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Take again the instance of American periodicals. What encouragement is extended to a publisher to undertake the issuing of a monthly, or quarterly, containing original articles, when he can republish the best British Reviews at the mere cost of paper, printing, and binding? Nothing is paid to the editors-nothing to the contributors-nothing to the English publisher. Whereas, in the case of a native production, editors must receive an equivalent for their services-original articles must be compensated-the risk must be incurred of the work not being a favourite with the public. With the other, on the contrary, its former reputation is a sufficient warrant-it may be, a sure one-of its present value; or, at least, is esteemed so by that numerous class who take all things upon trust, provided they are of foreign origin.
Under this state of things, then, American genius languishes -American enterprise is depressed. The preference is given to foreign literature, not from regard to foreign literati, nor, as a general rule, because the publications themselves are of a higher order, (we speak now in reference to publishers,) but because they can be got at a cheaper rate, or rather for nothing, while the efforts of native talent must be paid for.
That these are facts, no one acquainted with the subject can deny. What, then, is asked? To foster American productions at the expense of foreign? By no means. But to place them upon an equality, and by doing so, to render justice to their authors, at the same time that we spare the sacrifice of our
Every thing which has been said with respect to the claims of literary men upon the public-the encouragement they should receive in an enlightened republic-and the just equivalent which they should reap for their labours-may be urged with additional force, and a freedom, too, from the charge of national selfishness, when applied to the case of our own wriIt is the duty of every government to protect and foster her own citizens-if in the arts, or sciences, or manufactures, then eminently so in literature. Especially is this a duty in a comparatively young nation, with an infant literature; where men, whose minds are directed to such pursuits, have much to contend against, and who have a right to expect that their country will at least adopt no line of policy which will subject them to additional embarrassments and difficulties.
We would, however, not stop at an alteration even of the kind proposed. To do complete justice both to British authors and to our own countrymen, all duties upon the importation of books, in the English language, should be abolished. This would render the system uniform and complete. Every consideration of public policy and regard to the interests of litera
ture requires this course. The present is a period when difficulties arise not from a deficient but a redundant treasury. The ingenuity and the skill of our legislators are constantly taxed to devise measures towards the reduction of the public income, without material injury to vested interests. The duty upon foreign books is called for by no motive either of revenue or of encouragement to domestic industry. It is a tax-and a most unrighteous one-upon literature. It prevents the most careful and the most beautiful editions of books, which would be in the hands of a great portion of our people who are now deprived of them, from being generally disseminated; and it shuts up a market of great extent against the foreign publishers, who, if it were opened, and of course the demand proportionately increased, would be able to issue their editions at a much cheaper rate. It may be said that it operates as an encouragement to our own printers and book-binders. We do not think so; nor, if it did, do we consider their interests paramount to those of the class who purchase and read the books. Books are (unfortunately, it may be said,) with the great mass of the people not considered as necessaries. The cheaper form therefore in which they may be presented, the more acceptable are they to them. They will of course always give the preference to the less expensive and necessarily inferior editions, which answer their purpose of being read just as well as the most costly editions-the demand for the latter being confined to the more wealthy classes, to men of refined tastes, and to public institutions. The American publisher has therefore but little inducement to issue the finer editions of works, and seeks rather to supply the popular demand in a way suited to it. Those who choose to furnish themselves with works in a more elegant dress ought not to be prevented from doing so by a heavy tax. The arts in England are, in this branch, ahead of ours; not at all owing to our fault, nor admitted to our shame; for doubtless in time we shall rival our British brethren in this particular as we have in many others. But before this happens, a general taste must be encouraged, and must become prevalent, for the ornamental and finer branches of book-making, and nothing would conduce more to this than the general dissemination of English editions in this country. All tastes thus would have the means of gratification within their reach. The English edition would be procured by those who preferred it; and the American, and cheaper, by such again as were influenced by other and equally praiseworthy motives. The competition, too, between the two issues would cheapen both; and in progress of time, from natural causes easy to be perceived, the ability of American publishers to compete with foreign in the style of their editions would be securely established. This competition that we speak of seems
one of the essential means of preventing the publisher who may secure the copyright of a new work, and has therefore the monopoly of it, from charging too high a price for it. We think, indeed, that his best interests would be promoted by a different course, and that it is always the wisest plan for every bookseller to put his stock at the lowest rates consistent with a reasonable remuneration for his trouble, and a moderate profit. Still it might be better to guard against the temptation by such an abolition of the duty as we have suggested.
The actual revenue derived from this source must be comparatively trifling, too small to be an object, merely under this aspect, with a great nation. The inconvenience and positive injury to men of science and letters, on the contrary, are very great. Their interests and comfort, we have before said, deserve encouragement at the hand of government. What practical benefit is derived then from the tax to any branch of business or any class of our fellow citizens? We can see none. Has it operated to improve the arts of printing and book-binding? What is the actual experience upon this point? In the affirmative? We express our opinion here also the other way. That there has been an improvement in these respects, we acknowledge, and have been glad and proud to see, but it is not owing to the mere duty upon foreign books; it has arisen from the natural progress of improvement which takes place in every art from lapse of time, from experience, and consequent growing skill, from the increasing taste for the refinements of art, which we have said in regard to books will be enhanced by the dissemination of superior foreign specimens among us. Let the taste of the people be improved and strengthened, and there will be ample encouragement extended to this and every other branch of the fine arts.
It needed scarcely the emphatic language of the British memorialists to convince any one who would take the trouble to reflect upon the subject, of the deep and extensive injuries sustained by them in the unjust spoliation of their property. Let but a moment's thought be expended upon the vast number of readers of works of fiction and of the lighter departments of literature in this immensely extended country, and he will be at once sensible of the magnitude of the market to which the complainants were clearly entitled and of which they have been deprived. And for whose advantage? For that of a few publishers, who had no more right to appropriate the works of Walter Scott, for example, to their own use, than they had to do so with his estate at Abbotsford, which finally fell under the hammer for want of those means that would have been amply supplied had the large receipts, arising from the sale of his works in America, found their way into his pockets instead VOL. XXI.—No. 41.
of those not entitled to receive them. While the whole of our extensive country was perusing with delight those pages which have solaced many a weary hour, and have in turn brightened the face with smiles or bedewed it in tears at the will of the writer, he himself was struggling under a load of debts and sinking under a depression of spirits, which would have been alike removed by the grant of that justice which, we trust, though late indeed, will be accorded by our legislators to those who are happily capable of enjoying the boon.
We have briefly and hastily thrown together the views which presented themselves to our minds upon this topic; one of interest, not only to authors and those connected with the American press, but to every citizen zealous for the honour of his country. We are anxious to let our brethren across the water see that their claims are not disregarded here; and that the profession, at least, in this country is willing to do them justice. We would advocate with all our humble ability any proposition to draw closer the bonds of amity and union between the United States and England, and particularly between the members of a literary community. In regard to the fate of the proposed bill at this present session of congress we were not disappointed, because it was introduced at a very late period of the session, and when there was a vast amount of very important business pressing upon the attention of that body, which required instant action. It was to be expected also that time would be required to consider the effect of the measure upon interests which, it is supposed by some, might be injuriously operated upon, and to correct any prejudices that may have been hastily assumed in regard to it. One chief object has been gained in bringing the matter in a tangible shape before congress, and we trust that it will receive an early and favourable reception hereafter.
The report of the committee we shall also extract at length. We wish to preserve all that has passed upon so interesting a topic, and shall therefore offer no apology for transcribing it. The views and sentiments of the committee are more commendable than the literary execution of the report, which is not so happy as most of the efforts of the distinguished chairman. If it answer the purpose, however, of inducing congress to grant the prayer of the memorialists it will have done its work to our
The committee say:
"That, by the act of congress of 1831, being the law now in force regulating copyrights, the benefits of the act are restricted to citizens or residents of the United States; so that no foreigner, residing abroad, can secure a copyright in the United States for any work of which he is the author, however important or valuable it may be. The object of the address and petition,
therefore, is to remove this restriction as to British authors, and to allow them to enjoy the benefits of our law.
"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. They are often dependent, exclusively, upon their own mental labours for the means of subsistence; and are frequently, from the nature of their pursuits, or the constitution of their minds, incapable of applying that provident care to worldly affairs which other classes of society are in the habit of bestowing. These considerations give additional strength to their just title to the protection of the law.
"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. A British merchant brings or transmits to the United States a bale of merchandise, and the moment it comes within the jurisdiction of our laws, they throw around it effectual security. But if the work of a British author is brought to the United States, it may be appropriated by any resident here, and republished, without any compensation whatever being made to the author. We should be all shocked if the law tolerated the least invasion of the rights of property, in the case of the 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.
"The committee think that this distinction in the condition of the two descriptions of property is not just, and that it ought to be remedied by some safe and cautious amendment of the law. Already the principle has been adopted in the patent laws, of extending their benefits to foreign inventions or improvements. It is but carrying out the same principle to extend the benefit of our copyright laws to foreign authors. In relation to the subjects of Great Britain and France, it will be but a measure of reciprocal justice; for, in both of those countries, our authors may enjoy that protection of their laws for literary property which is denied to their subjects here.
"Entertaining these views, the committee have been anxious to devise some measures which, without too great a disturbance of interests, or affecting too seriously arrangements which have grown out of the present state of things, may, without hazard, be subjected to the test of practical experience. Of the works which have heretofore issued from the foreign press, many have already been republished in the United States, others are in progress of republication, and some probably have been stereo