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MY LORD, Although I have not appeared before the Committee of the House of Commons, I cannot resist the opportunity of communicating my ideas on the subject of the Copy-right Bill, and more particularly, as I trust your Lordship’s opinion will have sufficient weight to produce events favorable to the cause of reason and justice.
As you have more especially desired to know my opinion, whether the continuance or repeal of the Bill will tend to the encouragement of learning, I shall confine myself, as much as possible, to that consideration. I will first remark on the original idea, that the eleven copies to the Libraries is for the encouragement of Literature. If this were granted, it would be an argument for the extension of the gift to all the Public Libraries; in which case it would surely better become Government to furnish them at the public expense; and not, as at present, render the tax so partial, that it has checked, and must often check, the publication of many works of taste and importance.
It is urged, that the privilege is merely a quid pro quo, i.e. the security of the Copy-right. Surely Literature should not be the only shackled Patent; for Copy-right is another term for Patent. Who, indeed, would have invented a steam-engine, if he had been obliged, before he could sell one, to give thirteen to public buildings ?-(for the large paper copy to the British Museum, and one to the printer, make the number thirteen). As well, my Lord, might coals and candles be thus
given to the Libraries for the encouragement of Literature. At all events, the stationer should be obliged to furnish the paper gratis, and Government should allow the drawback on the duty. It has been argued in favor of the claim, that it was enacted and exacted in former times; but to this I should answer, that, before the diffusion of Literature became general, an apprehension might exist, that works of merit and information might be lost; that in the mode of printing, which prevailed at that time-crowded pages and common paper--the expense was trifling: but inconsiderable as it was then, the good sense of the directors of the Libraries had induced them to forego and abandon the claim. It cannot be urged that the public pay for it; because it is not certain that the other 487, out of the 500, will sell; if it were, the author, so situated, would be indemnified: but it will readily occur to your Lordship, that in such a case, the price of 487 must be raised, and consequently the sale become more slow, and precarious. Besides, the answer to that argument is easy: the 13. copies should only be taken AFTER the sale of the 487, by which means authors would lose less, and the Libraries preserve their privilege. To confirm this position, it might be added: if the book is worth any thing, it will be certain of sale, and they of their copies; if otherwise, it will not be worth a place on their shelves. There are, however, great objections to this inerease of price, necessarily incurred by this gift, or rather extortion.-1st, That our Continental rivals are enabled to undersell us in our own market, even without the weight of this additional tax, in consequence of the high duty on paper, metal, rags, leather, &c. used in the manufacture of a book :-ox.gr: Porsoni Adversaria, P. Knight's Prolegomena, and the School Gradus, reprinted on the Continent, are sold cheaper in this country, with all the burden of the import tax, than our own editions—besides most of our popular English authors. 20, That poor authors, who are most to be considered, are miserably discouraged, since publishers reject much of their labors, owing to the operation of the Act. 3d, That the revenue itself suffers in a variety of ways by this check to publication, from decreased consumption of paper, &c., and the consequent dimination of employment to artists and mechanics. Indeed I am sure that the present loss to the revenue would amply enable Government to grant 3001. per ann. to each of these Libraries; which would more than purchase all the useful books published in the year; for ! believe 4001. would pay for a copy of every work printed within each year, The duty on the paper alone, of a work
value 100 guineas, would repay Government for such a grant to these Libraries.-But your Lordship knows that they are sufficiently rich to supply themselves with the works they want.
It requires but little sophistry to prove that such gifts actually discourage Literature, since most of these very Libraries would, if not all, purchase those very books, on which the weight falls at all heavy. I could mention to your Lordship a work, which is entirely suspended in consequence of this Act, and in which the Church is particularly interested. I have had much conversation on the subject with the Bishop of -; but, 'as I am certain that all these Libraries must have it, in its improved and altered state, it will not of course be contemplated, till the Act is repealed—its price is now very high, and it could be offered to the general and poorer scholar for one-third its present price. Such a book, as well as many others standing in need of no Copy-right, should surely be exempted from the operation of what is called a quid pro quo. But, why must the security of literary, be more shackled and burdened than any other, property? I might also notice to your Lordship another reason why these copies, so given, do bona fide discourage Literature. It is neither unknown to, nor unfelt by, the Bookseller, that by the sale of a book or newspaper to a place, where a Public Library or Institution is established, his connexion, in its neighbourhood, is very materially reduced; this, however, cannot be remedied, nor can it be well made a matter of complaint. Many will perhaps be inclined to urge, that as these Institutions attract readers, so will the Libraries in question; but I am free to say that these latter are very rarely in comparison consulted, in consequence of the forms and difficulties of access, (which your Lordship may have lately heard noticed in the House, by several members, when the Bill was under consideration, -nay, I would contend, from experience at the University, that scholars are more apt and willing to lend and borrow among therfselves, than submit to the ordeal of an introduction, &c. which subjects them to some kind of obligation.
It has been objected in the House, by Mr. W. Dundas, to a Petition, that the allegations contained in it are erroneousit however matters very little, ou public principles, whether the Petitioner is to lose 14001. or 10001., though I could prove that the positive as well as negative loss, i.e. in the sule to these very Libraries, exceeds the sum mentioned in the Petition. I 12 copies could be printed over the 250 or 500, it might be less than stated; but, as by printing 512, according
to the present practice of the trade, which cannot be altered, 750' would be paid for, the loss would of course be greater thap is stated. But I will put it on a different footing:
-If I print 250 or 500, I expect to sell them at the whole price, or I should not print them; and, if I were robbed of 12 copies, the law would allow me the sum at which I should have sold them. This will probably be considered as a satisfactory answer.
I am not, however, my Lord, one of those, who calculate so much on the sum to be lost, as on the discouragement of Literature, which, I am persuaded, is the consequence of this Act.-And who is absurd enough to say, that this check to the fair and honorable remuneration of the labor of authors is an encouragement of Literature? I well know that the active opposers of the present Bill, for repealing the Act, are actuated solely by the consideration that they must support the privileges of their constituents, who are the interested parties; for I have never yet heard one conclusive argument in its favor. It is an anomaly in political economy, and no individual of any government would himself attempt to prove that such a tax did not discourage Literature. It is imposed by an assembly, and therefore no individual is responsible. With respect to the Bill itself, so few members in the House are interested in its repcal, that they will not take the trouble to consider its bearings, and thus the opposers always succeed. Last year, indeed, the repeal was lost by the majority of one only, which gives me reason to hope a favorable result next session. If it were considered of general importance, the Act would be speedily repealed. It was the intention of a Publisher to have printed three copies of an extensive work on Vellum, for 300 guineas each, for which he could have procured purchasers; but, as one copy on the best paper must have been given to the British Museum, it could not of course be afforded; and, as no person would have paid so much for a book, which could be seen by every body on any day, he was obliged to abandon the intention. This is a severe check to industry, and more particularly to the fine arts—for we are very deficient in printing on Vellum in this country, and this clause is a total prohibition to its improvement. Your Lordship will perceive how particularly oppressive the Act is, on large works, where only a few can be printed ;-—where there are 3 or 4000 copies printed, and sure of sale, it is of much less consequence.
It is notorious, that the minor productions sent to the Uni