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STATEMENT OF JOSEPH B. BICKERTON, JR., REPRESENTING THE
AUTHORS' LEAGUE OF AMERICA
Mr. BICKERTON. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee on Patents of the House, it is my understanding that this is a hearing for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the present copyright bill contains benefits or detriments to those dealing in literary property, and particularly whether there are things that should be given to you on behalf of those interested in literary property so that should you enact new legislation such ideas may be incorporated therein.
Speaking on behalf of the Authors' League, and speaking purely from the standpoint of the creator, and believing that as authors it was the thought of the framers of the Constitution of these United States that they were particularly singled out, together with inventors, for the protection of the Congress and for the protection by law of a monopoly for a limited time.
From time to time the Congress in its endeavors to, perhaps, fulfill the constitutional provision has given to authors that protection, but there has crept into the law, crept into the method of the operaion of that law, certain errors. We have a long list of speakers here who will undoubtedly point out in detail these respective difficulties that they have met with. I shall therefore only address my. self to three salient features. One will be that copyrights should and ought to exist only in an author primarily.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, the basic concept of the Authors' League of America is that the copyright should belong to the author and be in his name at all times?
Mr. BICKERTON. Absolutely; and that at all times he should be the only one recognized to have the right of copyright, save and except thereafter he may, this being the second point, assign and transfer, if he shall so elect, that right by the recordation of that assignment as may be prescribed in the law.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, the second concept in which you people are interested is that having the copyright in his name the author must have the opportunity, through mandatory legislation, to record and register that copyright in the Copyright Office ?
Mr. BICKERTON. Exactly.
Mr. BICKERTON. Quite right. To the end, Mr. Chairman, that the condition that now exists, which is that oftentimes the author, and when I use the word "author" I mean the creator of literature—he might even be a composer of music, a lyricist; he might be a dramatist; he might be a narrative writer—to the end that he shall not, when he desires to grant away some interest, be compelled to permit the person who acquired that interest to secure the copyright and thus have legal title to the entirety of something that he never intended they should have, except a portion thereof. It places the author in the position of always seeking—always seeking the aid of some one who has no real right except to the particular thing that the author has given him.
Coming to the next point, if it be less than a complete assignment, we have in mind the right of license, and that the licensee shall be fully protected in the extent and to the extent of the thing
he acquires by the recordation of the license; thus leaving to the author not a parting with the entirety of his copyright but always retaining the ownership of his copyright and parting with only that which he has licensed, the license being protected by recordation of such license.
The CHAIRMAN. So that the third concept the authors of America want is the privilege of taking part of their copyrighted product and licensing any individual for the whole or any part of it, providing that license or contract is registered and recorded in the Copyright Office at Washington?
Mr. BICKERTON. Quite correct. We feel on those three main points, as they may be later ramified and extended, and explained in detail by subsequent speakers, that we will at least have laid a foundation for that very monopoly, if you choose to use that word, that full protection, that it was intended by the framers of the Constitution that authors should always have.
On the question of whether copyright should be automatic, whether there should be some formality connected with it, that is a matter that subsequent speakers will go into detail on with you I feel that if you will give this consideration to the author on those three points then at least we will have had a basis for that which the authors have longed for for a long time and feel they have not had.
The CHAIRMAN. Then it is your conception that if Congress, through the Committee on Patents and Copyrights, revises our copyright law to the extent of granting to the author' three fundamental principles: First, copyright of the author's product of his mind in his own name; second, the privilege to him to assign that copyright to whomever he wishes, provided it is registered in the copyright office; third, the right to license to any individual that the author may wish his copyrighted product, either in whole or in part, provided that it is registered in the Copyright Office in Washington, which all would be an emancipation of the authors of America.
Mr. BICKERTON. I do. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. We will now call upon Mrs. Inez Haynes Irwin, president of the Authors' League of America.
STATEMENT OF MRS. INEZ HAYNES IRWIN, PRESIDENT
AUTHORS' LEAGUE OF AMERICA
Mrs. Irwin. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am here to tell you how the Authors' League came into being, and what it stands for. In the year 1912 a shock of terror went through the hearts of all the authors in America, because of a certain decision made by the Supreme Court. That was in the case of Dem v. Lasalle.
The CHAIRMAN. May I interrupt you a moment, Mrs. Irwin? Mrs. IRWIN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. You say you are president of the Authors' League?
Mrs. IRWIN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. What kind of a league is it, and who are the members of that league? Will you explain that to the members
of the committee, since other members of the committee who are not here will read the report, and other Members of Congress, perhaps, who will want to know who the Authors' League is composed of.
Mrs. IRWIN. I was coming to that, but if you would rather have it now, I will tell you.
The CHAIRMAN. I think we would rather have it in the beginning.
Mrs. IRWIN. The Authors' League of America consists of over 2,000 authors; it is divided into three guilds, the Dramatists' Guild, the Screen Writers' Guild, and the Author's Guild. The Author's Guild contains in its lists all those authors who are not dramatists and who do not write for the moving pictures. In other words, the novelists, the story writers, the poets,
the essayists, the historians, the philosophers, the textbook writers, and so forth. We also have a membership at large, which contains those people who do not quite qualify to come into the other guilds. There might be, for instance, a publisher, who would be both a publisher and an author, and as an author he belongs in the Authors' League and also to the membership at large. Amongst these 2,000 authors are the names of nearly 100 per cent of the best-known authors in the country. There are also the names of young and beginning writers.
There are members of the Dramatists' Guild here to-day who will speak for the Dramatists' Guild. Shall I go on, Mr. Chairman? The CHAIRMAN. Go right ahead.
Mrs. IRWIN. This decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Dem v. Lasalle held that thereafter the first person to copyright any bit of literary material owned all the rights to it. That meant, to make it concrete, if any author sold a story or a serial to a magazine, for instance, the editor of the magazine who copyrighted it, and rightfully so, owned the book rights, the dramatic rights, the moving-picture rights, the foreign rights, the second serial rights, the radio rights-although radio had not then come into being to such an extent--and any other rights which would thereafter appear.
Thereupon the authors banded together into this league, which has grown steadily stronger and stronger until, as I say, now we represent the great bulk of the authors of the country. It is not, gentlemen, a social organization; it is not a commercial organization. It neither buys nor sells. It exists to watch the interests of the authors and to look after them in every relation that they have concerning their published work.
I have never known an author who did not express himself or herself as dissatisfied with the present copyright situation. They are 100 per cent behind us in the hope that we may have a more equitable revision of the present copyright law.
In addition, I will read to you the lists of those organizations who have expressed to us that they are behind us 100 per cent :
The League of American Penwomen.
The CHAIRMAN. Mrs. Irwin, may I ask you a question, since you are the president of the Authors' League of America ? You have
heard your predecessor, Mr. Bickerton, enunciate three ideas that he and those that he represents would like to see achieved and realized. One is, first, that every author should have the privilege of copyright in his own name; second, that he shall have the right to assign his copyright to whomsoever he will, provided he registers that assignment in the copyright office; and, third, that he shall have the right to license, either in whole or in part, any part of his copyrighted work to any licensee, provided that is recorded and registered in the Copyright Office.
Does that meet your approval, and the approval of the Authors' League of America ?
Mrs. IRWIN. Certainly.
Mr. Rich. In reference to any legislation affecting the Authors' League, have you, as an organization, submitted to the chairman what you would like to have incorporated into the law!
Mrs. IRWIN. The secretary of the Authors' League of America has talked with the chairman.
Mr. Rich. And you are submitting a proposition that all of these organizations will approve?
Mrs. IRWIN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. I will now call upon Edward Childs Carpenter, president of the Dramatists' Guild.
STATEMENT OF EDWARD CHILDS CARPENTER, PRESIDENT
DRAMATISTS' GUILD, AUTHORS' LEAGUE OF AMERICA
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Carpenter, would you be kind enough to state, for the members of this committee, and for the record, what the Dramatists' Guild is?
Mr. CARPENTER. The Dramatists' Guild is an organization, not a social organization, and not exactly a business organization, but it is banded together for the good of the author. We are not in business. We do not barter or deal in plays, but our object is to protect the authors of plays. There is no commercial aspect to our activities whatsoever. We enter into collective agreements, basically dealing with the dramatic rights, and we license producers of plays, motion pictures, and so on.
The CHAIRMAN. And some of the most eminent dramatists of America are members of your organization?
Mr. CARPENTER. In fact, all are. Excepting none. We have basic agreements with the managers which are designed, as I say, to protect the author and his various rights.
In forming that agreement, bringing it about, it was carried through in consultation with the producers and in our negotiations with them, whenever they pointed out to us anything that we wanted very much that was unfair to them, we arranged it so that the managers were perfectly satisfied. The managers have now been operating under this agreement with us—we have a new one now with slight changes as compared with our previous agreement—to the satisfaction of every manager in America.
Are there any questions you want to ask on that point ?
The CHAIRMAN. On this basic agreement that the Dramatists' Guild has with the producers, you have heard the two previous speakers, Mr. Bickerton and Mrs. Irwin, contend that all the Authors League of America, representing the novelists, the authors, the composers, want are three fundamental concepts—first, that copyright shall be in the name of the authors, first, last, and all the time; second, that the author shall have the right to assign his copyright to whomever he will, provided it is recorded, and third, the author shall have the right to license any part or the whole of his product that is copyrighted to any licensee, provided it is registered. Does that meet with the approval of the Dramatists' Guild of America ?
Mr. CARPENTER. Absolutely. We are particularly interested in the right of the author to have his work copyrighted in his own name, and in the right to assign the whole or any part of it, or to license any of the various rights, such as the picture rights, for example.
The CHAIRMAN. Would that basic minimum agreement that you have for the next five years with the producers in any way interfere with these new provisions ?
Mr. CARPENTER. In no way.
Mr. CARPENTER. It would help them very much, because it would be so much easier than to give a clear title to any producer to any one of the author's rights, or all of them.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, it is like a piece of property. If you have a deed to it, you can sell it to anyone without any imperfections in the title whatsoever?
Mr. CARPENTER. Yes. You take the motion picture companies. They are naturally very particular about their title on account of their large investments in their pictures, and they want to be sure that the title is absolutely clear.
The CHAIRMAN. And this gives everybody protection all the way through.
Mr. CARPENTER. This would do it.
Mr. CARPENTER. Yes. Those three thing would do it. In that we are very much interested.
I would like to point out to you, if I may, something else that we need very wuch-well, I mean it is imperative. In the last five years more American plays have been produced abroad than in any other period in our history. Of course, they always have taken some of our plays and produced them abroad.
Now, then, we are no longer protected abroad. We are absolutely at the mercy of any pirates who wish to take our work. The field has grown larger and larger. The opportunity for an American author to increase his income from the production of his plays abroad is. greater now than it has ever been.
The CHAIRMAN. What would you suggest in the form of a law that would be instrumental in helping the American authors to get the protection on the other side that they are entitled to receive?
Mr. CARPENTER. Well, I do not know just how that should be done. There are so many suggestions, and I am not legal minded enough to point out how it should be done.