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“8. That American authors are injured by the The British non-existence of the desired law. While American address publishers can provide themselves with works for publication by unjust appropriation, instead of by equitable purchase, they are under no inducement to afford to American authors a fair remuneration for their labours: under which grievance American authors have no redress but in sending over their works to England to be published, an expedient which has become an established practice with some of whom their country has most reason to be proud.
“9. That the American public is injured by the non-existence of the desired law. The American public suffers, not only from the discouragement afforded to native authors, as above stated, but from the uncertainty now existing as to whether the books presented to them as the works of British authors, are the actual and complete productions of the writers whose names they bear.
“10. That your petitioners beg humbly to remind your Honours of the case of Walter Scott, as stated by an esteemed citizen of the United States, that while the works of this author, dear alike to your country and to ours, were read from Maine to Georgia, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, he received no remuneration from the American public for his labours; that an equitable remuneration might have saved his life, and would, at least, have relieved its closing years from the burden of debts and destructive toils.
"11. That your petitioners, deeply impressed with the conviction that the only firm ground of friendship between nations, is a strict regard to simple justice, earnestly pray that your Honours, the representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, will speedily use, in behalf of the authors of Great Britain,
your power of securing to the authors the exclusive
right to their respective writings.' Henry Clay The British address was referred to a select commitreport, 1837 tee, whose members were Clay, Webster, Buchanan,
Preston and Ewing, which reported favorably a bill for international copyright. The report took high ground in favor of the rights of authors:
“That authors and inventors have, according to the practice among civilized nations, a property in the respective productions of their genius, is incontestable; and that this property should be protected as effectually as any other property is, by law, follows as a legitimate consequence. Authors and inventors are among the greatest benefactors of mankind. It being established that literary property is entitled to legal protection, it results that this protection ought to be afforded wherever the property is situated. ... We should be all shocked if the law tolerated the least invasion of the rights of property, in the case of merchandise, whilst those which justly belong to the works of authors are exposed to daily violation, without the possibility of their invoking the aid of the laws. . . . In principle, the committee perceive no objection to considering the republic of letters as one great community, and adopting a system of protection for literary property which should
be common to all parts of it." A prophecy
The address of British authors and the Clay report of world
called forth a little volume of “Remarks on literary union
property” by Philip H. Nicklin, a Philadelphia publisher, printed by his own firm of "law booksellers in 1838, and dedicated to Henry C. Carey, which, though somewhat caustic in its criticisms of some of the arguments put forward by the British authors, heartily favored international copyright. The volume, in fact, contains a glowing prophecy of what
was realized in large measure in the convention of Berne a half century later, the more interesting as coming from an American publisher, who was perhaps first to realize in thought the world-wide possibilities of the movement then in its beginnings. He suggested that Congress should empower the President to appoint commissioners to meet in Europe with similar representatives from other nations "to negociate for the enactment of a uniform law of literary property, and the extension of its benefits to all civilised nations. It should be a new chapter of the Jus Gentium, and should be one law (iisdem verbis) for all the enacting nations, extending over their territories in the same manner as our law of copyright extends over the territories of our twenty-six sovereign states; so that an entry of copyright in the proper office of one nation should protect the author in all the others.”
“Public opinion has made such progress in the “One various civilized nations, as would justify a great
just law" movement in favour of establishing a universal republic of letters; whose foundation shall be one just law of literary property embracing authors of all nations, and being operative both in peace and war. Besides the great impulse that would be given by such a law, to the improvement of literature and intellectual cultivation, the fellowship of interest thus created among the learned men throughout the world, would in time grow into a bond of national peace. Authors would soon consider themselves as fellow-citizens of a glorious republic, whose boundaries are the great circles of the terraqueous globe; and instead of lending their talents for the purpose of exasperating national prejudice into hostile feeling, to further the views of ambitious politicians, they would exert their best energies to cultivate charity among
Clay bills, 1837-42
the numerous branches of the Human family, to rub off those asperities which the faulty legislation of the dark ages has bequeathed to the present generation, and to extend the blessings of christianity to the ends of the earth."
The Clay report, presented February 16, 1837, was accompanied by a bill drawn by Clay, extending copyright to British and French authors for works thereafter published, on condition of the issue of an American edition simultaneously with the foreign edition or within one month after deposit of the title in America, but it never came to a final vote, though reintroduced by Clay in successive Congresses December 13, 1837, December 17, 1838, January 6, 1840, and January 6, 1842. In 1840, January 8, the bill was reported back from the Judiciary Committee without recommendation or approval. The bill was also introduced into the House of Representatives by John Robertson, July 7, 1838, and by J. L. Tillinghast, June 6, 1840, but here also there was no action.
An invitation was extended by Lord Palmerston in 1838 for the coöperation of the American government in an international arrangement with Great Britain, but nothing came of it.
Dr. Francis Lieber, a well-known publicist, addressed to Senator Preston, in 1840, a letter “On international copyright," prepared in coöperation with George Palmer Putnam, and issued in pamphlet form by the house of Wiley & Putnam. Charles Dickens's tour in 1841 stimulated interest in the subject, and there were high hopes of some result. In 1843 Mr. Putnam procured the signatures of ninety-seven publishers, printers, and binders to a petition which was presented to Congress, setting forth that the absence of international copyright was “alike injurious to the business of publishing and to the best
Palmerston invitation, 1838
interests of the people." A counter-memorial from Philadelphia objected that international copyright “would prevent the adaptation of English books to American wants." No result came from these petitions, nor from one presented in 1848 by William Cullen Bryant, John Jay, George P. Putnam, and others.
In 1852 a petition for international copyright, signed Everett by Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and treaty, 1853 others, was presented to Congress; and in 1853 Edward Everett, then Secretary of State, negotiated through the American Minister in London, John F. Crampton, a treaty providing simply that authors entitled to copyright in one country should be entitled to it in the other, on the same conditions and for the same term. This treaty was laid before the Senate in a message from President Fillmore, February 18, 1853. The Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, through Charles Sumner, reported the Everett treaty favorably, but it was tabled in Committee of the Whole. Five New York publishers addressed a letter to Mr. Everett, supporting a convention, providing the work should be registered in the United States before publication abroad, issued here within thirty days after publication abroad, and wholly manufactured in this country. It was in this year that Henry C. Carey published his famous “Letters on international copyright," in which he held that ideas are the common property of society, and that copyright is therefore indefensible. Several remonstrances were also presented against the treaty from citizens of different states. The next year the amendatory article to the Everett treaty was laid before the Senate in a message from President Pierce of February 23, 1854, but no action resulted.