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the right corner of the bar, without the bar, and the secondary asked him if he was ready to wage his law? He answered, yes; then he laid his hand upon the book; then the Court admonished him, and also his compurgators, which they regarded not so much as to desist from it; accordingly the defendant was sworn that he owed not the money modo et forma, as the plaintiff had declared, nor any penny thereof. Then his compurgators standing behind him, were called over, and each held up his right hand, and then laid their hands upon the book and swore, that they believed what the defendant swore was true."
Style observes, in his Practical Register, that "the wager of law was most practised in those times that craft, subtilty, and knavery had not got firm footing in the nation; but it being abused by the iniquity of the people, the law was forced to find out another way to do justice to the nation." But perhaps our readers may be of opinion that there is a principle in our nature, the same at Kamschatcka as in England, the same under William the Conqueror as under George the Fourth, by which oaths sown in abundance will invariably produce a plentiful crop of perjuries:
Tam facile et pronum est superos contemnere testes,
Si mortalis idem nemo sciat.
ART. IX.-FRENCH LAW OF LITERARY PROPERTY. Rapport de la Commission chargée de preparer un Projet de Loi sur la Propriété Littéraire. Paris 1826.
GREAT difference of opinion has prevailed respecting the property which it is expedient to give to an author in his literary compositions. Some few persons, indeed, have gone so far as to contend that it was for the advantage of literature and science that no exclusive property whatever should exist in works after they had once been given to the world by publication. (a) But we may safely say that this opinion has been long since refuted and exploded, and that it is now universally admitted that the same principle of general utility to society, upon which are founded all other rights of property, requires that authors and artists should have an exclusive right of property, for some period at least, in the productions of their own minds. The only question now is, for what period and under what conditions it should be given. We accordingly find that this description of property is now recognized
(a) The celebrated speech of Lord Camden to this effect, in the discus
sion of the Copyright Bill in the last reign, is well known.
and secured by the laws of all civilized nations, although there exists a very considerable difference in the term for which it is allowed to continue, and the privileges which it confers upon the proprietor in the laws of different countries.
In this country, considerable alterations have taken place in the law from time to time in this respect. At first the copyright was only given to the author for fourteen It was afterwards proyears. vided that if the author should be living at the end of that time, the right should then return to him for another term of the same duration. Finally the Statute 54 Geo. 3, c. 156, has given to the author and his assigns, the sole liberty of printing and reprinting his works for the term of twenty-eight years, from the day of the first publication, and if the author be living at the end of that period, then for the residue of his life. Musical compositions have been held to be within the meaning of the law so far as regards their publication. (b) But no privilege has yet been given to authors either of literary works or musical compositions, as regards their representation on the stage; and it has accordingly been several times decided by our courts, that dramatic works may be represented without the permission of the author, and consequently without his being entitled to any share in the profits arising from their representation. (c) A copyright has been given to the inventors of prints and engravings for the term of twenty-eight years, by the statutes 8 Geo. 2, c. 13, and 17 Geo. 3, c. 38. But this protection does not extend to the painter or artist of the original picture or design; and even where the engraving has been made by the painter himself from his own picture, any other person may make a fresh engraving from the original picture, provided he does not copy the former print. (d) An act of the 54 Geo. 3, c. 56, has however placed the sculptor in a better situation than the painter, as it vests in the maker the sole right and property of all new and original sculpture for fourteen years, to be renewed for another fourteen years, if the party be living at the end of the first term.
This short sketch of the law is quite sufficient to show how imperfect and inconsistent it is, and how much it stands in need of improvement. The law of France on this subject is far better in many respects. The proprietor of a copyright in a work is protected from piracy by representation, as well as from piracy by publication; and painters, sculptors, and engravers, are all placed on the same footing as authors of literary works. The
(b) In the case of Back v. Longman, 2 Cowper's Reports, p. 623. (c) This was decided in the case of Coleman v. Watkins, 5 Term Reports, p. 245, and subsequently in
the case of Murray v. Elliston. 5
progress of the law, however, has been the same in France as in this country. The protection afforded by the law to literature and the arts has been increased in proportion as their value has been felt and appreciated. Prior to the year 1777, literary property does not appear to have been recognised by the French laws. An exclusive licence or privilege to print and sell a particular work for a certain period was often granted to the bookseller who had become the proprietor of the manuscript; and a similar licence was sometimes granted to an author in his own name; but no general right of property in literary works was in any manner secured or recognised by the law. A royal decree, of the 30th July, 1777, for the regulation of the book trade, for the first time conferred a legal existence on this species of property, by giving to the author of a work the power of obtaining the exclusive privilege of publishing and selling it, and by declaring "that every author who should obtain this privilege should enjoy it to him and his heirs for ever, provided that he did not assign it to any bookseller; in which case the duration of the privilege should, by the act of assignment, be limited to the life of the author." The law remained in this state until the Revolution, when, owing to the word privilege having been used in the decree of 1777, literary property was deprived of legal protection by the celebrated decree made by the National Assembly on the night of the 4th August, 1790, by which privileges of every description were abolished. This injustice was remedied, however, so far as regarded the representation of dramatic works, by a law of the 13th January in the following year, by which it was declared, "that the works of living authors should not be represented in any public theatre without the written consent of the authors; and that the heirs and assigns of an author should have a similar property in his works for five years after his death." And the National Convention, two years afterwards, on the report of the Committee of Public Education, made a decree for the general protection of literary property; which, with the alterations mentioned below, forms the present law of France upon the subject. By this decree, which was made on the 19th July, 1793, it was declared, "that authors of works of every description, composers of music, painters, and engravers, should enjoy during their lives the exclusive right of selling, causing to be sold, or distributing their works, within the territory of the Republic, and of assigning their property in them, either in whole or in part; and that their heirs or assigns should enjoy the same right for the term of ten years after their death." A subsequent law gave the proprietor of a posthumous work the same rights as if he had been the author of it. And by an imperial decree of the 5th February, 1810, the author's copyright was further continued to his widow, if she survived him, for life,
and to their children for twenty years after the death of the survivor. No alteration has been subsequently made in the law upon this subject. The code only fixes the punishment for the infringement of a copyright, leaving the former laws in all other respects in force.
It will be at once seen that, besides being more consistent, the French law confers much greater privileges upon authors and artists than the law of this country. These privileges have not been found to be prejudicial to the advancement of literature and art; on the contrary, they are universally acknowledged in France to have been most favourable to their progress; and the public voice has for some time actually demanded a further extension of the term for which an author's property in his works is secured to him and his family. The circumstance of the descendants of some of their greatest writers having become reduced to solicit charity, while the works of their ancestors were being constantly re-published and represented on the stage, as public property, excited attention to the state of the law relative to literary property. Considerable discussion took place upon the subject; and finally a commission was appointed by the King to frame a new law, to be submitted to the legislature, for the further protection of literature and the fine arts.
This commission was composed of the Viscomte de la Rochefoucault, Chief of the Department of the Fine Arts, President, and of twenty-two other members, consisting of Peers, Deputies, Members of the Council of State, and Members of the Institute. There were afterwards added to it four literary men, who were chosen by the dramatic authors to represent their interests, and two booksellers, delegated by the other members of their trade, for the same purpose. The Commission met for the first time on the 12th December, 1825, and closed its sittings in the middle of last year. The subject of literary property was very fully discussed by the members. They set out by admitting the principle of the perpetual and exclusive right of authors, their heirs, and assigns, to their works; but when they came to look for the means of carrying this right into effect, they were obliged to renounce the idea. They then named eighty years as the period during which the property in a work should be vested in an author and his heirs. This period, however, on further discussion, appeared too long; and it was accordingly reduced to the term of the author's life, and fifty years to commence from his death. The Commission has since made a Report to that effect, and has prepared the draft of a law, conformable to the suggestions of the Report, to be submitted to the Legislature. As the subject is one of a highly interesting nature, and as the greater part, if not the whole, of the alterations proposed by the French
Commission might be adopted with advantage in this country, we think we cannot do better than lay before our readers a copy of the Report and proposed law.
"Pursuant to the orders of your Majesty, the Commission, to whom has been confided the drawing up of a law for the protection of literature and the fine arts, has met several times. The first feeling, Sire, of the men of letters and artists summoned to this work, has been that of gratitude for the generous intentions of a Monarch, who is desirous of protecting the productions of the mind, as well by positive laws as by his own personal favour; they have felt that this protection is the most lasting and noble benefit that could be conferred. Filled with respect for this act of royal justice and munificence, all the members of the Commission have endeavoured to show themselves worthy of it by framing, with the most scrupulous care, a law, which, while favourable to authors and to artists, should at the same time not be hostile to the interests of the public and of trade.
"Such, Sire, has been the end which the Commission has proposed to itself, in framing the law which it has the honour to submit to your Majesty. The present laws, formed by various successive decrees, secure to the author the property of his works during his life-time, but limit the right of his heirs to ten or twenty years after his death, according as they may be, in a collateral or direct line. It has appeared to the members of the Commission that this term is too short, and this distinction between the different kinds of heirs but little conformable to justice. Would it however be possible, in abolishing entirely this distinction between the lineal and collateral branches, to give an unlimited right of succession to all the heirs of an author; that is to say, to render property in a literary work entirely similar to that in a field, or in an estate? Such an unlimited privilege exists no where; it would obstruct the diffusion of knowledge by too long a monopoly; it would become either burthensome to the public, or of no value to the family; and it would frequently disappoint the intentions of the author himself, who, in publishing his work, might have wished that editions should be multiplied with facility after his death. It has, therefore, been considered, Sire, that the present period of exclusive copyright ought to be extended, but that it nevertheless ought to be confined within definite limits.
"The term of fifty years has appeared sufficient, both to ameliorate considerably the condition of the heirs, and to facilitate any advantageous disposition of his works which the author himself might be desirous of making during his life. This period also renders it practicable to simplify the existing laws relative to the right which the widow enjoys during her life, when not restricted by her marriage contract. In the new system the right of the widow will be included in the fifty years granted to the heirs, and the unlimited right of the public will always commence after this fixed and uniform period. One case alone is excepted, that, in which the heirs of an author have not printed his work for the space of twenty years.
"The author himself will have the power of alienating the right of his heirs in the same manner that he can alienate any other property. In this case the property of the grantee will last for fifty years after the death of the author. The same privilege will exist for the publication of posthumous works, and for collections published by learned societies.
"Such is, Sire, the first title of the proposed law. The regulation