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Allen Poe had written that poem which Morgan paid $15,000 for, the original manuscript at that time.
You all remember in school books, General Wolf before the capture of Quebec was reciting Gray's Elegy, and he said he would rather have written that poem than to succeed in capturing Quebec.
Gentlemen, it took Gray about 20 years to write that poem.
I am referring now to the length of copyrights. I think every author hopes, it is his ambition, that he may write something which is worthy to contribute to human civilization and literature and that will outlast his life and live on. Whether he will succeed or not is in the hands of the gods, but that is his ambition.
There are two things: I think it is the general conception thatthis comes down to the nature of the author's work—we are concerned with copyrights. What is a copyright? It is a recognition in the Constitution of the arts and sciences, that these shall be protected. We begin then with what? Creation. We begin with a little seed which must grow and that must come into being. It is a little like farming. You have to plant the seed first in order to have it grow, and when it does grow, you can market it, and you gentlemen who are publishers are concerned with marketing it in the right way. But it first has to be created.
You will remember Walt Whitman and his saying about loafing and inviting one's soul. That loafing is very, very hard work.
The reason I touch upon these things of Poe and Gray and Whitman is this: That they gave their works which have lasted and which were the result of exceedingly hard work, work, however, which did not come to the surface until it came to the moment of publication.
I refer to having published about 50 volumes. I was first published in 1903. I want to point out what seems to me a defect in the present law which may be bettered. It is the renewal of contract; that is, 28 years, plus 28 years.
Twenty-nine years I published my first book which is selling. Every year now, as I publish about an average of two a year, I must think and be careful to see what month 28 years ago I published that and renew it, and if I am sick or not here, that may lapse. At the present time I have to think what was the thing published 28 years ago and attend to that, or hire a lawyer to do it. That seems to me something that might be bettered.
If we might have 58 years, or say, 60 years, as an outright thing to be determined on, it would achieve this. It would enable an author to go through that period of incubation which every author has to go through, with the feeling that he can create his work and yet that that will be protected long enough to support his family and perhaps the beginning of his grandchildren, and then it should be the public domain. He wrote it for the public domain. He wants it for that. But he wants it to live on. But two things he has to protect, himself and his family meanwhile.
The CHAIRMAN. Take Thanatopsis. That was written at the age of 18. If you had 60 years, that would give it completely for the life of the author?
Mr. MacKAYE. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. In the past the law states we give the author the right for 28 years with a renewal right of 28. That means every
author has 56 years at the present time within which to live on his copyright; is that right?
Mr. MacKAYE. That is right.
The CHAIRMAN. In speaking to several Members of Congress regarding the wish of many authors who have spoken to me, who wanted it for the lifetime of the author, plus 50 years thereafter, it seems many Members of Congress and the Senate were opposed to that because it would make the Government of the United States an investigator to find out the mortality tables of every author, to find out when he died and where he did. We have no tables on that. I think the suggestion that many Members of the Senate made to ine, that it should be for 60 years, would be agreeable to them. Would that be suitable to you authors and poets?
Mr. MacKAYE. Judging by the consensus of those with whom I have talked, it would. I used to think the other way, but I think that the certainty and security of the 60 years is something in its favor.
The CHAIRMAN. With no renewals?
Mr. MacKAYE. In case we get also these other three things that you mentioned.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean copyright in your own name, the right to assign, and the right to license?
Mr. MacKayE. In that case, I think the authors would be bettered.
Mr. STOWE. I am a magazine writer of literature and also have written four books. I am asked to tell you to-day not about what I have done, which does not amount to much, but about an ancestor of mine. An old man got up in my grandfather's church 50 years ago and said: “I don't care to get notoriety, but I have been to Boston.” I do not care to get any notoriety, but I happen to be the grandson of the woman who wrote the best-selling book in America and who, I believe, still holds the record. The book was called Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The CHAIRMAN. Harriett Beecher Stowe?
Mr. STOWE. Yes, sir; and I have estimated that the sale has been between 10,000,000 and 11,000,000 copies.
The CHAIRMAN. That book is supposed to have inspired Abraham Lincoln to write his emancipation proclamation.
Mr. STOWE. Yes; and probably two-thirds of the sale occurred during her lifetime. Seven or eight million copies were sold outside of the United States. On those sales she received nothing, not a dollar.
The CHAIRMAN. On the seven or eight million books? Mr. STOWE. Seven or eight million books; she received nothing. When, as you all know, it was dramatized—a year ago I was out in Hollywood and a man showed me a newspaper article saying that the longest run in history had just come to an end; the play that ran 77 years had just been taken off the boards. Don Marquis, who sent you a telegram yesterday, happened to be with me and said: “I will bet that is not true. I will bet it is running somewhere now.”. And, sure enough, a correspondent the next week wrote in to the
same newspaper and said: “ Uncle Tom's Cabin is running in our town.” She got nothing on that—I will not say nothing
Mr. Rich. It was running in Williamsport last week.
Mr. STOWE. By the way, speaking about remuneration, I understand the fellow that dramatized it got a gold watch. That is all he ever got.
When it came to Hartford where she lived in her old age she got her only remuneration. They sent her a box to go and see it. She took her neighbor, Charles Dudley Warner, as an escort, and he always said afterwards that she could not follow the plot; he had to explain it to her.
It is said to have been produced more times than any other play in the world. On it she received nothing.
You gentlemen may say: “What in the world is the relevancy of all this talk about something that happened 80 years ago to our problem to-day?” That is just the tragedy of the situation. It should not be relevant, but it is relevant, because the law to-day, while it has been tinkered with and improved in certain details, is essentially just as ineffective and cumbersome as it was then; and if my grandmother to-day wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin and got it copyrighted under the present law, I believe that she would be defrauded out of the fruits of her labors essentially as she was then. She was just the kind of a person who would be defrauded if she could be, because she knew nothing about business. If possible, her husband knew less. They had no money, and therefore they could not hire expert advice.
I want to see a law passed that will protect the author of the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the future.
The CHAIRMAN. Are you in favor of the three fundamental requests that the authors made of us yesterday, as enunciated at the beginning of this meeting this morning?
Mr. STOWE. I am, sir. I believe them to be absolutely essential as the foundation for the protection of the authors.
I want to say that two years before my grandmother died, when she was very old and sick and under very heavy medical expense, the main part of her income was cut off, namely, the royalties from Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her copyright had expired, and although her publishers generously continued to pay her royalties, they did not amount to anything because of the innumerable cheap editions that were immediately rushed on to the market, so she was penalized in her old age for having written a book that was vigorous 42 years after it was published.
While, of course, it would be less possible for that to happen under the present law, it still would be barely possible, and that possibility ought to be obliterated.
The CHAIRMAN. To recapitulate your remarks, then, for the record, your grandmother was Harriett Beecher Stowe; she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, and during her lifetime received practically nothing; she died practically penniless, never receiving a cent from the product of her brain ?
Mr. STOWE. Pardon me, sir. No; she got a 10 per cent royalty on every copy sold in this country, and that was between three and four million copies. You see that was a considerable sum of money, but she never got anything on the seven or eight million sold outside this country, nor did she get anything on the dramatic rights, and it was said that was produced more than any other play in the world.
The CHAIRMAN. Why did she not get anything on the dramatic rights?
Mr. STOWE. She did not have any dramatic copyright. Whether she could have gotten one under the conditions that then existed, I am not clear.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think if she had gone to court she could have pressed her right?
Mr. Stowe. On that I am not clear. Anyway, her rights were so obscure, if they existed, they did not protect her in that domain.
Mr. GOODWIN. She may have had rights which she did not assert or failed to assert?
Mr. StowE. I think if she had been advised by a good copyright lawyer she could have had her dramatic rights protected.
The CHAIRMAN. We are now going to call the book publishers, Mr. Frederick G. Melcher, for the National Association of Book Publishers and chairman of the association's special committee on copyright.
STATEMENT OF FREDERICK G. MELCHER, REPRESENTING THE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOOK PUBLISHERS
Mr. MELCHER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, my name is Frederick G. Melcher, I am vice president of the R. R. Melcher Co., publishers, and chairman of the copyright committee of the National Association of Book Publishers, of some 75 members, which represents, as national organizations do, that aspect of publishing which takes the authors' or their own material and puts it in book form. There is a National Publishers' Association which covers periodicals, so I emphasize the difference.
I would not want to bother you to read into the record the names of the members, but I think it not inappropriate to show the variety of the use of the material, and I shall have part of what I wish to put forward in connection with the present bill read into the record by others of the delegation.
We are represented here by Joseph Wharton Lippincott, the head of Lippincott, for 100 years publishers in Philadelphia; William Bissell of Harper Bros., 100 years publishers in New York; and W. 0. Tufts, of Rand-McNally in Chicago, representing a different kind of publishing, but equally well known.
If I should read some of the other names, you would recognize we represent old firms, like Appleton and Lowell & Brown, Henry Holt, Dorset & Dunlop, University of Chicago Press, thus taking everything that would usually be considered in book form.
As the first presentation on this subject, and I shall like to summarize when they are through, I shall ask Mr. Joseph Wharton Lippincott to present some aspects of it.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH WHARTON LIPPINCOTT, REPRESENTING
THE BOOK PUBLISHERS' ASSOCIATION
Mr. LIPPINCOTT. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, my name is Joseph W. Lippincott, president of J. B. Lippincott, General Publishers,
Philadelphia, and also a member of the special copyright committee of the National Association of Book Publishers.
Incidentally, I might say that I am the author of six published books and the J. B. Lippincott Co., in addition to its book publications in all fields of distribution throughout the world, has two medical magazines.
The situation just now apparently devolves itself into whether the publishers are backing the authors on their views as to the need for new copyright legislation to correct the old bill, and I can say emphatically that the publishers are certainly with the authors on this, absolutely, and not against them. There is a need to protect the authors' rights. It is not going to injure the publishers, as we see it at the present time. It is not right that the authors should be dependent on the generosity, so to speak of the original copyright holder as at present for certain subsidiary rights which have nothing to do with publishing.
What the publishers require, of course, is license to those rights which concern them particularly, and which they can secure from from the author in such a way as to be able to protect themselves without having to have the author depend upon the original copyright holder, who has the rights, to restore to him the subsidiary rights. The author has to revert, so to speak, for his ability to defend what he considers his rights, on the copyright of the original owner.
The CHAIRMAN. On that question, Mr. Lippincott, it seems every distinguished president of every society in the Authors' League of America when they were here yesterday, speaking one after another, enunciated three thoughts, which I understand you, as the President of J. B. Lippincott Co. approve of; first, that the copyright be in the name of the author.
Mr. LIPPINCOTT. That is perfectly all right.
The CHAIRMAN. Second, that the author shall have the right to assign his property to anyone he pleases, providing that assignment and the copyright are registered in the Copyright Office in Washington.
Mr. LIPPINCOTT. You speak of registering. Do not let any ch technicality creep into the law if you want it perfect.
The CHAIRMAN. We want it perfected to please you in every way and to protect your rights, but when a person assigns a piece of property to you, we want to feel it is given to you without any defect in it whatsoever.
Mr. LIPPINCOTT. The technicality in regard to registry is one that is liable to make difficulty, and has made a great deal of difficulty in the past. There is a great chance of loss between the creation of a work and the actual sending of the copy for registry to some Federal bureau.
The CHAIRMAN. We are going to have it in Washington here, the same as we have in the patents.
Mr. Dies. How can that cause any trouble ?
The CHAIRMAN. You have to record a deed when you buy a piece of property
Nr. Dies. There has to be some method of providing for constructive notice, otherwise you would not be protected.