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ment ever extended to its authors, Wordsworth was a petitioner, and Talford a debater.
I have felt the temptation, and have so far yielded, that, in the pages which follow, much that is historical will be found commingled with the technical; but I have tried to remember that I was writing a practical book for a practical profession, and to limit myself to the usefulness of the subject. A greater or less security in their literary property is now accorded to authors, by the laws of every civilized nation. Both in the United States and England, equity is now prompt to interfere in cases of infringement, while in France (and possibly elsewhere) piracy is a misdemeanor cognizable by the police, and the culprit who steals a poem or a drama, has his case attended to as briskly as his confrère who rifles. a pocket, the consequence being, in that happy country, that authors—while they have fewer precedents in their favor than with us—have much more protection. It is remarkable that, of all these civilized nations, the United States is the only one which has not bestowed upon the author a proprietorship over his own productions for at least his own lifetime, be that lifetime longer or shorter, but has limited it, absolutely, to a certain term of years. The reason for this policy is not so evident. It is certainly difficult to. see the justice of a measure which denies to one's old age the profits of the labor of his earlier years——which, in the noble words of Talford, “Gives a bounty to haste, and informs the laborious student—who would wear away his strength to complete some work which the world will not
willingly let die—that the more of his life he devotes to its perfection, the more limited shall be his interest in its fruits.” Of a similar provision in the English law——one which, owing to his efforts, has long since disappeared—the Sergeant continued : “It stops the progress of remuneration at the moment it is most needed ; and when the benignity of nature would extract from her last calamity a means of support and comfort to the survivors—at the moment when his name is invested with the solemn interest of the grave— when his eccentricities or frailties excite a smile or a shrug no longer—when the last seal is set upon his earthly course, and his works assume their place among the classics of his country—your law declares that his works shall become your property, and you requite him by seizing the patrimony of his children.” But the time of a wider appreciation and favor to authors is at hand. It is believed that the courts of the United States have gone further than those of any other country in securing to alien authors their common-law rights (such as they happened to be) in their own compositions. It is to be hoped she may yet—in her statutes—be as generous to her own.
I have expressed myself, in the second volume of this work, as unreservedly in favor of an International Copyright, and given some reasons why, as it seems to me, such a measure is demanded, not only by all justice—which scarcely anybody can be found to deny—but by all expediency, as well.
I am very far from wishing to be understood as saying that it is an expediency merely for the authors, or merely for the literature of the country. Years ago, Thomas Hood declared “that America, in the absence of an international
Copyright, can never possess a native literature, has been foretold by the second-sighted on either side of the Atlantic.” But that negative prophecy does not appear to be on its way to a fulfillment. It seems to me, rather, that—in a large sense—the interest of the consumers, of the readers—of the people—demand it, and that whatever is the interest of the people, must ultimately and triumphantly prevail. As it stands now, the public—the readers of Great Britain and the United States—are obliged, practically, to pay for the manufacture of a book twice before they can have the opportunity to read it once ; a vast and unnecessary burden that is daily making itself felt and realized. But it is perhaps superfluous to say more. As sure as it is that birds and bards will sing, that authors will write, and that readers will read, until the end of time, so sure is it that one day—come it soon or later—Statutes of Copyright will
be as broad as the world.
May 1, 1875,
* “Copy Right and Copy Wrong.” Letter X. Hood's Choice Works (New York, 1856.) Vol. 1. p. 115. And see a similar remark quoted by Mr. Emerson in his “English Traits.” “So long as you (America) deny us (England) copyright, we shall have the teaching of you.”—p. 32.
CONTENTS OF WOLUME I.
Difficulty of defining an occupancy in ideas, O
Upon the ground of convenience to the state—the law
Nothing in nature which cannot be converted into an
General rule as to damage by libel, © • • . . . 13