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GENERAL REVISION OF THE COPYRIGHT LAW
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1932
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C.
The CHAIRMAN. The meeting will be called to order.
I am going to call upon Mr. H. B. Meyer, director of legislative reference service, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
I would like to tell the committee that it is now just 10 o'clock. I will have to leave at 20 minutes to 12, therefore, I will respectfully request each member who is going to speak here to confine himself to his subject so I can hear them all.
STATEMENT OF H. B. MEYER, LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE SERV.
ICE, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Mr. MEYER. I appear here this morning in my capacity as a private individual and also as a spokesman for the American Council of Learned Societies, and in that capacity I wish to say that I defend the right of a scholar to import a single copy of a book published abroad for his own use, and not for sale, simply by paying the duty.
The two bills, H. R. 139 and S. 176, both provide
The CHAIRMAN (interposing). We have no bills before the committee. We are just trying to get information that will help us to write a modern, up-to-date copyright bill.
Mr. MEYER. I would like to correct that.
The CHAIRMAN. Tell us what you want us to do and we will respect your judgment. I would rather have your judgment than that of some Member of Congress who has not made a study of it.
Mr. MEYER. Various suggestions have been made to place restrictions around importations. They are making the method of importing a book so cumbersome that no scholar will take the time or trouble to do it.
The CHAIRMAN. What would you suggest ? Mr. MEYER. Leave the present copyright act, so far as the individual is concerned, just as before, that any individual has the right to import a single copy for his own use, not for sale, provided he pays the duty.
The CHAIRMAN. That is what you would like to say?
Mr. MEYER. Yes, sir. Do you want any reason for that? I can make it very brief by referring to what I said last year at the hearing.
The CHAIRMAN. Give us the high lights of the hearing so we can have it for the record.
Mr. MEYER. The reason we want to import is because the English book is better made. There are two examples indicating several books).
The CHAIRMAN. Who has been objecting to the importation of English books for the learned scholar?
Mr. MEYER. The publishers; that is why they introduced these clauses in the bills.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you found the publishers objecting to these things, Mr. Vestal ?
Mr. VESTAL. Yes; they have objected.
The CHAIRMAN. Why do they object to the importation of English books?
Mr. VESTAL. The committee last year thought the provision gave ample opportunity for the bringing in of books necessary, and at the same time protected the manufacturers of the books published in this country. That is, that there is no provision in this bill that I introduced to prevent the importation of books, but you must get them through the American publishers. That is the only difference.
The CHAIRMAN. If I want to get a learned book on medicine, I must ask an American publisher for that book, and I would get it just the same as if I sent for it myself?
Mr. MEYER. But it won't work out that way. Here is an example: This book appeared at the end of 1930. It is a book on Shakespeare; the latest indexed book on Shakespeare. We had a meeting of the Shakespeare Society in December, 1930, and I wanted to present certain matter in this book to that society. If I had gone through the long rigmarole defined in the bill, I should not have gotten it in time and I should have had to pay $4 more than if I had to buy it through the English dealer. The American price is $15, the English price is $11.
Mr. Dies. My opinion is you will have to be very drastic. I believe that an author who publishes a book anywhere is entitled to sell it anywhere. There may be duties required and there may be formalities, but he is not to be barred, as is proposed, from the importation or the exportation of his book to America unless the printers of the American edition are willing.
The CHAIRMAN. This is not printed by an American company. This is printed by a European company. There is no American edition here.
Mr. MEYER. These books (pointing to the Shakespeare volumes] sold in America are changed in only one respect, the title-page, with the address, Oxford University Press, American branch, Fifth Avenue, New York. The books were printed over there, with that in the title-page. What do the American publishers do to the book to warrant their charging $4 more?
The CHAIRMAN. So few scholars import books from abroad that they should not be prevented from getting a book as quickly as they
That is the sum and substance of what you ask? Mr. MEYER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. How many books do you think that might affect in the whole United States in the course of a year?
Mr. MEYER. A few hundred; the most scholarly books or those for the pure book lover.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree with you thoroughly and I am in sympathetic accord with you. I know, as a student, what it means to get a book when I can not buy it here, but you don't think that it would open the door and be instrumental in harming American labor or American publishers ?
Mr. MEYER. Not at all; we don't want to import fiction.
Mr. MEYER. The duty on this is 15 per cent, and the final cost to me of importing the English book was $11. The publisher's price is 42 shillings.
Mr. Dres. If those books were sold at that price, plus the 15 per cent duty, do you think there would be more of them used in this country than the 200 you mentioned?
Mr. MEYER. Undoubtedly; because the scholar wants it and he ought to be encouraged and not have the burden of having the extra price put on it. They are not wealthy men and ought not be so hindered.
Mr. DIES. The scholars would like to have the books but the scholar must also think of the American laborer who must have a job.
Mr. MEYER. Why don't they make a distinction and say you must not import fiction? Such books are manufactured in large quantities. These books are not.
The CHAIRMAN. The American scholar who imports these books needs them for reference in order to be able to write himself.
Mr. MEYER. Exactly.
The CHAIRMAN. I am thoroughly in sympathy with the gentleman. I don't think a couple of hundred books would hurt American labor and it would help hundreds of thousands of books when completed.
Mr. MEYER. I am not here in my official capacity. I am here as a private citizen.
The CHAIRMAN. But you are director of the legislative' reference service in the Congressional Library?
Mr. MEYER. Yes, sir.
Mr. VESTAL. Simply to clear this matter up, I think the gentleman is absolutely wrong in his statement as to what the proposed legislation intended to do. There has been quite a good bit of discussion about this particular thing and the libraries of the country finally agreed upon the proposition in this bill that was introduced two years ago. I do not understand if I want to buy a book published in England and not published here, that it costs me a cent more to get that book through the American publishers than it does to get it directly from England. The only difference is that you must go through the American publishers but you don't have to pay a cent more. I want that matter cleared up. You don't have to pay more for the book but you must get it through the American publishers.
The CHAIRMAN. If you purchased through American publishers a book that was published in Europe, could you purchase it for the same price in America ?
Mr. MEYER. No; it is almost invariably higher.
Mr. VESTAL. I am not talking about what he is doing. I am talking about the bill we had last year, which was passed by the House. Under that bill it would not cost you a cent more.
The CHAIRMAN. You agree in substance with the gentleman?
Mr. VESTAL. If the bill was passed in the House, passed the Senate and became a law, this gentleman could have purchased a book published in England without costing him a cent more, by buying it through the American publisher. Isn't that true?
Mr. MEYER. Quite true. There is a difference in that there are so many points for dispute. “I shall have to pay so much for transportation,” and now we pay simply the postage, book post. This is rigamarole because it is so long and lengthy, so many points you can get into dispute over. Suppose I had gone through the procedure with these two books if the law had been in force, I should have written to the American publisher, and who he is I should not know without writing to the Copyright Office.
The CHAIRMAN. You don't agree with Mr. Vestal?
Mr. VESTAL. This gentleman could have purchased the book that was published in England without costing him a cent more, by buying it through the American publishers. Mr. MEYER. Yes.
So far as the American Council of Learned Societies is concerned, the council at its final meeting on the 30th of January, only a short time ago, registered a unanimous vote and it was agreed that the council should circularize all the learned societies, numbering in all fully 25,000 members. There was not a dissenting vote there. Each society was represented by two members and each society will circularize its members to protest against this very feature of the bill.
The CHAIRMAN. I think we will be able to get together. It is only a small matter. Would you be willing to present a brief to the committee?
Mr. MEYER. Yes; I should be very glad to. It will also include the resolutions passed by the learned societies.
The CHAIRMAN. You may include them.
STATEMENT OF JOHN G. PAINE, REPRESENTING THE MUSIC
PUBLISHERS' PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION
Mr. PAINE. I am chairman of the board of the Music Publishers Protective Association, 1501 Broadway, New York City.
First of all, I am extremely happy to be here; extremely interested in this procedure. I think that the age-old question of whether the hen should come before the egg or the egg should come before the hen is settled. I like the idea of copyright hearings before a bill, because I feel that the committee, in endeavoring to work out a solution of this very conflicting and intricate question of copyright, is desirous of having before it all the thought it can have relative to the subject in order that they may intelligently put into language what they believe is for the best interests of the Nation as a whole.