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TO AMEND THE COPYRIGHT ACT
MONDAY, APRIL 19, 1926
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
COMMITTEES ON PATENTS OF THE UNITED STATES
SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C.
The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 o'clock a. m., in room 412, Senate Office Building, Senator William M. Butler (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senators Butler (chairman), and Broussard, and Representatives Bloom, Bowles, Lanham, Goodwin, Hammer, Wefald, and McLeod.
The CHAIRMAN. Before we begin the hearing I would like to offer for the record a letter which I have received from Secretary Hoover, addressed to the chairman, which, if there is no objection, will be inserted in the record. The language of it is as follows:
MY DEAR MR. SENATOR: There have come to my attention the absolutely incorrect statements made before the joint hearings of the Senate and House Patent Committees to the effect that in the fourth radio conference I advocated the placing of a license fee upon radio receiving sets. If you think wise, I should like to submit the following statements for inclusion in the committee records.
I have continuously opposed any policy whereby the Government would undertake to place a charge upon the listener through a license fee placed upon radio receiving sets, such as is done in some foreign countries.
I expressed this view at the first radio conference, in 1922, and have repeatedly reaffirmed it in various statements since. In my opening address before the last radio conference, I said:
"Some of our major decisions of policy have been of far-reaching importance and have justified themselves a thousandfold. The decision that the public through the Government, must retain the ownership of the channels through the air with just as zealous a care for open competition as we retain public ownership of our navigation channels has given freedom and development in service that would have otherwise been lost in private monopolies. The decision that we should not imitate some of our foreign colleagues with governmentally controlled broadcasting supported by a tax upon the listener has secured for us a far greater variety of programs and excellence in service free of cost to the listener. This decision has avoided the pitfalls of political, religious, and social conflicts in the use of speech over the radio which no government could solve it has preserved free speech to this medium."
In a statement made at the opening of the first radio conference, February 27, 1922:
"One of the problems that enter into this whole question is that of who is to support the sending stations. In certain countries, the government has prohibited the use of receiving instruments except upon payment of a fee, out of which are supported government sending stations. I believe that such a plan would most seriously limit the development of the art and its social possibilities and that it is almost impossible to control. I believe that we ought to allow anyone to put in receiving stations who wishes to do so.
In an address by radio on the opening of the Fourth Annual Radio Exposition September 12, 1925:
A few years
"Now, it is often said that the listener in the United States receives an extraordinary service without paying for it. But in the fashion we have developed the organization of the radio in the United States the listener is free from any direct charge for programs. And in this we differ fom the methods of foreign countries who seek to support broadcasting by tax on the listener. ago much anxiety was expressed that we could not maintain good programs of entertainment and the delivery of public information without devising some system of tax upon the listeners. It has been my aspiration that we should keep the home free from constant annoyance of any attempt to assess the cost of broadcasting upon each receiving instrument. And I have believed that the industry would develop far more rapidly in this matter than if we pursued the European plan. But beyond this, support by taxation means a limited number of Government-controlled broadcasting stations, and therefore much less variety of program, much less competitive endeavor to please the listener, and above all constant dangers of censorship."
In a statement issued from the Department of Commerce, February 8, 1925: "A misapprehension which I would like at this time to correct is that any suggestion has been made by me or the Department of Commerce that there should be a tax on the sale of radio material for the provision of a national program. Such proposals were discussed at the recent radio conference but were abandoned, and at the present moment it seems evident that from the vast increase in broadcasting stations there is no need for a direct or indirect charge upon listeners in order to secure service."
Representative LANHAM. Mr. Chairman, may I say here that I am bringing to the attention of the committee two communications by Mr. Edwin Waller of San Marcos, Tex., being correspondence that he had with Mr. F. D. Robertson, of Dallas, attorney for the Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers represented here.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, Mr. Buck.
Mr. Buck. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I wish to present to the committee one of the greatest living composers and the vice president of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Mr. John Philip Sousa.
STATEMENT OF JOHN PHILIP SOUSA, PORT WASHINGTON,
Mr. SOUSA. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, Mr. Buck has requested me to come here and say a few words, a very few words, on the feeling and the experience of a composer. Knowing myself perhaps better than I do anyone else, I will select myself as the one to talk about.
I would like to start by saying that I belong to what I believe is the finest profession in the world. It is one that is far and above any other that I know anything about. It is perhaps the only profession that never brings sorrow. A composer has much the better of the lawyer because the lawyer goes into court and sends a man to the penitentiary and I imagine at times he sorrows over that, and the judge sends him to the gallows and I imagine that he at times sorrows over that. The doctor is always at the bedside of suffering, either imaginary or real, and the soldier is out to kill or to get killed. But the composer in a man's bridal day gives out joy in his music; in the man's burial day he gives out consolation. Therefore, I think it is the sweetest and the finest profession in the world, and there is nothing in the activity of the people or the Government of this country that I would exchange for my profession and my place in it.
Starting from the beginning of my career, which will be very brief, after I had composed for several years, perhaps from my eleventh up to my fourteenth or fifteenth year, finally some friends, possibly misguided, had thought that a composition that I wrote should go before the public. So I went to a publisher. I was born here in Washington and had the opportunity of drinking in lacteal fluid and patriotism at the same time because my mother's bed chamber looked out at the Capitol. I took this composition to a publisher and I said, “I have a composition with a very beautiful title." He read the title with more interest than he did the composition, which may have been right. The composition was called "Moonlight on the Potomac," and you who have lived here moonlight nights know how beautiful that is. He looked at the composition rather superficially, I thought, and said, "I will publish this for $50."
At that time $50 was real money and I had not it. So I was very much dejected and I took the manuscript under my arm and walked toward home. I met a young man and he said, "Why are you looking so sorrowful?" I said, "I just had my composition rejected by a publisher unless I could pay $50 for its publication." He said, "What is it called?" I said, "Moonlight on the Potomac." He said, "That's a great title. I will give $25 for the publication if you will have it dedicated to my girl. I am very much in love with her and I want to bring her back to the sticking point." I told the publisher that I had $25 and possibly I could get the rest in the future. He said, "Well, anybody who has $25 I am always willing to help." The composition was published. It was my first. man did not marry the girl; she married somebody else, but I do not think it was on account of the composition.
I am not going to mention all the compositions that I have written, Mr. Chairman, because there are some 400 of them all together, but the next two I wrote I sold for the magnificient sum of $100. I thought that was progress. Others I sold for $5, etc. Then I sold one for a actionary. It was a good dictionary, being unabridged, and one out of which I got a good many words which I hope I will be able to use this morning.
Then I began to attract a little attention. A publisher in Philadelphia said he would publish my compositions and give me 10 per cent royalty on them. That was quite magnificent. I started with one that a gentlemen told me this morning was one of the most beautiful, the "National Fencibles," then the "Washington Post," the "High Semper Fidelis"-possibly 30 or 40 compositions. He wrote me and said "I am not fond of keeping books; I would rather pay you outright for your compositions. All you have to do is to compose the music, arrange it for band, orchestra, and piano, and I will give you $35." I think some of that $35 is still due me, but he has passed to a better world, I hope, and I will overlook that.
A little while afterwards I received an offer from the John Church Co. They said, "We would like to talk with you about composing for our house." They sent one of their representatives to see me and he made me an offer of $200 advance royalty and 15 per cent on the retail price of everything I would write. As $200 as a starter was six times more than this other publisher was giving me, it was a nice thing. I thought I had better talk it over with my family before rejecting the offer. I did so, and my family having better business
sense than I did, said, "You had better take it." So I wrote to the $35 publisher and said, "I have an offer. I do not want to change if you are willing to meet that offer." He came on to see me and said, "I do not want to loose you from my catalogue and I would be delighted to pay you what you want." He went back home but he did not leave a contract. It looks bad when you do not leave a contract. In a few days he wrote me and said, "If I had not made you that offer I would not make it now." That rather peeved me. I am not temperamental at all, although a composer, and I telegraphed to Cincinnati to send on the contract. The contract came and the first piece that I gave the Cincinnati firm was "The Liberty Bell." Probably that is known to most of the gentlemen here. I think I have heard it something like a million and a half times and other people were present when I did hear it. The first month my royalty from that march was $1,750, which was real money. I felt very proud.
Then I wrote "Manhattan Beach," "El Capitan," "King Cotton," "Pathfinder," "Stars and Stripes Forever," and others.
This firm in the goodness of their hearts and by examining their books paid at times to me over $60,000 a year in royalties.
A little while after that the talking machines began to come into notice and the royalties began to shrink. I was still holding some popularity before the public, because at times there was great difficulty to get into the halls to hear my music. Of course, they have great merit, everybody knows that, still everybody could not get in. So I was not losing any popularity.
From this $60,000, and sometimes over a year, I reached at the present time-my secretary told me when I came down here, as I wanted to be very correct in my statement-that all I got for royalties last year was $29,500. It is a pittance compared to what I got before. I am still able to live and have enough to keep the wolf from the door, but I can only look at the fall. I do not think it is due to a loss in popularity, but I believe that the public to-day and from the day of the talking machine to the present radio is a listening public rather than a buying public. I think they go to the talking machine and get a Sousa march or something else and hear it and are satisfied. Formerly little Nellie came home from school and said, "I heard teacher play a beautiful piece on the piano to-day. It was called 'El Capitan.' I wish you would buy it for me, mother." Her mother said, "If you will practice, I will buy it." Little Nellie agreed and the piece was bought. Then little Maggie across the street heard it and bought a copy, and everybody on that street was wagging away on "El Capitan.
The consequence was if I sold a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand or a million copies of any of these marches I got 72 cents royalty on each of them. I have to sell 71⁄2 times more records for a talking machine to get the same royalty that I received in music. In other words, if I sell 100,000 copies of, we will say, "Stars and Stripes Forever," the talking machines have got to sell 750,000 before I get the same royalty. I do not think that is fair. I think it is rather a bad precedent to establish to give me a penny for a record. Of course, you are not to blame for that. I imagine that most of the Members of Congress who did that are now sleeping quietly under
tombstones. However, I did not write a march for them or a dirge and I am not going to.
After quite a number of years, the John Church Co., through its president, possibly getting overopulent through my compositions, started to dictate. As I say, I am not dictatorial, but being an American I occasionally resent things of that kind, and just at that moment my contract expired with the John Church Co. and I informed the company that I would never write for them again as long as that man was in their office. It might have been a tough proposition on my part to drive a fellow out in the cold, but I did it. I was playing at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in California and received telegram from a publisher in New York offering me 20 per cent royalty and in addition thereto $500 on every piece of music that I wrote. I published a number of pieces with that publisher, and then another publisher, not to be outdone in generosity, came to me and offered me a thousand dollars and 15 per cent for everything I wrote for him. Just at that moment I received a request from the commanding officer of one of the crack Cavalry regiments in the Army-I was then in the Navy myself asking me to compose a march for their troop. I immediately got into a condition of mental gestation, and out of that mental gestation came the "Saber and Spurs," one of the most popular of my modern marches. Everybody was very happy, including the publisher and the commanding officer of that post.
In making my contracts with publishers I do not confine myself to any one publisher. Any one of them will take my compositions, and I select the one I think is best fitted to push the composition. The public should know that it is in existence; it should not be hidden under the counter.
This continued up to the present time, and I would like to say that as a member and vice president of this Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers there is one thing that I know, from the president down to the last man in that concern, and that is that we want to be fair with the talking-machine people, with the moving-picture people, with the radio people, and with everybody else, but I think when we furnish the brains to make it possible for them to make money we should get some of it. We want to meet on absolutely an equal basis and we want to be honest, and if we do the night shall be filled with music and the cares that infest the days will fold their tents as the Arabs and as silently sail away.
Mr. Buck. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I would like to present Mr. E. C. Mills, chairman of the administrative committee of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, and the chairman of the Music Publishers Protective Association.
STATEMENT OF E. C. MILLS, CHAIRMAN OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEE OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHERS AND CHAIRMAN OF THE MUSIC PUBLISHERS PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION
Mr. MILLS. Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the committee, I should be introduced as Mr. Mills, of New York and Washington. Like Tennyson's "Brook," these copyright hearings go on and there is no end to them.