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have tuned in many a time on the radio and did not know whether I was listening to a mechanical device or not until in the end I found it was a mechanical device from the announcement. What is your opinion on that, Mr. De Wolf?
Mr. DE WOLF. If you will pardon me, Mr. Chairman, I prefer not to express any opinion. That is a highly controversial matter, and we feel in the Copyright Office we should remain neutral in regard to these controversies.
The CHAIRMAN. But, you will agree it is a matter that ought to be taken up!
Mr. DE WOLF. Well, as I said awhile ago, there are those two conflicting and opposing views. One is the author has a natural right
The CHAIRMAN. And following your reasons, your a priori reasoning, I think we can go on, since the natural rights have been taken away, and we have circumscribed the author with statutory rules, and since this has come through statutory regulation, the only thing I can see is to put something in the statutory regulation that will give protection where it ought to be given.
Mr. DE WOLF. That is for your committee in its wisdom and judgment to decide.
The CHAIRMAN. We will next hear Mr. Thorvald Solberg, for 30 years register of copyrights and author of numerous works on copyright.
STATEMENT OF THORVALD SOLBERG, FORMER REGISTER OF
Mr. SOLBERG. Mr. Chairman, the last general revision of our copyright laws went into force on July 1, 1909.
Since that date six amendatory copyright acts have been passed : First, to include motion pictures in the list of works protected; second, to provide for the inclusion of additional facts in the copyright certificate; third, to require the deposit of only one copy in lieu of two in the case of a work by a foreign author published abroad; fourth, to extend the term of ad interim copyright protection from thirty days to four months; fifth, to secure protection for works which, though not printed from type set, are nevertheless published and sold; and sixth, to increase the copyright registration fee from $1 to $2, and the subscription price of the printed Catalogue and Index of Copyright Registrations from $5 to $10 the year.
During the period since 1909 many changes have occurred which have affected not only the interests of authors—the creators of the works protected by copyright--but also the material interests of those who exploit the author's work. We have thus reached the time when three things in relation to literary and artistic property are demanded:
First, copyright amendment; second, copyright reform; and, third, copyright advancement. As regards copyright amendment, many bills have been issued from this committee proposing changes in our copyright laws, and these have been discussed at various public hearings before the House and Senate Committee on Patents. The arguments for and against the alterations proposed have been printed in the stenographic reports of these hearings and may there be studied.
I do not propose to discuss them now; but only to very briefly enumerate them. The principal proposals may be stated to be:
First, the substitution for our present common law or equity protection of an author's unpublished manuscript-automatic, statutory copyright from the date of the creation of the author's work; second, the enactment of so-called “ divisible copyright," namely, provisions for the legal separation of the various rights comprised in copyright, so that each may be dealt with separately and singly and the copyright owner may be permitted to dispose of any part of his general copyright.
The CHAIRMAN. Instead of the divisibility feature of the copyright law, which gives an author the right, according to this contention, to divide the copyright into as many component parts as the human mind can conceive, could we not protect the author by giving him the right, once he secures his copyright, to license anyone for any part of his composition ?
Mr. SOLBERG. I think he has it
The CHAIRMAN. Follow me, and by registering that license with the register of copyrights, which protects the licensee to the extent that he needs protection. For example, I write a play. There is a bone of contention between the dramatic producer as to what belongs to the drama. If under the divisibility part of the copyright the author had the right to say: “ This is for motion pictures and this is for dramatic rights, this is for scenario, and this is for stock rights, and this for radio rights,” you could go on ad infinitum. But if the author, having the copyright in his name, says to X: “I will give you a license to produce the dramatic part only and you can record that license with the register, wherein the contract between you and I is there for the world to know," doesn't that give him the same right as giving him the right to divisibility, when he has the right to license and register? Because producers of dramatic products have come here to say that if the author has the copyright in his name, and he disappeared, they can not produce it. They have to look all over the world for him. But having the thing licensed and registered with the Register of Copyrights, he can go into court and protect himself no matter where the author is.
Mr. SOLBERG. I think any answer to that question to be fairly adequate would carry us very far. There is much more, I think, concerned in it than appears on the surface. Now, I will frankly state that what I read to you here has grown out of 50 years' thought and activity in relation to copyright, and it is primarily an activity in relation to the official end of it. That is the Bureau of Registration, and I shall probably surprise you somewhat by the deductions I have been obliged to make from my own experience in relation to deposit, registration, and the indexing of claims of literary properties. I absolutely do not believe in it. The world has abandoned it. The United States is a hundred years behind the rest of the world, and we must come ultimately to the same point. We can not go on as we are in view of the enormous development that is taking place in the United States and depend upon machinery so weak, so inadequate, and inevitably so, as present copyright registration. I will come to that later on.
Second, the enactment of so-called " divisible copyright," namely, provisions for the legal separation of the various rights comprised
in copyright, so that each may be dealt with separately and singly and the copyright owner may be permitted to dispose of any part of his general copyright-such as the 'right of dramatization or translation, or of the use of the author's work for a motion picture, or for first or serial publication, etc., instead of being subject to the present highly inconvenient necessity of parting with his whole copyright in order to transfer some special part thereof; third, abrogation of the fixed royalty for the use of copyright music for mechanical reproduction.
May I right here call your attention to the narrow range of these amendments, only three in number.
In order for the United States to adhere to the international copyright convention of 1928, as now proposed, certain other amendments to our copyright laws are required in order to make their provisions accord with the articles of convention. Briefly enumerated, they are as follows:
Copyright must be extended to works of architecture, choreographic works and pantomimes; the exclusive right of the author must be secured to communicaté his work for profit to the public by any system of broadcasting, and there must be accorded to the author, even after the assignment of the copyright in his work, the right at all times to claim the authorship of that work and to oppose every distortion, mutilation, or other modification of it, which might be prejudicial to his honor or to his reputation, and the power to restrain the publication of the mutilated work.
That is the whole list of new legislative amendments proposed as well as all amendments required in order to enter the copyright union,
In my opinion all these amendments should be suitably incorporated into our copyright law.
Second, copyright reform. Our first copyright crisis culminated in 1890, when our reading and thinking public revolted against the long continued literary piracy which had developed by reason of the provision in our first Federal copyright act of 1790, reading as follows:
Nothing in this act shall be construed to extend to prohibit the importation or vending, reprinting or publishing within the United States, of any map, chart, book or books, written or printed, or published by any person not a citizen of the United States, in foreign parts or places, without the jurisdiction of the United States.
Legislation was demanded to remove this blemish in our law and resulted in the act of March 3, 1891, which by the simple expedient of eliminating from the copyright statute the words which limited protection in the United States to works by citizens of the United States or residents therein, made it at least possible in principle for foreign authors to claim legal protection for their books in the United States.
But it was not at that time merely a question of the textual amendment of our law; it was a moral issue brought sharply to the cons cience of our people by the public press, and to Congress at the copyright hearings by our distinguished poet Lowell in his verse:
In vain we call old notions fudge,
And bend our conscience to our dealing;
And stealing will continue stealing.
But while the act of 1891, by statutory construction, extended to the foreign author's book legal protection in the United States, it was conditioned upon the printing of his book within the United States. That obligation has continued for the 40 years elapsed and is the law to-day, except that the copyright act of 1909 released from this obligation the foreign author's book when printed in a language other than English.
The CHAIRMAN. But while it works to the inconvenience of the British author, it works a great inconvenience on the American printer who finds foreign printing coming in and competing with him to the extent of dislocating his economic condition. So it is a question whether you are going to help one author or put thousands of working people out of business.
Mr. SOLBERG. I have been 33 years the register of copyrights. I have yet failed to have brought to my attention any evidence of any existence of foreign printing in relation to copyrighted books.
The CHAIRMAN. That was the protest of the American Federation of Labor at our last hearing.
Mr. SOLBERG. They came to my office and asked permission to make a detailed examination. They spent weeks. They had the Catalogues of Copyrights so that they could check every entry between any given dates. They had access to every copy deposited. In the end they thought they had discovered a book printed in Canada which bore the publication plate of Boston; but after correspondence it was explained that the book was actually printed in Boston.
When the act of 1891 went into effect it covered every book, foreign and American and English; but after a time the American printer discovered that he was not getting any foreign printing. He was not getting the opportunity to print the foreign book, the book in a foreign language, because they could not afford to make two editions. It was over the signature of the president of the Typographical Union that the change was made in the act of 1909, releasing these books. It was after many conversations between myself and Mr. Lynch that he agreed that the contention was correct that they were not getting business; but probably failing to secure business by this mandatory requirement of printing.
his requirement is not based upon any copyright principle. It must be entirely eliminated from our copyright legislation if that legislation is to rest upon sound principles.
There is also a moral issue here. During all these years we have said to the English author, “Yes; we will give you legal protection for your book in the United States, but only upon the condition that you give to an American printer the job of printing it."
It has been estimated that something like 85 per cent of all British books produced since 1891 have failed to secure copyright protection in the United States and such failure has brought large losses upon British authors, especially, since the introduction of motion pictures.
The CHAIRMÁN. Was not that done for the benefit of American labor?
Mr. SOLBERG. Certainly, but that is not copyright. This obligatory American printing must be abrogated so far as concerns the books of foreign authors
The CHAIRMAN. How do you think the American Federation of Labor would stand on that principle?
Mr. SOLBERG. They will speak for themselves..
Mr. Dies. How does it work great inconvenience on the British author if we give him the right to come into the United States! Does it work a great inconvenience on him under the present law?
Mr. SOLBERG. Undoubtedly.
The natural laws of trade take care of it. When the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the new edition, was to be printed, the English publishers felt greatly distressed. They have taken for many years now every opportunity to protect themselves in their rights. They sent a man from England to my desk with copies for the registration of the claim of ad interim copyright, pending the printing of the book in America. His only errand to the United States was to be able to testify that he had come to me and delivered those books to me and received proper acknowledgment. They printed the book in Chicago. After it was well under way the agent of the Britannica company said to me:
Mr. Solberg, you know it involves a great expense, but it has been demonstrated that we had to print the work in America. We could not supply the demand from subscribers. The printing press in England was not sufficient.
That printing would not have needed any obligation. It was done anyway.
The CHAIRMAN. Did it work a hardship on them?
The CHAIRMAN. But it put thousands of printers to work printing their editions in Chicago, did it not?
Mr. SOLBERG. Very well, but my contention is that that would have followed anyhow. It is the natural course of the publishing business. The result of the operation of the law has been that thousands, hundreds of thousands of authors have lost their literary property, and when now they are offered large sums for the use of their books for motion pictures if they can give a copyright title, they have to say, “I was young when I wrote that book. I couldn't afford to print two editions. I couldn't arrange for an American edition, and I simply have lost my rights.”
That is where the moral question comes in. You do not ask an American citizen, or compel him to have all his clothes made in America. We do it.
I say later on, and I will repeat it here, publishers have their own presses and they use them. The normal thing is for the American author to print his book in the United States. He doesn't go to Mexico, nor even to Canada, and he certainly doesn't go to Europe. There may be special exceptions.
I had a case brought to my notice this summer by one of the eastern universities. They are preparing a very valuable and expensive work. It is to be illustrated by reproductions of certain art things that they have at the university. They are so concerned about this that they are sending an individual to Germany to have this work done. He is to wait until it is done and bring it back. They forfeit their legal rights for taking a perfectly natural action. Why? I am hoping to bring out here rather abruptly, rather concisely, the thought that when we go outside of the principle of the protection of the author's product we are entrapped into this kind of thing. May I continue
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.