regard to his individual nationality.
To our eternal national disgrace, it must be
frankly admitted that this delay in granting
an act of simple justice has been entirely due
to the fact that honest legislation would affect
the purses of American citizens. And the
tardy measure of justice which our Congress
is now called upon to consider is impaired by
two regrettable limitations of the very right
which it is the purport of the proposed
act to establish and grant. It is admit-
ted that when legislatures accord legal pro-
tection to what has been acknowledged as the
moral right of any class, they may limit the
exercise of such right, by virtue of consider-
ations affecting the general good of the whole
people. And all States, with a single notice-
able exception, have abridged the property
rights of authors, by according legal protec-
tion to such rights for a limited period of
time. In no case, however, is legislation jus-
tified which attempts to restrain the exercise
of the universally admitted right of any one
class for the benefit of any other class, but
only when such limitation is beneficial to the
whole people.
      According to Senate bill 554, the rights
secured to the American author by the Do-
mestic Copyright Law are abridged when the
law is extended to include the foreign
author—firstly, by refusing to permit the
latter to manufacture his book wherever he
pleases; and, secondly, by further refusing to
permit him to supply whatever demand there
may be in this country for copies of his au-
thorized foreign edition. Stipulations of this
nature have never hampered the interna-
tional copyright legislation of European
States. As contributors to the American
press, with a regrettable lack of ingenuous-
ness, have striven to give the impression that
the American author is obliged by law to
print and publish his work in the United
States, it may be briefly but emphatically
stated that the Copyright Law of the United
States in no wise prevents an author who is a

Chapter 1 Page 3

Jan. 19, 1888]                              The Nation.                                    45

citizen of this country from printing his book
abroad, binding it abroad, or writing it
abroad—anywhere in the wide world that he
may choose; and not once but many times
has this occurred, notable examples being the
later novels of Mr. Henry James and Mr.
Marion Crawford.
      The instigators of these curtailments of the
foreign author's rights defend the first upon
the ground that compulsory printing in this
country is necessary to secure books of suf-
ficient cheapness to be beneficial, by their
great circulation, to the people at large; and
that the good secured to the masses through
cheap books justifies the limitation put upon
the right of the comparatively few authors.
But the honesty of this defence may be
doubted so long as the second prohibition
remains, because even the dullest intel-
lect can perceive that if, as is claimed, com-
pulsory printing in this country is necessary
in order to prevent English publishers from
forcing upon American readers high-priced
English editions, a prohibition of import can
only be added because of a fear that the Eng-
lish copyright owner may choose to send into
this country an authorized edition which
could be sold to American readers at a small-
er price than the enforced American reprint.
But is not a book printed in England at a
lower price of equal benefit "to the masses"
with the same book printed in this country
at a higher price ?
      We have before insisted that there is no
precedent in the foreign copyright laws for
such prohibition of importation as is contem-
plated in this bill. But to return to this
point again, it may be well to indicate briefly
just what is stipulated in the copyright legis-
lation of countries which present a problem
similar to our own, by reason of both coun-
tries having one language. "We could hardly
desire a more suitable instance than that of
France and Belgium. The latest copyright
treaty between these countries went into
effect May 16, 1882. This convention consists
of seventeen articles, of which two relate to
the importation into either of the countries of
copies of works upon which there is copyright
in one or the other of them. Section 9 pro-
hibits the importation, exportation, circula-
tion, or sale in each of the two countries of
unauthorized reproductions, whether such un-
authorized reprints proceed from either of
the two countries or from any foreign coun-
try. This stipulation naturally occurs in all
copyright treaties as well as in all domestic
copyright laws. The American author by
our own law enjoys the protection of a similar
prohibition of unauthorized reprints, whether
the latter are made and sold in the United
States or are printed in Canada or elsewhere
and imported into our territory. In section 3
it is further stipulated that the Belgian and
French Governments shall take the necessary
measures to prohibit the entry into their re-
spective territories of works which the Bel-
gian or French publishers may have acquired
the right to reprint, with the reservation that
such republications shall not be authorized
to be sold in the country of their origin. For
example, a French author sells to a Brussels
publisher the right to print an edition of his
book for Belgium, but with the stipulation

[2nd column:]

that this edition shall not be sent into France
to compete with the original French issue.
The second paragraph of the article requires
that each copy of such Belgian edition must
bear upon its title-page and cover the
words: "Edition prohibited in France,
but authorized for Belgium and abroad."
In like manner, if there should be
a copyright treaty between England and
the United States, we should naturally
expect that it would be stipulated that the
American reprint, for example, of Matthew
Arnold's poems should not be allowed to be
imported into England to compete there with
the English copyright edition; and in the
same way the American publisher of Henry
James's novels would need to be protected
against the possible flooding of this market
with the cheaper English edition, copyrighted
there under treaty arrangements. There is
nothing in this convention between France
and Belgium to hinder in any way the com-
peting sale in either of the two countries of
the edition of a work first published by au-
thority of the author in any one of them.
Nor does the Belgian copyright law of March
22, 1886, contain any enactment whatever
which circumscribes the distribution of a for-
eign author's original edition.
      The position of Canada towards England,
as regards the question of protecting the Eng-
lish author in the former country, presents a
parallel to the problem which Senate bill 554
attempts to solve. But although the Cana-
dian Copyright Law, which was revised and
consolidated in 1886, is intended to encourage
the republishing in that country of the works
of English authors, and grants a Canadian
copyright upon all books so reprinted, care is
taken in section 6 of the above act to explain
that "nothing in this act shall be held to pro-
hibit the importation from the United King-
dom of copies of any such work lawfully
printed there."



Transcription by: Megan Wren


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