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privilege of playing it if he desires, without being required to pay for the privilege of playing a lot of things he does not want to play.
I may say that the principle would very largely meet the many objections which have been raised here on behalf of the broadcasting interests. I am not authorized to state that for the broadcasters. I do not represent them in any sense, but I believe it would meet their objections, and I believe it would meet the objections of the hotel and restaurant men's associations, who have approved the principle for the use of copyrighted music. So much for that.
The second objection we have to this bill is that it provides for the entrance of the United States into the International Copyright Union or the Berne convention. You may wonder perhaps what a motion-picture exhibitor has got to do with the Berne convention and how they could be interested one way or another. It is just this: At the present time there is in existence in this country a vast amount of music that is in the public domain. Music written in foreign countries in the past 50 years and not copyrighted in the United States is free. Anyone can play it, and that includes some of the finest orchestrations, operas, and oratorios that have been published. At the present time those compositions are free to users of music in this country.
But the Berne convention provides that the term of a copyright endures for the life of the author and 50 years after his death, so that every composition which has been published abroad and which is still protected by a copyright abroad, even though not protected by copyright in the United States does become protected by copyright from and after the date of adhesion of the United States to the Berne convention.
Mr. Bloom. Are you serious about that?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. I think, if you will read the English laws, you will find that
Mr. Bloom. Does not this bill provide otherwise ?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. It can not. If the Berne convention protects them, they are protected from the time
Mr. Bloom. Only from the time this act goes into existence.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. I beg to differ with you. As to this music, the exhibitors will be cut off from a badly needed source of supply in case they are firm in refusing to join the ranks of those who are paying for licenses from the societies. There are in existence at the present time at least 14—there may be more now, but there were 14, I think, two months ago—foreign performing rights societies and authors' societies, which function along the same lines as the American Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers, only, praise be to God, they are worse.
The French society, for example, has an agent stationed in the box office of every theater to see to it that the society's proportionate share of royalties is taken out of the box-office receipts; and if the proprietor tries to hold out, the gendarmes are called in, and he is haled to the lockup, and there are 14 such societies at the present time.
Mr. BLOOM. Mention some.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. The Canadian Performing Rights Society, English, French, Italian, Australasian, and South African societies.
Mr. Bloom. All the same as the French society?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. No; that is the particular bad example, but they all operate along about the same lines.
Now, what we are afraid of, Mr. Chairman, is not the present license fee we are paying the American society; we are afraid that those license fees might be increased perhaps beyond our ability to pay them, and what we are also afraid of is that if the United States should enter the Berne convention we may have to pay licenses not to 1 society, but 14, and that, in many cases, might mean bankruptcy for the American exhibitor. Personally, I can not see why there should be this tremendous agitation and excitement over entering the Berne convention. We have gotten along very well for the last 40 years without it, and we could continue to get along without it to-day better than with it.
Under an order in council, published in Great Britain several years ago, unpublished works of American authors are automatically protected by the English copyright laws. The same thing is true in several other important countries. The United States, on the other hand, by way of reciprocity, has always recognized the right of foreign authors in their unpublished manuscripts. It is his own personal property and as much his as his cow or dog.
Mr. Bloom. Does not every other country do the same thing?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. Yes; you can not take it. As far as the published works are concerned, it is an absurdly simple thing for an American author or composer to get the Berne copyright privilege. All he has to do is to publish his works in Canada or other countries, members of the union, because the protection of the Berne convention applies to the works of citizens or subject of nations not signatory to the convention whose works are published simultaneously in one of the convention countries, and if I were an author of a book and my printer printed it, all I would have to do is send a few copies to Canada and publish it there first and get the Berne convention protection. So, I do not see any necessity of the agitation for getting into the Berne convention.
However, in my capacity here as representing the Motion Picture Exhibitors' Association of America, that is a phase with which we are not concerned. We are opposing the entrance into the Berne convention because of the fear that it will cut us off from a supply of music which has been ours for the past 40 or 50 years, and because of the fear that other societies may come in here and form or establish their branches or agencies and require us to pay taxes to the same extent as we are at present paying to the American society.
That is all I want to say, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of my association. There are a lot of things I would like to say about the present bill, which, on the whole, is the best bill for a general revision of the copyright laws that has been introduced in Congress in the past few years. For the past 15 years I have been a practicing
attorney in Washington having to do exclusively with copyright matters. Perhaps I know more about the mechanics of the copyright law and the functioning of the copyright office than any one outside of that office. There are a lot of defects in the present law, minor defects, which have been lifted bodily out of the present law and put into the present bill. They ought to be cured, although I will say, on the whole, the bill is a good one. I would like later to send a memorandum pointing out these particulars.
I am now at your mercy, Mr. Bloom.
Mr. Bloom. I would not say that. How long have you been operating, or the people you represent been operating, under the present plan of charging 10 cents a seat for each seat per yearpaying 10 cents?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. How long?
Mr. BLOOM. How many years have you been operating under that system?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. It depends on how soon the society got to them. Some early ones have been doing it for 3 years, or 10 years, perhaps—I do not know.
Mr. Bloom. Do you know whether the society ever raised the price?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. They have not.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. I am interested in four theaters in Washington, and they have never lowered the price to us.
Mr. Bloom. The testimony before the committee this year and the year before that is that they have charged as low as 3 or 4 cents a seat to some of the motion-picture theaters here.
Now, in reference to this charge against your theater, suppose the society should take off this charge, where is the public going to be benefited by it; in other words, if they are charging you $250 a year for a 2,500-seat theater and we eliminated that charge of $250 a year, would you reduce the price of admission?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. No, sir; but we could use $250 a year.
Mr. Bloom. But we are. I am representing my constituents. If we take off the charge of 10 cents a seat per year, would the public get the benefit of that?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. But how is the public benefited by this or any other copyright bill? What has the public to do with legislation of this character ?
Mr. Bloom. We are talking about this price of 10_cents. We have not got this bill [exhibiting) under consideration. If you want to, I will ask you about this bill that you passed up to me. We are now talking about the Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers who charge an approximate price of 10 cents per year per seat.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. The present price.
Mr. BLOOM. But up to now they have not even made a gesture to increase it. They have said that the law gives them the right to charge whatever they want to charge. There is no limit. During all these years the society has not charged more than a price of 10 cents a seat per year, and in some theaters, the smaller theaters, have gone down to 3 or 4 cents.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. If that was all they were able to pay, I suppose.
Mr. Bloom. Now, they have acted pretty fairly under this present law, have they not, with the theater owners?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. To some extent.
Mr. Bloom. Yes; and if any law were passed—if this committee should report out this bill with an amendment eliminating the right of these people to charge this fee and it were enacted into law, the public would not be benefited in any way. You would take that money and put it in your pocket.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. Tõ that extent the public would be benefited.
Mr. Bloom. Yes; to that extent. Do you wish me to ask you something about this bill? I have underlined several things for you to read over.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. I do not approve of the bill as drawn. I approve of the principle of the bill.
Mr. Goodwin. If this price of 10 cents per seat were eliminated, the theater owners would expect to negotiate with the owners of the copyrights of the society on some other basis, but you want the price to be definite and certain for a particular length of time?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. Mr. Chairman, the only thing is this: The problems of the Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers are just as acute as ours on the other side, and where they grant us a license of 10 cents a seat per year I believe in all sincerity they thought that was the best possible solution of the problem. Maybe it is, except that it requires us to pay for the privilege of playing a lot of things we do not want. I think the shoe ought to be on the other foot, and that we should be permitted to pay for what we want to use.
Mr. GOODWIN. And make your own selection?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. Yes, sir. It may be that what the society would receive on that basis would be more than what it is getting at the present time, although in many cases it might be very much less. At any rate it would be up to the individual user.
Mr. Bloom. How are you going to keep track of that?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. We imagine that it is the function of this committee to find a remedy and to
Mr. BLOOM. It is not the function of this committee or the makers of this law to regulate how you are going to keep your books. How could you keep track of the 14,000 or whatever number of members you
haveMr. BRYLAWSKI. Fifteen thousand.
Mr. Bloom. Keep track of the 15,000 motion-picture theaters throughout the country? Some one would have to keep track of every orchestra or organ or anything else you have in there and find out what you did and whether it is a copyrighted sheet of music.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. They are doing that thing in Germany right now.
Mr. BLOOM. You know better than that. In Germany and those countries they have a territory that is no bigger than the State of New York, and they can get over it. To police the United States, with 14,000 or 15,000 moving-picture theaters, and find out what they are playing in every theater every day and every performance would cost you out of all reason.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. You can simplify it very easily by merely putting the royalty price at a figure that would be sufficiently high to enable him to get by and at the same time permit the user to perform it as much as he likes.
Mr. Bloom. I make the suggestion that the gentleman offer an amendment covering that, because I think he has wonderful ideas, and it would be of help to the committee.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. Are you sincere?
Mr. BLOOM. Absolutely. If you can think up any idea to put in operation the thing you suggest I would like to hear it.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. That would be possible, provided, of course, that this committee would forget for a moment it should not be so intensely desirous of protecting the rights of the authors as to provide a remedy in case the rights given them are abused, and apply the principle of the law. How this thing could be worked out is a tough proposition; but Congress should not be asked to resolve itself into à collection agency for the benefit of the society.
Mr. BLOOM. Is it not simply the fact now that a man can play any music he wants? If he has a theater with a thousand seats he can play practically all the music in the world to-day by simply paying $100 a year. He does not have to pay a bookkeeper, and sends in simply one check a year, and does not have to divide that check up into 500 or 1,000 sums. Mr. BRYLAWSKI. We would not do that now. Mr. Bloom. But you would have to do it under your plan? Mr. BRYLAWSKI. No. Mr. Bloom. How would you do it?
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. We do not want to put the Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers out of existence. It is still to be assumed they would control the copyrighted music.
Nr. BLOOM. But some one would have to do the bookkeeping.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. The society does it now in order to distribute the royalties.
Mr. Bloom. They would have to know every day what you played and whether the pieces were copyrighted.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. I say that the matter is a tough proposition, and I simply offer you the principle. I am not prepared at this time to give you an amendment.
Mr. BLOOM. Those are all the questions I desire to ask, and I thank you very much.
Mr. BRYLAWSKI. I think that is about all. Thank you.