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INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT UNION

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 1934

UNITED STATES SENATE,
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS,

Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:30 a.m., in the committee room, Capitol, Hon. Key Pittman presiding.

Present: Senators Pittman (chairman), George, Bachman, Thomas of Utah, Van Nuys, Pope, Capper, Fess, and Robinson of Indiana.

Present also: Senator Bronson 'Cutting, Hon. Robert Underwood Johnson, Hon. Sol Bloom, Mr. Thorvald Solberg, Mr. Wallace McClure and Mr. M.J. Flynn.

The committee had under consideration S. 1928 which is here printed in full, as follows:

(S. 1928, 73d Cong., 1st sess.)

A BILL To enable the United States to enter the International Copyright Union Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That copyright throughout the United States and its dependencies shall subsist in the work of alien authors, not domiciled in the United States, by virtue of the adherence of the United States to the Convention of Berne for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of September 9, 1886, as revised at Rome on June 2, 1928.

Sec. 2. From and after the date upon which the adherence of the United States to the said convention of 1928 becomes effective, copyright protection shall be accorded without compliance with any conditions or formalities whatever for all works by such alien authors who are nationals of any country which is a member of the International Copyright Union; as well as for any work which may be or has been first published in a country which is a member of the said union: Provided, That as to copyright in works not previously copyrighted in the United States, no right or remedy given pursuant to this Act shall prejudice lawful acts done or rights in or in connection with copies lawfully made or the continuance of business undertakings or enterprises lawfully undertaken within the United States or any of its dependencies prior to the date on which the adherence of the United States to the said convention of 1928 goes into force; and the author or other owner of such copyright or person claiming under him shall not be entitled to bring action against any person who has prior to such date taken any action in connection with the exploitation, production, reproduction, circulation, or performance in a manner which at the time was not unlawful) of any such work whereby he has incurred any substantial expenditure or liability.

SEC. 3. Copyright is hereby granted and secured by this Act to all authors entitled thereto from and after the creation of their work, whether published or unpublished, including works of architecture and choreographic works and pantomimes, and the duration and termination of such copyright shall be governed by the provisions of Sections 23 and 24 of the Act of March 7, 1909 (U.S.C., title 17): Provided, That the duration of copyright in the United States shall not in the case of the work of any alien author extend beyond the date upon which such work has fallen into the public domain in the country of its origin as defined in said convention of 1928.

SEC. 4. The rights granted in Section 1 of the said Act of 1909 (U.S.C., title 17) shall include the exclusive right of the author to communicate his work for profit to the public by any system of broadcasting; and the author of any copyrighted work, even after the assignment of the copyright in such work, shall at all times have the right to claim the authorship of his work, and the right to oppose every distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the said work which might be prejudicial to his honor or to his reputation, as well as the right to restrain the publication and/or the performance of the mutilated work.

SEC. 5. The Supreme Court of the United States shall prescribe such additional or modified rules and regulations as may be necessary for practice and procedure in any action, suit, or proceeding instituted for infringement under the provisions of this Act.

SEC. 6. This Act shall take effect from the date of its passage.

STATEMENT OF HON. BRONSON CUTTING, A SENATOR FROM

NEW MEXICO

Senator CUTTING. Mr. Chairman and Senators, you will remember that at the end of the 1930–31 session we had an elaborate copyright bill before the Senate, the so-called “Vestal bill”, which had previously passed the House of Representatives. The bill was so complicated, contained so many amendments which were unsatisfactory to various interests, that it got into a hopeless tangle, and was defeated finally in the filibuster which ended that session.

It has seemed to the friends of copyright legislation that the best thing to do is to pass some simple law which will merely enable us to enter the International Copyright Union, and with that idea in mind, at the request of Mr. Johnson and a number of other gentlemen, including Mr. Solberg, of the Library of Congress, I introduced the bill now pending before you, on the 6th day of June last.

Since then, of course, a treaty has been submitted, which would carry out the same general idea. I am not clear in my own mind whether it is necessary to enact the bill and ratify the treaty, but it certainly could do no harm, in addition to ratifying the treaty, to enact legislation of this kind, which would make it perfectly clear what the United States is doing to modify the present law in order to comply with the terms of the treaty.

Mr. Chairman, with these remarks, I shall leave the discussion to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Solberg, and the other sponsors of the legislation.

The CHAIRMAN. Before we go into the statements of those who desire to appear, I would like to call to the attention of the committee a letter from the State Department under date of February 24, which reads as follows:

(Confidential]

FEBRUARY 24, 1934. Hon. KEY PITTMAN,

Chairman Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate. MY DEAR SENATOR PITTMAN: On February 19, 1933, the President sent to the Senate, with request for advice and consent to adherence thereto on the part of the United States, the international copyright convention as revised at Rome, on June 2, 1928. On June 10, 1933, Senator Cutting introduced a bill (S. 1928) to enable the United States to enter the International Copyright Union. The object of this bill is, of course, to bring the statute law of the United States into conformity with the convention. An identical bill (H.R. 5853) was introduced to the House of Representatives by Mr. Luce, on May 31, 1933.

As of interest in connection with the convention referred to, and the accompanying legislation, I am transmitting herewith copies of a note dated December 20, 1933, from the British Ambassador at Washington. This note is the latest of a long line of communications setting forth what, in our opinion, is an entirely legitimate complaint on the part of the British Government concerning the treatment of British books under existing copyright legislation.

*

The desires of the British Government would be entirely met if the United States should enact the legislation and become party to the convention referred to. The British note makes mention of —

* powerful currents of opinion in the United States which have moved in favour of the accession of the United States to the Copyright Convention of the Berne Union, notably those referred to in the declaration made by Mr. Solberg, the former Registrar of Copyrights in Washington, on behalf of the United States Delegation to the Rome Copyright Conference of 1928 (Actes de la Conférence, pages 296–299), and those revealed by the support given to the bills which have been submitted to Congress for the purpose of enabling the United States Government to join the Berne Union."

While, of course, the objective of this Government, in proposing to enter the International Copyright Union, is the protection of American literary and artistic interests in other countries, I feel that the attitude of the British Government, particularly the possibility of injurious reprisals, should appropriately receive the consideration of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Needless to say, I am ready at all times to accord such information and other assistance as may be sought from the Department of State by the Committee on Foreign Relations. Sincerely yours,

CORDELL HULL. (Enclosures: Copies of note from British Ambassador, Dec. 20, 1933.)

Then there are other matters of the same character from the Department of State.

STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. Chairman and Senators, I shall try to occupy only a small portion of the time this morning, out of consideration for the other two gentlemen who are to speak. • A very good story comes to my mind of a distinguished clergyman who went to Yale University to address the boys at the chapel, and just as he was going up into the pulpit he said to President Hadley, "Oh, President Hadley, I fear I should have asked you before, is there any limit to the time which I may occupy?. President Hadley replied, "No, Doctor, no limit whatever, but I think I ought to tell you that there is a tradition here at Yale that after 20 minutes no souls are saved." (Laughter.)

Gentlemen, in a matter which is one both of justice and expediency, it would not be complimentary to you if I placed first the consideration of expediency, since it might imply that you were more sensitive to such matters, largely commercial, though not entirely so, than to those of abstract justice. The Constitution of the United States, after providing in the preamble for the forming of a more perfect union, next describes the purpose of the Constitution as being “to establish justice.” Daniel Webster said that “justice is the first concern of man on earth”, and I therefore am going to appeal to you, first of all, in discussing this subject, on the ground of justice, and in doing so briefly to rally to my support the opinions of some of the most distinguished Americans who have heretofore recorded themselves in favor of this great principle of intellectual property.

We are living in an age of an attack upon property, from Communist quarters, and from semi-Communist quarters, and we are likely to forget the fundamental character of property in the happiness of the people. Shakespeare put into the mouth of Shylock the saying:

You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.

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