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think fit, and search all houses where they should know, or upon some probable cause suspect, any books to be printed, bound, or stitched, and to examine whether the same were licensed or not. By the same statute, every printer was required to send three copies of every book new printed, or reprinted with additions, to the Stationers' Company, and these copies were to be sent from thence to the king's library and to the public libraries of Oxford and Cambridge. The object of requiring this delivery was manifestly to enforce the intentions of the act, by bringing every book under the cognizance of persons who would see that the provisions of the law were observed. This statute continued in force for a few years, and when the inflammatory spirit of fanaticism was supposed in some degree to have spent itself, it was suffered to expire; the press again became free, and the delivery of the three copies ceased to be law. One of the first acts of James II. was to revive an act so entirely conformable to his temper and designs; and it was continued for six years after the Revolution. Then it was allowed to die: the Imprimatur disappeared from English books, and the delivery of the three copies again was at an end, that delivery having been imposed, not as an encouragement to literature, but as one of the auxiliary inquisitorial restrictions on the press.'
In the year 1709, being the 8th of Queen Anne, an act was made 'for the encouragement of learning, by vesting the copies of printed books in the authors or purchasers of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.' The preamble to this law stated that printers, booksellers, and other persons had of late frequently taken the liberty of printing and publishing books, and other writings, without the consent of the authors or proprietors, to their very great de
triment, and too often to the ruin of them and their families;' and the act itself was designed for preventing such practices for the future, and for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books.' By this act it was declared, that the author or his assigns should possess an exclusive copyright for the term of fourteen years from the day of publication and no longer, and that, after the expiration of that term, the sole right should return to the author if he were living, for another fourteen years. A penalty of one penny for every sheet was then imposed upon all pirated copies of books, besides the forfeiture of the books to the proprietors of the copy for waste paper: but it was declared that no person should be subject to the penalties thus imposed, unless the title to the copy of the book should have been entered before publication in the Register book of the Stationers' Company, in such manner as had been usual. The Stationers' Company was first chartered by Philip and Mary, because, the charter says, seditious and heretical books, both in rhymes and tracts, were daily printed, renewing and
spreading great and detestable heresies against the Catholic doctrines of the Holy Mother Church.' To put a stop to this evil, the charter embodied ninety-seven persons, whom it named, and enacted that no one should practise the art of printing in England unless he belonged to the Company, or had a license. The master and wardens were authorized to search, seize, and destroy all prohibited books, and imprison any one who should exercise the art of printing contrary to this ordinance. It soon became the practice of the Company to keep a public register in their common-hall for the entry and description of books and copies.
By the bill as it was originally brought in, the delivery of the three copies was again required; as it passed through the House of Commons one was added for Sion College, and another for the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh. And in the House of Lords four were added for the Scotch Universities, making in all nine copies. It is worthy of notice, that the bill, as it was introduced, had no limitation of the copyright, but proceeded upon the fair common law right and natural equity of authors and proprietors to a perpetual copyright, which they had always before enjoyed. The limitary words were introduced during its progress through parliament, and there have been Judges who thought that the limitation was intended to apply only to the penalties which the act imposed upon those persons who should think proper to publish books which were the property of others. The same act contained this curious clause, that if any person conceived the price which was fixed upon a new book to be high and unreasonable, he might complain of it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Lord Chancellor, certain of the judges in England and Scotland, the Vice Chancellors of either University, or the Rector of the College of Edinburgh, any one of which persons was empowered to summon before him the printer or bookseller, question him concerning the causes of the alleged high price, reduce it to what they might think just and reasonable, and in such case condemn the said printer or bookseller'in all costs and charges that the person or persons so complaining had been put unto, by reason of such complaint.' The enforcement of this wise clause has lately been recommended in the newspapers by some blockhead, who may be excused for not knowing that it was repealed in George the Second's reign, but is not to be pardoned for the meddling and tyrannical disposition which would revive a power, as vexatious in itself as it is incompatible with the common principles of free trade.
The framers of this bill discovered a strange ignorance of the principles of trade, and they were not better acquainted with the true interests of literature. The bill, however, for a full century was understood and acted upon according to its intentions, as hav
ing been framed solely for the purpose of protecting authors and their assigns from piracy. And during more than half that time it was established by repeated decisions in the Court of Chancery that the Common Law right of authors to the copyright of their own works was not taken away by the statute of Anne; but in 1774 the House of Lords made a new decree, and voted the Common Law right to be merged in that statute. Upon this decision the English and Scotch Universities and the three public schools of Winchester, Eton, and Westminster petitioned parliament to secure to them a perpetual copyright in all books which theretofore had been deemed their property, or which might thereafter become so; and they obtained the prayer of their petition. Thus,' says Mr. Duppa, the Universities preserved their perpetual copyright; the King also retains his copyright for ever by common law; but the authors lost theirs by an act which was meant to strengthen the power of the Stationers' Company, and to give an additional protection and security to their property.' Why no similar petition was presented by the authors, who were infinitely more aggrieved, may easily be understood; they felt and suffered as individuals, but were of all men least likely either to act as a body, or to obtain attention to their claims.
With regard to the delivery of the nine copies, it was understood for about an hundred years after the passing of the act, that copies were required of those books only which should be registered at Stationers' Hall. Authors and booksellers therefore who thought the protection which the Act of Anne afforded them worth the expense of nine copies, registered their books, if they apprehended any invasion of their copyright. And when the bill which restored to the Universities and public schools the perpetuity of their copyrights was passed, it appears undeniable that the House of Commons and the friends of the Universities acquiesced in this opinion; for it was ordered that the Committee should make provision for enforcing the clause in the Act of Anne which provides for the delivery of the copies of each book printed and registered under the direction of the said Act. A decision of the court of King's Bench in 1798 established that the author had a right of action for damages, independent of the penalty; but before this decision the practice of registering important books had become very unusual. Lord Colchester's bill for extending the laws of copyright to Ireland required two additional copies for the Dublin libraries, but confirmed the received interpretation of the act by expressing that they were to be of such books as should be entered in the Register. The act for the suppression of seditious societies which directed that the printer's name should be affixed to every work, required also that he should reserve a copy of every work which he printed.
Such were the laws upon this subject and such the practice till the year 1805. The public libraries and the Universities acquiesced in the settled practice; they received such publications as were entered at Stationers' Hall, and instead of demanding others as their right, and thereby levying a tax upon literature, were left to act as its patrons by purchasing, if they pleased, such as were deemed worthy of their choice. But behold,
here is Domine Picklock,
My man o' law, solicits all my causes;
Follows my business; makes and compounds my quarrels
And reaps them too; troubles the country for me,
In the year 1805, Mr. Basil Montagu who, at that time, resided at Cambridge, either wished to enforce to the utmost the supposed claims of his University, or found it less agreeable to supply himself with law-books at his own expense than at that of the authors and booksellers, and construing the law with a view to one or other of these purposes, he addressed a set of queries to the Universities for the purpose of inciting them to assert a claim to copies of every work that should be published whether it were registered or not. Shortly afterwards Mr. Professor Christian experienced the great inconvenience of not being able to obtain from the University library Mr. East's Reports, Mr. Vesey's Decisions, and other books of like importance to himself in his professional and individual studies. And he likewise published a treatise with the same object as Mr. Basil Montagu, and from the same motive, as he candidly
Mr. Professor Christian admits that some persons are inclined to think it a paltry and mendicant attempt to take from a poor author nine or eleven copies of a valuable work;' but he maintains that it is a great national object perfectly consistent not only with the present law, but with sound policy and good government, and also with the best principles of moral justice. He says, that it is
an equitable tax upon the republic of learning for the benefit of learning itself,' and that it would be paid with alacrity by every honourable author as a debt of justice and gratitude for the benefit which he must or might have received from the Universities as the common fountains of science.' He says, that 'even the most mercenary authors expect to be repaid not by the purchasers of their works, but by the credit they hope to derive from their exertions and industry, and by the general advancement of their fortune in life;' that they are anxious and ambitious that their works should be honoured with a conspicuous place in the public libraries of the kingdom,' and that they are indifferent with respect to purchasers
if they have but readers.' To the authors therefore he represents the tax as altogether useful, honourable, and agreeable; and to the booksellers he maintains that it is a matter of no concern, because, < whether nine or ninety copies are given away, it is all one to them; they can calculate their loss and gain, advantage and disadvantage, to the greatest nicety; they can either give the author less, or make the public pay more. As the best means of putting this important subject in a train of further investigation, he proposed that the University of Cambridge should institute an action upon the statute of Anne. But if the judgment of the court should confirm his opinion, still he thought an application to Parliament would be indispensable, because the presumed right was lost if the action was not brought within three months after the publication of a book, and because it was quite clear that the two Irish libraries could not recover their copies unless the book were entered in the Register. There were also, he said, many persons who, though they thought it a great national object that all the Universities should be furnished with a copy of every new publication, yet could not find it in their hearts to deprive an author of what they conceived to be his property. Every object, it appeared to him, would be attained if the legislature could be prevailed upon to extend the copyright of authors, and secure beyond dispute the claims of the public libraries. For with regard to authors, he thought that Lord Mansfield, Blackstone, and the other authorities who had declared in favour of their perpetual copyright, had great reason on their side; and he stated, with considerable force, the hardship and absurdity of the law as it then existed, which made the second term of fourteen years contingent upon the writer's life; so if an author, when he is advanced in age, offers a valuable work for sale, as the production of the labour of a long life, he will have the mortification to be told, that the price of his work must necessarily be much lower than if he had completed it twenty or thirty years sooner, at an earlier period of life. Thus when the work is more valuable to the rest of the world, it becomes less profitable to the author and his family.'
Nec prosunt domino quæ prosunt omnibus artes.
The university of Cambridge acted upon the Professor's advice, and brought an action for the non-delivery of a Vindication of Mr. Fox's Historical work. The booksellers, believing the demand to be unfounded, defended the action. A special case was made out upon it and argued before the court of King's Bench. It was contended that the act of Anne, according to its true spirit and object, as well as according to the literal meaning of the words, enjoined the delivery only of such books as should be registered; and it was argued that the subsequent acts of 15 and 41 George III.