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STATEMENT OF MATTHEW WOLL, VICE PRESIDENT AMERICAN
FEDERATION OF LABOR
Mr. WOLL. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, prefacing my remarks, I want to relate just briefly the history of the development of copyright legislation that has been before Congress in the last two sessions. It was something like six
or seven years past that the Authors League came to the Allied Printing Trades Association, as representing the Allied Printing Trades Workers of North America, asking if it were possible for the printing trades to consent to a modification of the manufacturing section of the existing law, in order to enable our country to enter the Berne convention, and thus extend copyright protection to the American authors merely by the securing copyright in the United States.
The printing trades, of course, have been very much interested in the existing law and the provisions of the manufacturing section, in order to protect the American worker in the printing industry and in the general literary world. The printing trades organization conducted an extensive investigation and finally reached a conclusion that it would acquiesce in the request of the Authors League for the modification of the existing manufacturing sections to that degree that would enable our country to enter the Berne convention.
Having reached that decision, other interests became involved in the proposal we were then considering—that is, between the Authors League and the printing trades unions—book publishers, employing printers, periodical publishers, newspaper publishers, the motionpicture industry, and various other industries.
For nearly a year and a half or two years these various groups met to consider copyright legislation and to endeavor to draft a bill that might meet the requirements of all, and enable us to enter the Berne conference. An understanding was reached and a bill was introduced on that subject, expressed in the Dallinger bill at the last session, and you will recall that I objected to the consideration of the Perkins bill and accused one of the parties of not having played in good faith by reason of the fact that they did not carry out the original request made on behalf of the printing-trades union, the request that was embodied in the Dallinger bill but left out of the Perkins bill. I have no criticism to make of the Authors League by reason of that, because I have since been advised of the various influences that were at work in making for that change. Since that time, however, we have again met with a subcommitte presided over by Congressman Bloom, and there is presented to you in the form of the Vestal bill a bill which meets with the approval of the various groups identified with the publishing, printing and literary interests, with the exception possibly of a small group of bookbuyers. The Vestal bill is a bill which meets with the approval not only of the printing trades union but ineets with the approval of the American Federation of Labor, with one slight exception or an addition to be made, on which I will touch later on, which I think is noncontroversial and which I have not had time to take up with the other groups.
The manufacturing section as embodied in the Vestal bill meets with our approval. The importation section as embodied in the Vestal bill meets with our approval. The innocent infringement clause, as well as the question of employer and employee relationship as embodied in the Vestal bill meets with our full approval.
We can not understand the opposition of the librarians to the importation sections. First of all, we do not believe that Mr. Rainey and his representatives can speak alone for those interested in public libraries. The American Federation of Labor has as much if not a greater right to speak for the reading public and those using the library facilities for educational purposes, so that we feel that we have just as much right to speak for them as any other group of citizens within our society.
In the matter of importation the printing trades are seriously concerned, because we wish to protect and to advance the printing industry. We feel that is equally as essential as it is to promote and encourage all literary work and culture. We feel that when an exclusive right is given for the sale of any work in this country, it should be predicated on the proposition that that work should be published here. To what extent that will advance the printing industry it is difficult to estimate, but it is only to such works as are published in this country that the importation section applies. And then, in so far as the libraries are concerned, it does not prohibit their importing of books, but it does regulate the manner and method by which they may be imported, and as I understand it will operate under a rule and regulation which prevents the raising of price in the work that they may obtain. It is not only through the librarian but likewise through the individual collector--any person may obtain it. So that there is no total prohibition there, but there is a preferential regulation for the benefit of those desiring those copies, and I feel that the librarians are not harmed in the least, and that the American librarians ought to be as much concerned to advance the interests of American wage earners as to buy books in foreign markets.
One addition I should suggest on page 32, section 37, defining the title “ Subject to copyright. On page 32, subsection (k), I would like to have inserted there “likewise trade-union labels, so that the copyright would also apply to trade-union labels.
The CHAIRMAN. I did not catch what you said.
Mr. WOLL. I would like to have added to subsection (k) of section 37, after "articles of manufacture," the words "and trade-unions." With that addition in there we are thoroughly in accord with the Vestal bill and believe that if enacted into law it would be of great beneficial consequences to the general reading public of America and likewise give protection to the printing and publishing industry of America.
Understand, gentlemen, that at the present time we have the allinclusive manufacturing section. We come here in behalf of the A'uthors League to give aid to them, to help extend their right in matters of copyright, limited as herein indicated.
Mr. Bloom. Then you approve of section 61 as regards the entry of the United States into the International Copyright Union?
Mr. WOLL. Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, the printing trades were originally consulted in that by the Authors League some six or seven
years ago; that is, with the idea of permitting our Government to enter the Berne conference, and were induced to modify our own point of view on the manufacturing sections as it is in the existing law.
Mr. Goodwin. Do you think the addition of the words “and tradeunions" will fully cover the situation you are interested in?
Mr. WOLL. I think it will.
Mr. OSBORNE. Mr. Chairman, we have here a member of the copyright committee of the Authors League, a member of the council of the Authors? League, one of the best-known magazine writers, novelists, and publishers in this country, Mr. Will Irwin. I would like to have him heard on one particular point in this bill, which he will divulge.
STATEMENT OF WILL IRWIN
Mr. Irwin. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I am here to speak particularly on that part of this bill which we consider the very heart of it, the question of automatic copyright, and then on its important relation to international copyright, and the reason for the form that takes in this bill.
I want to say in preface something that is perhaps worthy of your consideration, though it may seem very abstract. It occurred to all of us working on this bill that this was perhaps the last stroke in the fight that this trade had been in for 300 years for the liberty of the press; that when you look at our present copyright law, it is an archaism, which dates from the period that literary copy, when thought on paper, was a matter of great suspicion on the part of governments because it might contain something seditious; when every man had to be licensed to print anything, because it might contain something against the government. That bar to authors has been remover bit by bit in the past 300 years, but it has left a sort of vermiform appendix in the copyright system in the United States, a system which prevailed in most countries up to a few years ago. It is a kind of an anomaly; it is archaic; and it is especially archaic in the last 30 years, because the publishing game in all ways has gone so fast. There are so many new ways that have sprung up of transmitting thought that we are trying to conduct the business of publication in the United States a little as though we were trying to regulate automobile traffic under the traffic laws of 1895.
The idea of this bill is this matter of automatic copyright, and when you look at this thing abstractedly, the copyright of copy, in copy in creation, it strikes as an odd monstrosity the way we are regulating it now. It is a law very much like an insect; that is, first a worm and then becomes an insect.
When I write a piece of manuscript, customarily, and that is true of all authors, if we are unlucky we may submit it to 20 or 30 different periodicals, and it can not be stolen any more than a pair of shoes may be stolen which we have left for repair at a shoplegally, I mean. We are absolutely protected by the commonproperty right, so long as the thing remains unpublished, but the minute it has been published it comes under à law that is, as I say, archaic; that has curious rudiments of the old system that is becoming year by year more difficult to administer equitably among the interests that deal with it.
Mr. LANHAM. Carrying out the analogy of leaving the shoes for inspection, you mean that nobody can steal the shoes until they see them?
Mr. Irwin. It is not quite that. After a man has seen the shoes, he can not steal them legally.
Mr. LANHAM. No one else can.
Mr. LANHAM. I mean your analogy is just as soon as that article comes to public notice your protection is gone.
Mr. Irwin. Our common law protection is gone. We have a certain protection, but it is extremely artificial.
Mr. PERKINS. The shoes can be stolen by only one person, but this can be stolen by almost anybody.
Mr. Irwin. Yes, and pieces of the shoes can be stolen, the laces by one person and a last by another. That is, I think a fair statement of the differences between copy and property, between property and creative work.
We only ask that our rights be put on the same basis as the rights of the shoemaker or anyone else that produces it. That is all we ask in this bill, and that is the heart of the bill.
Now, I am far from arguing that because a thing has succeeded abroad or because a thing is European that it ought to be adopted here, or because the majority of the rest of the world has adopted a thing that it ought to be adopted here. However, when a thing has been adopted by the rest of the world, and has worked very satisfactorily in place of an old system, it is at least argument for its adoption in America.
As you probably all know the nations of Europe for a great many years, from away back in the early nineteenth century, have been trying to arrange some method of international copyright to get rid of some of the ridiculous barriers which were put up to the transmission thought. They never fully succeeded in that until they put literary copy on the same basis as any other product, and it was not until 1914 that an international copyright union, which permitted of the free transmission of creative work was finally drawn up, and it was not drawn up until one by one the nations agreed to this principle, that a work of art of any kind, just like a work of manufacture, was the property of the author from the moment he produced it, and continued so, and that no formalities were necessary for him to establish his property right to it.
That convention was signed by at that time most of the important producers, nations that produced creative work, conspicuously Great Britain, France, Germany, and most of the Scandinavian countries. The only countries of any importance which did not enter at the time were Russia, Austria-Hungary and the United States. Russia of course we count out of the game now, anyway. The Austro-Hungarian Empire is broken up, but it is significant that all of the new states have adopted this principle of copyright, and I believe that Austria, that one of those states that counts the most in this cou. sideration because it is the home of that great center of culture, Vienna, has entered the convention, and from the latest accounts I
have been able to get I think Czechoslavokia is now preparing to enter.
Under that treaty any citizen of any nation who finishes a piece of work has that work automatically copyrighted without formality in all the countries of the Union. It can go across borders freely, be reproduced under the conditions under which anything else can be marketed, and sold in all of the other countries of the union. That is the basic principle.
Now, as regards the question of the International Copyright Union, let me speak a little on the conditions of both authors and publishers, because I think we are most of us at one in this, that both authors and publishers
Mr. BLOOM (interposing). May I ask you before you get off of the subject, do you believe that if we do not adopt the automatic copyright regulation, that will keep us from joining the Berne convention?
Mr. IRWIN. I understand so, absolutely. The last time I had direct information from that was two years ago when I was in Switzerland and talked it over, and at that time they said absolutely it would prevent, because our law does not fit.
Mr. Bloom. That is one of the principal obstacles that will prevent us from joining the Berne convention?
Mr. IRWIN. Absolutely. I understand there will be no objection from anyone else provided we harmonize our law with others, so as to make it work. The American author who produces a piece of work and the American publisher who wishes to put it forth in other countries—in Great Britain it is produced easily; it is a little cumbersome, a little difficult, and there are some practical points in it of which I think some of the publishers will speak with more authority than I. You have, I believe, published your work simultaneouslyI think some do, in both England and the United States, in order to be sure of your British copyright. That is usually easy, but that thing can slip up. That is one of the things that makes trouble, but here is the oddest thing about it. If you wish to get copyright in other countries, in some you can not get it at all, in some you can have it translated and pirated just as they wish, but in most of them the only way is to get a British copyright. We can not copyright as American citizens. We can only copyright as American citizens who have copyrights in Great Britain.
It happens that in our profession and in the allied businesses that surround our profession, there is a pretty fine spirit between the nationals of the different countries. There is a sort of esprit de corps and a sort of cooperation. For that reason the British author will frequently copyright our work for us. That is exactly what happens. We simply can get no protection in a great many countries of the world, and that has raised an intellectual barrier of one sided character because the German or the Spaniard or the Austrian who has something he thinks will sell on the American market, can get a copyright ordinarily, but when we go to get a copyright in those countries there are so many barriers that we do not attempt it. It has a commercial importance both to American authors and to the American public. We have no particular market in most of the countries of the world outside of Great Britain, and we do not know what