# Primary Sources on Copyright - Record Viewer
Debate in Congress, Washington D.C. (1896)

Source: Cummings Bill, H.R. 6835, 54th Cong, 2d sess., Congressional Record 29 (December 10, 1896).

Debate in Congress, Washington D.C. (1896), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

Back | Record | Images | No Commentaries
Translation only | Transcription only | Show all | Bundled images as pdf

            Chapter 1 Page 2 of 8 total

No Translation available.

1896.                  CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—HOUSE.                  85



      Mr. DRAPER (when the Committee on Patents was called). I
call up Senate bill No. 23.06,.to amend Title LX, chapter 3, of the
Revised Statutes, relating to copyrights.
      The bill was read, as follows:

      Be it enacted, etc., That section 4966 of the Revised Statutes be, and the
same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:
      "Sec. 4966. Any person publicly performing or representing any dramatic
or musical composition for which a copyright has been obtained, without the
consent of the proprietor of said dramatic or musical composition, or his heirs
or assigns, shall be liable for damages therefor, such damages in all cases to
be assessed at such sum, not less than $100 for the first and $50 for every sub-
sequent performance, as to the court shall appear to be just. If the unlawful
performance and representation be willful and for profit, such person or per-
sons shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction be imprisoned for
a period, not exceeding one year. Any injunction that may be granted by
any circuit court of the United States, or by a judge thereof, restraining and
enjoining the performance or representation of any such dramatic or musical
composition may be served on the parties against whom such injunction may
be granted anywhere in the United States, and shall be operative and may
be enforced by proceedings to punish for contempt or otherwise by any other
circuit court or judge in the United States; but the defendants in said action,
or any or either of them, may make a motion in any other circuit in which he
or they may bo engaged in performing or representing said dramatic or
musical composition to dissolve or set aside the said injunction upon such
reasonable notice to the plaintiff as the circuit court or the judge before whom
said motion shall be made shall deem proper; service of said motion to be
made on the plaintiff in person or on his attorneys in the action. The circuit
courts or judges thereof shall have jurisdiction to enforce said injunction
and to hear and determine a motion to dissolve the same, as herein provided,
as fully as if the action were pending or brought in the circuit in which said
motion is made.
      " The clerk of the court, or judge granting the injunction, shall, when
required so to do by the court hearing the application to dissolve or enforce
said injuction, transmit without delay to said court a certified copy of all
the papers on which the said injunction was granted that are on file in his
      Mr. DRAPER. I call for the reading of the report.
The report (by Mr. Draper) was read, as follows:

      The Committee on Patents, to whom was referred the bill (S.2306) entitled
"An act to amend Title LX, chapter 3 of the Revised Statutes, relating to
copyrights," have had the same under consideration and report as follows:
      The purpose of the proposed measure is twofold: First, to secure to mu-
sical compositions the same measure of protection under the copyright law as
is now afforded to productions of a strictly dramatic character. There can
be no reason why the same protection should not be extended to one species
of literary property of this general character as to the other, and the omis-
sion to include protective provisions for musical compositions in the law
sought to be amended was doubtless the result of oversight. The committee
is of the opinion that the existing law should be so amended as to provide
adequate protction to this species of literary production.
      The bill provides, secondly, for added means for the protection of authors
of dramatic and operatic works,
      In recent years the business of producing and staging plays and operas by
American authors has largely increased, and in many instances has met with
the very highist measure of success. Many of the best stage productions of
modern times have been the work of American authors.
      These productions in many instances have been carefully and elaborately
placed upon the stage at very heavy expense to proprietors and managers,
and their representation has given employment in various ways to thousands
of people.

[2nd column:]

      The existing law relative to copyrights has been found to be inadequate to
properly protect authors and producers of American plays and operas in the
enjoyment of their rights of property in these duly copyrighted productions.
      Persons in various sections of the country have, without the shadow of
right or authority, pirated these works, and, confining their operations chiefly
to the smaller and more remote towns, have given representations of these
stolen productions for their own individual profit, and without making any
compensation whatever to authors or owners. Under existing conditions no
adequate remedy exists for this unlawful usurpation of property rights.
      The offenders are almost uniformly men without attachable means, and
defy all the ordinary processes by which they might be mulcted in damages
The representation of these pirated productions is generally given for a night
or two only at a given place, and the offenders flit from section to section and
from State to State ana bid defiance to the processes of the courts seeking to
restrain their unlawful acts.
      Serious embarrassments have arisen in the efforts to enforce these judicial
orders and to punish offenders for disobedience of them.
      While it is true that an injunction order issued by a court of competent
jurisdiction is operative upon the conscience of the party restrained every-
where in the United States, it appears that an attachment for contempt of
such order can not be executed except in the circuit of the court which issued
the original order, and this bill seeks to overcome this difficulty.
      The bill further provides that the piracy, i. e,, the unlawful production of
any duly copyrighted play or opera, if it be determined that such unlawful
representation was willful and for profit, shall be a misdemeanor, and shall
subject the offender, upon conviction, to the liability of imprisonment for a
period not exceeding one year.
      The reason for the enactment of this provision has already been outlined.
      The unauthorized publication of a copyrighted book may ordinarily be ade-
quately punished through civil proceedings and under the provisions of exist-
ing law. The offender in such case is a person of fixed domicile, and has a
press and the implements of his business, so that the ordinary processes of
the court may readily be served upon him, and ha may be compelled to
respond in damages for his wrongdoing.
      These conditions do not exist, as a rule, in the case of the professional play
      It is difficult to serve him with injunction and court orders because of his
migratory habits, and as he is frequently without attachable means it is
impossible to satisfy a money judgment against him.
      Testimony has been adduced before the committee showing that the losses
accruing to authors and owners of copyrighted productions by these piracies
amount to large sums each year. So little protection is in fact afforded
under existing conditions that many prominent American dramatic authors
no longer go to the trouble and expense of taking oat copyrights for their
      Conceding that for light causes nothing should be added to the jurisdiction
or powers of the Federal courts, it would seem that the circumstances in con-
nection with the wholesale piracy of these productions of native authors
demand that something more nearly akin to drastic measures should be
invoked to remedy the evil.
      Believing that productions of the character mentioned constitute property
in the fullest and best sense of the term, your committee sees no good rea-
son why this species of literary production should not be surrounded by the
same measure of protection as is accorded to other classes of property.
      Your committee therefore recommend that the bill do pass.

      Mr. DRAPER. Mr. Speaker, the report which has just been
read fully explains the purpose of this bill. It was very fully
considered by the Committee on Patents of this House, and unani-
mously reported. It has also been considered by the same com-
mittee in the Senate, and has passed that body. I do not suppose
there will be need of discussing the measure at length, and I do
not care to do so unless it is necessary. I call for a vote.
      Mr. HOPKINS. One moment, Mr. Speaker. I do not desire
to antagonize the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. DRAPER] ;
but there are some features in this bill which I think the House
should understand before voting on the measure. If I under-
stood correctly the reading of the bill, it authorizes the filing of
a bill in the circuit court of the United States in the city of New
York, and under that proceeding that court would be permitted
to serve notice upon a company performing, say, in San Francisco,
and that company, 3,000 miles away, might have their rights de-
termined by a judge in New York City.
      There is another remarkable feature in this bill which I ob-
served by the reading. If I understand the measure—and the
gentleman from Massachusetts will correct me if I am wrong—it
provides that one part of the case may be tried in New York and
the other part in San Francisco, or anywhere else where there
may be a court of the United States; so that the same case may
be pending in several courts at the same time. That would be a
clear invasion of the principle that has heretofore prevailed in all
cases, in both the Federal and the State courts.
      There is another point in this bill which is a little remarkable.
It fixes the amount of penalty to be inflicted at not less than $100
in any case, regardless of the question whether the party has been
damaged to that extent or not.
      Mr. LACEY. That corresponds with the present law as to
dramatic performances—that is to say, the liquidated damages are
$50 and $100 under the present law as to dramatic performances.
      Mr. HOPKINS. If that is true, it does not apply to any other
species of property.
      Mr. LACEY. No.
      Mr. HOPKINS. The general principle, as every lawyer under-
stands, is that when a person claims damages for an infringement
of his property rights he must show in the court where his" case is
commenced the amount of damages that he has sustained. But
this bill provides that this sum shall be paid as damages regard-
less of the question whether the party has been injured to that
extent or not.
      As I have said, I do. not care to antagonize my friend from
Massachusetts, but I think the House should understand the char-
acter of this bill before voting upon it. It proposes in behalf of


Our Partners

Copyright statement

You may copy and distribute the translations and commentaries in this resource, or parts of such translations and commentaries, in any medium, for non-commercial purposes as long as the authorship of the commentaries and translations is acknowledged, and you indicate the source as Bently & Kretschmer (eds), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) (www.copyrighthistory.org).

You may not publish these documents for any commercial purposes, including charging a fee for providing access to these documents via a network. This licence does not affect your statutory rights of fair dealing.

Although the original documents in this database are in the public domain, we are unable to grant you the right to reproduce or duplicate some of these documents in so far as the images or scans are protected by copyright or we have only been able to reproduce them here by giving contractual undertakings. For the status of any particular images, please consult the information relating to copyright in the bibliographic records.

Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) is co-published by Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK and CREATe, School of Law, University of Glasgow, 10 The Square, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK