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The CHAIRMAN. But in a rough way, what do you think ought to be suggested ?
Mr. CARPENTER. Well, the foreign author is only obliged to copyright his play in one country in Europe and he is protected all over Europe, and Japan as well, because they are members of the convention known as the Rome convention. To protect himself here he must copyright here. Those are the only two steps he has to take.
The American author to-day to protect himself naturally has to copyright in his own country, but he also is obliged to copyright in each and every country in the world, and that is a very difficult and expensive job. Our only protection to-day is through the decency and the courtesy of certain producers abroad who, because a play is written by, usually—although not always, because a new dramatist may come along who is not prominent—but they are usually written by some one who has some sort of a reputation, and they think it is wisest, or they are just honest, and they pay; but that is only a matter of courtesy. So we feel absolutely that as long as foreign authors are properly protected in America, and protected in an easy way, it is only fair and proper and our right that we be protected over there without having to go through all these expensive and long drawn out processes. There should be some way in which it could be done easily.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Bickerton, by way of detouring, you were the first speaker here as the representative of the authors, composers, producers, motion-picture interests, dramatists. You presented three principles that those organizations would like to see realized. Now, suppose Congress, through the Committee on Patents, recommends a law that passes through the House and passes through the Senate that absolutely embodies what you people want, and it goes forth as the American law, and this Roman convention refuses to abide by the decision of the American Congress. What would you suggest, then, as a protection to American authors whose property is being stolen over there? Do you believe in some form of retaliation ?
Mr. BICKERTON. Yes.
Mr. BICKERTON. I would think that, unless later perhaps, there might be a suggestion to the treaty-making powers to endeavor through the proper channels to work out an international agreement, under the terms of which the American authors would be accorded the same privileges in all countries of the world that foreign authors are accorded in the United States of America, that some retaliatory measures be taken.
The CHAIRMAN. And if they refuse to abide by that?
Mr. BICKERTON. And failing such, that then the same or more onerous conditions be imposed upon the foreign author in America than is now imposed upon Americans abroad.
The CHAIRMAN. And that would bring them to terms as quickly as they could be brought in order to help
American authors ? Mr. BICKERTON. Yes. We feel that if there is not a spirit of accommodation, from the standpoint that authors are citizens of the world, should there be any portion of the world which sees fit to write away the right of the American author and yet desire a greater
right for the national of that particular country than from the American standpoint of right, we should fight.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, if they should deny justice to the American authors over in Europe, the American Congress should deny justice to the European authors in America ?
Mr. BICKERTON. I wouldn't say deny justice, but make the conditions so difficult that he would go back to his own authorities and say to them that they should let down those onerous conditions.
Mr. Rich. Mr. Chairman, have we at the present time some treaty or agreement whereby we do protect foreign authors?
Mr. BICKERTON. We have.
Mr. Rich. Then wouldn't it be wise for us to abrogate those treaties over a certain length of time. We shouldn't simply say, “We will not abide by these treaties," but we should give them notice over an extended period wherein we could do it honorably.
Mr. BICKERTON. Yes; but if we take this into consideration-you are quite right, Honorable, but, on the other hand, the foreign nations give us notice that unless America adheres to certain conventions that they have, first, the Berlin convention, and secondly, after our time expired to adhere to that, the Roman convention, unless we do adhere to that, then they state that those rights that have been given under those particular treaties, while a copyright in that particular country may be afforded an American author, he does not, ipso facto, become protected under those unions; and they have stated to some of their member countries that they will not recognize a copyright granted to an American author in a particular country in any other country in the union unless he continues to go through this formality in the special treaty in each country. Holland, particularly, refused to recognize it at all, so the American author has no protection in Holland, but his works are pirated.
The CHAIRMAN. Are the writings of authors of Holland protected in this country?
Mr. BICKERTON. They are, indeed.
The CHAIRMAN. And it is your theory, why should we protect the authors of Holland in America, and surround them with all the protection of our law, when they refuse to give our authors any protection in Holland?
Mr. BICKERTON. Absolutely; I am in favor of reciprocity and in favor of fair dealing, but it doesn't seem to me right that we should afford the foreign author any greater protection in our country than he is willing to afford in his country.
The CHAIRMAN. And on that point, isn't it a fact, too, that foreign authors and composers are taxed in foreign countries on income tax to a very large extent far greater than anyone else there, whereas in America we give every author and every composer the right to take out as much money as he wants from this country without putting any restriction upon them, practically the same as anyone else here?
Mr. BICKERTON. Of course, the foreign author is taxed upon the money earned here, but there is no restraint upon his taking the net profits out of the country, whereas in many countries to-day they have passed laws limiting the proportion of the money an author earns that can be taken out. He may take out 75 per cent or 60 per cent, but he must leave the balance in the country. In other words, although we may hold the securities of Europe, we may still earn money in a foreign land and have to leave our money there.
Mr. Rich. Is it a fact that the foreign governments have interceded in behalf of their writers in this country and have secured laws protecting their own writers? Then, from the statements made here, I would assume that our laws are lax in not trying to have worked with these foreign countries in order to protect our own writers. Is that the case ?
Mr. BICKERTON. Well, this country has never seen fit to meet the conditions of foreign interests in their unions. When I say unions I mean in their associations. For the reason that we have a manufacturing clause, or have had one, in our copyright laws, and that has been for the protection of the artisans of this country, printers, bookbinders, plate makers. That has not been a condition of the laws of the members of the union, of Berne or Berlin or Rome, and it has been for such reason, and perhaps for others, that the United States has never been willing to adhere to those unions upon the conditions imposed. We are perfectly willing, I think, to recognize a universal copyright provided that we can recognize it and join the unions under American principles.
The CHAIRMAN. That will be all, Mr. Bickerton. Do you wish to add any other statement, Mr. Carpenter?
Mr. CARPENTER. Yes; I would like to make a few more statements, if I may. I subscribe to all Mr. Bickerton has said. I would like to add this: It would be a very unfortunate thing for the writing art as a whole if we had to go to such extremes. Art should have no boundaries, after all. I mean the ideal would be that it was a proper exchange of protection with every country. As we give to them, so should they give to us; and if they do not propose to do it in the spirit of justice, then it is up to us to do something about it.
This may not seem quite germane to the topic, but I will lead you back to the subject. There is talk of a theater tax, which would impose a great hardship upon the theater, which like every other enterprise at the moment is feeling the depression.
The CHAIRMAN. On that question, Mr. Carpenter, the theaters have had no taxes in the last four years, the spoken drama, outside of tickets over $3; the motion pictures have had their taxes removed. I understand the amount of money that is taken in from the taxes under $3 would amount to about three to five million dollars a year. Do not you think when our income tax will come up in Congress that it might be a very advantageous idea to put in a surtax on fighters like Schmelling and Carnera; also to tax entertainers and artists and actors and others who draw fabulous sums from our country, who are not American citizens, who take the money out of our Republic for whatever purposes they may deem fit, and put that kind of a tax on them that will bring that much money back into the coffers of our country; to make possible succession production going on in the drama without letting them go to the wall as they are at the present time? It seems to me that it would encourage the development of American artists.
Mr. CARPENTER. I was coming to that in a little different way, Mr. Chairman. I have here a copy of the theatrical page of the New York Herald-Tribune of this morning. Here is an alphabetical list of the plays now being performed in New York City. There are here about 28 plays being shown in New York City. I say playsperformances.
The CHAIRMAN. Out of how many theaters? There are about 90 or 100 theaters around Broadway, are there not?
Mr. CARPENTER. I can't tell you exactly. Mr. Bickerton can tell you exactly.
Mr. BICKERTON. I think it is 70.
Mr. CARPENTER. Well, here are 28 theaters. In the theaters there are four shows that are not plays, like the Vanities, that are just assembled shows. That leaves 24 out of the 28 plays, and by plays I mean comedies, dramas, musical plays, operettas, and so on. Out of the 24 there are 9 foreign plays, and here is announced a new one for February 15, which would bring it up to 10 out of the 24.
Now, then, an American author has a play presented in London. His royalties are taxed at the source to the extent of 20 per cent, and perhaps it is 25 per cent now. I haven't a play running there now, so I can't tell you, but in the past my plays have been taxed and all other plays taxed 20 per cent at the source.
The CHAIRMAN. What play of yours is playing in London now?
Mr. CARPENTER. I haven't a play running in London now, so I can not tell you exactly. But a few years ago I had a play running there, and I was taxed 20 per cent. Now, then, the English play is not taxed 20 per cent in America. The American play in Germany has a tax imposed upon it. In practically every country in the world the American play is taxed. The foreigners are not taxed here, except in the way of just the natural income tax. Now, then, if the country must have additional income from plays, instead of imposing it on the admissions, why should not the foreign plays, the foreign authors, be taxed in America, just as we are taxed in each of their respective countries? That is just a suggestion that I throw in.
Mr. Rich. It might be well for you to present that statement to the Ways and Means Committee. I think they would be glad to
Mr. CARPENTER. I would be very glad to; in fact, it is drawn up, and we could take an affidavit to that effect.
The CHAIRMAN. It is an additional form of revenue.
STATEMENT OF CHESTER CROWELL
Mr. CROWELL. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, the committee of the Authors' League has asked me to sketch in the picture of how we got where we are and why we do not like it, and as a background for proceeding forward, so that you may understand the entire situation a little bit better.
The Constitution, of course, provides for a copyright law, the same as the patent law, under the theory that it will promote the sciences and the arts. The copyright law under which we operate was not drawn to protect the author at all nor to advance the arts under copyright. A long time ago when we had no copyright law gentlemen with printing presses were in the habit of pirating English authors. That went on for quite a long time. They would get a book from England that they thought would do very well, and then
they would print it in the United States and sell it here, with no royalty to the author; and after a while those connoisseurs of literature, lovers of beautiful letters, discovered that they were all stealing the same works, and it was annoying to them, because a man would have several hundred dollars invested in printing and paper, and discover that another fellow further down the road was working on the same book; and so they decided that the printer should be protected, so they wanted a law that said that the man who printed first should have the protection, that the printing of the thing should be protected. He was the one they were worrying about. We had hardly any authors in the country at that time. So we began on the arrangement that the publication of a written work was what gave the right to copyright. The author has never figured in this at all.
That brought us to the position where we are at present and have been for quite a long time; and when I sell a story, the purchaser, who is a publisher, copyrights, because he is going to publish that thing, and the law is so drawn, of course, that he owns all the copyright. My entire title and interest in it is gone when he purchases it for publication; and there has been no way to get out of that except by private agreement between the author and the publisher, and even then he has to draw a special contract to give me back any of my original rights.
The CHAIRMAN. That puts the author at a disadvantage and at the mercy of the publisher?
Mr. CROWELL. Absolutely at the mercy of the publisher.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, the author becomes the stepfather of his own child.
Mr. CROWELL. Absolutely. Mr. Rich. You have the privilege of selling it to the printer for whatever you might request.
Mr. CROWELL. Exactly.
Mr. Rich. Then wherein is there any injustice when you sell a thing; where is the injustice to you?
Mr. CROWELL. I will be delighted to answer that question. Our copyright law is so old—and the copyright arrangement really extends from the seventeenth century—that we are getting back to the period when the book was all they were thinking of. As a matter of fact, if you take the inception of the copyright bill as we have it to-day, it comes out of a period when the publisher usually did buy out for a sum of money the author's work and take his risk on the publication. Later on the arrangement was more usual to have a royalty; that is to say, a very small sum, or none at all, on the transfer of the copyright, but an agreement of 10 per cent—usually 10 per cent—sometimes as high as 15; but even now the usual royalty per
cent on the sale of a book, and I have had the experience of working six months on a book and having the net proceeds of $380.
I am not complaining about that, but simply showing that the arrangement is no longer a flat sum but a royalty basis. Since this arrangement went into effect the periodical press has arisen and the motion picture has come in and the radio has come in. Incidentally, too, at the time of the original conception of copyright the thought of dramatic rights in connection with an original written work, a novel, did not exist, so that to-day, if my recollection does