§ Mr. Emerson Tennent
said, he was about to recal the attention of the House to a subject which had been under its consideration last Session, and on which a committee above stairs, after a long and laborious investigation, had made a report in favour of the principle which it was now his object to incorporate in a bill. It would divest the question of much abstract matter and theoretical argument for him at once to state, that he sought to introduce no new principle of legislation, to found no new law, but simply to give force and efficiency to one already in existence, but which the lapse of time and other circumstances had rendered inoperative for the achievement of the object which it proposed. The question for which he had to entreat their consideration was, not whether there should be copyright at all, for that had been decided in the affirmative by the passing of a law by which it was established fifty years ago, but whether the House would render that law effectual by making that extension of the term which the altered circumstances of the trade had rendered indispensable for its prosperity. Early last Session he introduced a bill for this purpose, in which he proposed to extend the copyright of designs from three months to twelve. The question was felt to be one of much manufacturing and commercial detail, with which the majority of Members were not very familiar; and, under the circumstances of the imperfect information which the House possessed upon the subject, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was reluctant to consent to an extension beyond half that period. But as he felt confident that the term he proposed was the very shortest which it was possible to adopt with any hope of effecting the desired object, and felt conscious at the same time that a thorough scrutiny of the subject could not but lead others to the same conclusion, he at once adopted a suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, and consented to refer the inquiry to a select committee, which was accordingly done; and the committee at the close of their labours made a report to the House of the minutes of evidence they had taken, coupled with a recommendation that the term of the present protection should be extended. He had, therefore, not only the principle of a copyright established by 484 the existing law, but its extension recommended by the report of the committee, and the only question to which he had to beg their attention was the length of extension which it was indispensable to adopt. Conscious of the importance which it was to the public taste to get early possession of these designs as the groundwork for still further inventions and improvements, their authors and proprietors asked but a brief enjoyment of their exclusive profits, at the expiration of which they were contented to see them converted to any purpose that might tend to the general diffusion of taste, and the consequent advancement of art as applied to British manufactures. And when it was considered that by far the largest proportion of all the productions of England on which these designs were impressed found a market in distant countries, it surely could not appear an unreasonable or prejudicial term to ask but twelve months within which to realise a remuneration for the enterprise and outlay of their producers, and at the expiration of which they were to become the common property of the public? It was likewise a strong and a striking fact that in the only country which was confessedly superior to England in all the departments of industrial art, in France, the copyright of designs was the most complete and effectual, giving the inventor a property in them for any term of years, from one to a perpetuity, for which he might feel disposed to claim it. Under the influence of this law the productions of French taste had attained a reputation for beauty which ensured for them a price infinitely beyond the more homely and less elegant manufactures of England; and if this were questioned as the source of her admitted superiority, it could not at least be denied that the existence of such a law in France, so far from being prejudicial to her trade, had been shown by experience to be compatible with the very highest excellence in art, and the utmost success and prosperity of her manufactures. The present duration of the copyright was, as he had staled, only three months for calico-printing, the same which was established by the law of 1794; but although at that time it might have been found to be sufficient, whilst all processes were slow, engraving done by the burin, and printing by the hand, the case was very different now, when every process had been expedited by machinery, and the application of electro-magnetism to engraving had re- 485 duced the labour of months to the compass of as many hours. These circumstances drove the parties in the trade to apply to Lord Sydenham for protection, and in 1839 he introduced and passed two bills revising the entire system, giving a copyright of three years to some departments, and offering one of twelve months to the weavers of silks and the printers of calicoes. But as this offer to the calico-printers was coupled with a condition that they should subject all their designs to a system of registration which was about to be tried, and to which they objected, they begged to be left out of the bill till that system should have been tried and corrected, which was accordingly done. The state of the law, therefore, presented this singular anomaly at present, that there was one law to regulate patterns upon calico and another for woollens and silk; and, what must appear still more incongruous and absurd, for the same design if woven upon silk there was a protection of twelve months, and if printed upon calico only three. In the meantime the system of registration had been tested and proved; the inconveniences which the calico-printers foresaw had been ascertained, and were now in process of correction, and the calico-printers, having thus had their apprehensions and objections removed, came now to accept the terms offered them in 1839, and asked to be put upon the same footing with the manufacturers of silks, being now willing to accept the copyright upon the same conditions, namely, with the amended system of registration for their patterns; and he avowed he could not discover on what equitable grounds their demands could be resisted. But though it might not, and he hoped would not, be resisted in that House, it was resisted elsewhere, and for the sake of the trade, he regretted to say, by a numerous and interested party, namely, those who now lived by pirating and copying the designs of their neighbours, and a few honourable individuals who had been influenced by erroneous representations, to work with them in opposition to it. The fact was, that the present term of copyright had been found in practice to be so brief as to be no protection at all; it was violated in all directions, and even the sufferers were deterred from seeking redress, so worthless did they feel the only modicum of protection to be which the law could afford them. Hon. Members would be quite unprepared to hear the 486 extent to which the law was derided and set aside. They would be unprepared to learn that whilst it expressly declared, that no one design should be pirated or copied within the period of the protection, so powerless was the enactment for good, that the patterns of some houses had been copied in such numbers as sixty and seventy in a batch, to the utter discomfiture of the trade of the original producer. The fact was, the temptations to invade and appropriate property of this kind were great, and the protection small. A design which might have cost an artist weeks or months to produce, and which had proved eminently successful in the market, could be traced and copied in a few hours by the pirate, who could thus share in its profits without incurring the expense, the delay, and the labour, of its production, or the risk of its success. What might have cost the original proprietor twenty pounds could be appropriated by his persecutor for twenty pence; and even this disproportion in the outlay afforded no criterion of the injury inflicted upon the original producer, by the confusion, the uncertainty, and the destruction of confidence which the system of dishonest invasion inflicted upon his business. As an illustration of the extent to which these practices were carried, he would beg to read a few passages from the evidence given before the committee of last Session by gentlemen practically engaged in the trade. Mr. Brooks, who was an extensive calico-printer at Manchester, and a magistrate, and recently boroughreeve of that town, avowed, in the course of his evidence, that he had been himself a most extensive copyist of other men's designs, though less within the last eight or ten years than formerly; that he did just as many as answered his purpose; and he "thinks a fair quantity he did" within the existence of the copyright, as well as after its expiry," sometimes with loss, but most generally with profit," to himself, though with "injury" to those whose property he appropriated; and that he generally printed his copies upon such inferior cloth, as to enable him to ask a lower price than the original producer, and yet "leave himself a good profit, and plenty of room to slip under;" that he had been occasionally remonstrated with by the injured parties, but never proceeded against; and that he took in every instance the precaution of publishing those copies as the act directed, in order to assert a claim to copyright in them, 487 as original designs of his own, and, if proceeded against for damages, he would have defended the action, though aware he was in the wrong, and relied on the strength of his purse to defeat his opponent. Such was the confession of a person actively engaged in the practice of piracy, and he (Mr. Emerson Tennent) would now give the House the declarations of a Gentleman who represented his trade to consist chiefly of employment given to pirates. Mr. Louis Lucas, on being asked in the Committee:—Are you a calico printer?" answered, "No I am a merchant of the firm of Nicholls, Lucas, and Co., New Wood-street Mews, extensive dealers in printed calicoes for foreign export." "Are you in the habit of having goods printed expressly for yourselves from your own designs?—Yes, frequently from what is exhibited to us; but this is the nature of our business. We are in the habit of receiving from abroad, almost constantly as the different packets arrive, patterns of prints suitable to those markets. We have a branch house at Manchester and they are sent to it, and we endeavour to find such calico printers as will produce them at the cheapest rate." "Irrespective of who may be the proprietor or inventor of the pattern?—We ask no questions upon that subject; we say this is a pattern received from abroad, and we want so many hundreds or so many thousands of them." "And you pay no regard to the fact whether these patterns be under an existing copyright, or under an expired one, or whose property they may be, provided you can have them executed at such a price as may suit the market?—That consideration has never entered into our heads—we never ask the question." "Price alone is the object with you?—Price alone is the question." "Do you purchase extensively of printed goods?—We do: in the last six months our shipments must have been at least 60,000 pieces." "Are you aware there is a law giving a copyright of three months on printed goods?—I have heard so.This gentleman thought, "nothing more destructive," of his trade could have been suggested, than the extension of the copyright to twelve months, the effect of it being, that he could then get no printer in Manchester to undertake one of his piratical orders. Now, "he can take," he said, "a pattern round the trade; all he can find who will do it cheapest;" and he said, "such is the frailty of people, that if the original proprietor asks too much for printing it, he can always find a copyist who will undertake it on his own terms." Nor had he ever found any difficulty in getting his work done at Manchester, except the price. Mr. Lucas was opposed to 488 "all copyright," but to the present protection of only three months, he did not object, inasmuch as "he never felt it to be any protection at all." Such were his own words. Mr. E. Brooke, a printer of furniture calicoes, stated, that piracy had been carried to such an extent in his business, that at one time," every pattern produced by his house was copied by a rival establishment in Manchester." Mr. Warwick, an eminent publisher of the most expensive chalis, of the house of Ovingdon, Warwick, and Co., in Cheapside, related a similar case, in which the entire of his designs intended for the trade of one season were copied in one batch by a rival house. The consequence he stated to have been ruinous to him, inasmuch as it perfectly paralysed his trade altogether. Mr. Stirling, connected with the eminent Irish house of William Henry, of Dublin, stated that" his establishment has suffered to an extent almost beyond telling" by copies of his goods for export being made in Manchester, and the best of his patterns being fastened on for that purpose, and his profit on the remainder destroyed in consequence. In December, 1829, he delivered to one gentleman, Mr. Hosier, of London, 700 pieces of goods, consisting of eighty-three different patterns, and in the January following, copies of the entire eighty-three were brought to the same gentleman by a pirate, pattern for pattern, worked on inferior cloth, and offered at 20 per cent, lower than Mr. Henry's house had sold them, in consequence of which Mr. Hosier declined to repeat an order for the goods, and he (Mr. Henry) had never been able to sell him a single piece since. Not only so, but the sale of the articles in question had entirely ceased in every direction, owing to the same circumstance. In another instance, an order actually given to Mr. Henry's house was cancelled in consequence of the merchant, immediately after giving it, seeing copies of the same goods in Manchester of inferior quality. Again, ten of Mr. Henry's patterns were produced to the committee, copied by the house of Leese, Kershaw, and Co., of Manchester, in one batch. Mr. Stirling stated generally that from Mr. Henry's goods being eminently suited to the West-India trade, they had been more extensively copied than those of any other House, and that" his business is almost at a stand in consequence, as he is never now able to effect a second sale of the same pattern on account of the profusion of copies in the 489 market, which are thrown in his teeth every time he asks for an order." But he (Mr. Emerson Tennent) would only fatigue the House were he even to allude to innumerable cases of hardship contained in the evidence given before the committee of last Session. The cases he had cited were but a sample, not only of the nature, but of the magnitude of the mischief. But he was prepared to be interrupted by an observation that all these cases occurred within the period of three months, rendered sacred by the existing law; and why was it not asserted, and its protection claimed, for their prevention? The answer he was prepared with. The trouble of vindicating the right was not worth incurring for the worthless amount of the remedy, A few weeks might elapse before a pattern was fixed on by the pirate. It would require a few more to produce and publish the copy; and before the fraud could be made known, and the law put in force for its suppression, the entire term of the copyright would have nearly, if not altogether, expired, and the injured party, even if successful, would take no advantage by his victory. If the term were extended to twelve months, it would create a quantum of interest in the copyright that would make a pirate pause before he aroused the resentment of the proprietor by invading it. But at present he appropriated his property with impunity, because the law withheld from him such an interest in it as would make it worth his while to employ vigour and energy for its protection. A man would assert his right vigilantly, where the value was five pounds, in whom it would be absurd to resort to legal proceedings for the amount of five shillings; and yet the moral offence of the aggressive party in either case would be the same, and the law equally explicit and open. One of the most prominent and most injurious results of this state of the law was, that it operated most prejudicially to the advancement and improvement of the art employed upon these designs. The printer, conscious of the insecurity of his property in them, studied to avoid every possible expense in their production, and to curtail every detail which, though it might add to their beauty, would augment their cost, and the cultivation of taste was thus chilled and prohibited by the impunity of the pirate. Artists of a higher order, were, therefore, deterred from employing their talents upon such insecure subjects; and, in fact, the manu- 490 facturer felt the imprudence of employing them to produce designs for the benefit of his neighbour rather than himself. The consequence was, that those styles of work which were attempted in this country were only of a medium and ordinary class as compared with the French, and parties were frighted from venturing upon other and newer departments in which their talents might be exercised, but in which they were forewarned that they would have no protection for their enterprise and outlay. Mr. Thomson, of Clitheroe, the most eminent printer in England, and Mr. Applegarth, of Kent, had both stated, that they had been deterred from attempting new styles of art by the insufficiency of the protection; and the latter gentleman mentioned to the committee of last Session that on one occasion he was offered designs by Mr. Smirke and Sir David Wilkie for architectural decorations, in imitation of Italian interiors, a species of production unattempted hitherto in Great Britain; but as the outlay would have been considerable, and the copyright a delusion, he declined to accept their designs which would have fallen into the hands of the pirate almost as soon as he could have produced them himself; and, certainly, long before they could have remunerated him for his outlay in their original production he would be compelled to resign these profits to the pirate. This and numerous other instances of a similar kind sufficiently accounted for the low state of industrial art in this country, as compared with its condition in France. Another evil arising from the insufficiency of the law was felt in the deteriorated character of British goods in foreign markets; the copiest being frequently driven, in order to undersell the original proprietor, whom he wronged, to reprint his designs upon inferior cloth, and in spurious colours, instead of fast ones, a circumstance which, as copying was unknown amongst their rivals on the Continent, was never apprehended by the purchaser of French productions. But even independently of these lawless assaults upon their property, the term of three months' copyright, even in the ordinary course of the trade, was inadequate to remunerate a printer for his outlay and trouble. His customers were deterred, by the alarm of piracy, from giving large orders in the first instance, lest they should be overtaken and undersold by the spurious copies, so that the languid sale within the three months, 491 even if uninterfered with, was insufficient to reimburse him. The ordinary sale of a new pattern in the home market extended over at least six or seven months, and some of them twelve, or even a much longer period, so that the pirate, who had no share in the cost of production had an undisputed share of two-thirds the profits. But in the foreign trade the insufficiency was still more apparent—a shipment could hardly be made to a distant market, sales made, and the order repeated, within three months, or even within four or five. A course of post could not bring a repetition of the order before the copyright should have expired, and Mr. Lucas, whose whole trade was an export one, openly declared that fact, and justified his employment of piratical printers, on the ground that for him they could not possibly infringe the law, as it was impossible to send goods to the West Indies and receive an order back for copies of them before the copyright expired; and he could broadly state to the committee that in the foreign trade "he never felt the term of three months to be any protection to the printer at all." A still more striking case occurred where the same goods were suited both to the home market and to the foreign also. These articles were generally prepared and printed in summer in each year; they were ready for delivery for export in September, and the sale for them commenced in the home market in the January following, and lasted till the following July. Now, it was utterly impossible to secure the profit of both these markets within the term of the three months—one or other of them he must of necessity surrender to the pirate. If he dated the commencement of his copyright from his delivery for the foreign market in October, the term was out before his home sale commenced in January; and if he deferred the necessary steps for securing the protection till January, in order to secure the sale at home, he was certain to have the patterns pirated which he had exported three months before, and copies of them sent into the home market in competition with his own. One class seriously injured by the present law were the parties who sent out muslins to be embroidered by the needle; in Scotland and the north of Ireland a branch of trade which gave most extensive employment to females in their own houses and families. Some of these goods took many months to work with the needle, and as the design was printed on the cloth in outline before it 492 was sent out to be embroidered, the pirate could copy it with impunity, and have his imitation in the market as early as the original producer. To this class of employers the inconveniences were of the most serious character, and an extensive employer at Glasgow thus described its effects in a letter to him:—In the district of the north of Ireland, where this system of wholesale piracy is carried on, almost every Scotch manufacturer withdrew his work for a time, at least during the last year, and pushed the bonnet elsewhere. The consequence of this was a great reduction in prices, and distress amongst the workers; and thus, for the want of a proper protection for design, a branch of business affording employment to thousands of the industrious females of Ireland suffers very materially. And we may be allowed to say that there is no branch of the national industry that is more deserving of the protection of the Legislature than this of hand-sewing or embroidery, for, although in amount it may be insignificant as compared with others, it is to be considered that the employment is given to the females in their own houses; there is no congregating together of the people in masses, as in the towns and districts which are the seats of the cotton manufacture. Its benefits are known to every one acquainted with the condition of the people in the north of Ireland and Scotland.We have taken opinion of counsel on one case, who concur that our goods, being printed in the first instance, are entitled to three months' protection from the date of publication. But observe, our date of publication is the day of giving out to the worker to be sewed; and as the sewing and otherwise preparing for market, by bleaching, &c, varies from six weeks to three months, it is evident that even if we succeed in establishing our claim to protection it is a very inadequate one.Two other branches of manufacture were also petitioners for this extension—the printers of furniture calicoes for hangings, the production of which were tedious, and their sale, being less liable to the fluctuations of taste and fashion, extending over almost as many years as the sale of a dress did months; and the paper-stainers, whose business was overrun with dishonesty and piracy, from their utterly inadequate term of but twelve months' copyright. For all these evils the parties were persuaded that an effectual remedy would be found by simply extending the protecting term to twelve months instead of three, as at present. It would encourage the arts of design and give increased employment to designers and artists, as every individual must then be driven to produce original inventions, 493 where he now subsisted by the filching or pirated imitations and servile copies. It would complete the efficiency of schools of design, by giving the artist a security for the exercise of his profession, after having afforded him the opportunity of acquiring it; and, by raising the general character of British goods to an equality in taste and beauty with those of foreigners it would augment the consumption and add to the general trade and manufacture of the nation. The statement which he had now made comprised the principle arguments in favour of the measure which he was desirous to have introduced. It was premature for him to anticipate the arguments which might be brought against him, but he was perfectly prepared to meet and to refute them. And whilst he reserved any discussion upon these points to a future stage of the measure, when they would in all probability be stated in detail, he thought it his duty thus early to intimate that recent circumstances had placed him in a position to combat them much more satisfactorily than he had an opportunity of doing last Session. These arguments had chiefly reference to an anticipated difficulty of distinguishing between what was an original, and what a pirated design under the new law; but the panics who had dwelt upon this seemed to forget that that was a question incidental to any law of copyright, whether of three mouths or twelve; and in any case, whatever were the duration of the term, the abstract question of pronouncing between the invention and the copy must pertain to any law which professed to give a protection to the one against the encroachments of the other. But this, and a number of similarly untenable devices which had been relied at first upon by the opponents of the measure, were all eventually abandoned in the committee, and the entire justification of the opposition narrowed to a fear that under the new system, whilst the English copyist was tied up for twelve months, the foreign one would be left at perfect liberty to pirate our designs, and that they would do so and undersell us in those neutral markets to which we at present exported. And as the probability of this being attempted depended mainly on the possibility of a foreign printer producing the same design cheaper than the English one, some very wild assertions were made to the committee to the effect that the printers of Belgium, Germany, and the States of the Prussian League could at the present moment pro- 494 duce twenty-five per cent, cheaper than England. Now, he had in the course of last year made a visit to Belgium and all the manufacturing districts of the Prussian League, with a view to see for himself the results of that enlightened commercial experiment, and he was prepared with documents of the most authentic character from the printers of those countries themselves, which he would produce when the proper time came and the question was fairly raised; and what would establish under their own hand, that, so far from being able to compete with the English printer in neutral markets, they were overwhelmed with his productions in their own—in spite of prohibitory duties, amounting on an average from forty to fifty per cent. The manufacturers of Belgium, Prussia, Saxony, and Bavaria, when he had shown them the evidence regarding that given before the committee of last Session by persons professing to speak from personal experience of their trade, pronounced them to be false, and perfidious, "per fide et mensongère." So long, in fact, as England could supply, by means of machinery 200,000,000 of her own subjects and dependants, she must of necesssity be enabled to undersell the Germans with their population of 20,000,000, and the Belgians with only 4,000,000. England, in fact, had nothing to fear from foreign competition, if she were but "true to herself" and to her own artists. It was to induce her to be true to them that he introduced the present motion—to induce her to put her own artists on the same footing with other countries, and to give her own manufacturers the same security which they enjoyed; and if, added to her undisputed power of producing cheaper than any nation of the world, she could attain the facility, by means of protection and encouragement, of producing as beautiful and as refined articles as those of France, it would be impossible for any country of Europe to enter into competition with her, thus armed with a double superiority. The hon. Member concluded by moving a resolution that the chairman be directed to move the House that leave be given to bring in a bill for extending the term of copyright in designs for printing woven fabrics and paper hangings.
§ Mr. Mark Philips
said, that when this subject was brought under the attention of the House, in the course of the last Session, he had felt that it would not become him to oppose the institution of the inquiry 495 which was then proposed, because he did not then feel confident of the impolicy of the adoption of a measure which should have the effect of extending the copyright of designs; but now having paid close attention to the evidence which had been brought forward upon the question before the committee, that which had been only a doubt in his mind, had ripened into a firm opinion that it would be inexpedient to assent to the proposition which was now made by his hon. Friend, the Member for Belfast. Connected as he was with so large a branch of the trade of this country, interested in the subject now under discussion, he felt that he could arrive at no conclusion satisfactory to all those whose interests were involved in its decision; but while he felt that his opinion must be hostile to some, he had endeavoured to come to a conclusion founded upon no personal motives, but entirely upon a sound and just consideration of what he believed to be its important bearings. He was opposed in principle to the extension of the copyright which was suggested, but at the same time he should not now oppose the motion of his hon. Friend, leaving the mature discussion of the whole of the details of the measure to a more convenient opportunity. He was, he confessed, one of those who had not got rid of what might be called a bug-bear—namely, the apprehension of the mischief of foreign competition. He had not had the same opportunity certainly of inspecting the manufactures of foreign countries as his hon. Friend, but his opinion was formed upon the evidence which had been produced before the Committee. It was upon that evidence that the public must come to a conclusion, and he was bound to consider the matter in reference to it. He conceived that if the House proceeded to legislate with regard to the copyright of designs, they must look to what would be the chances of competition which would present themselves in years to come; and he must say that he could not but believe that the proposed extension of the copyright would hold out an inducement to persons in this country to apply to persons abroad to copy the designs which might be published, by which means designs might be procured fully equal to compete with the originals. He could not avoid the apprehension that this would be the case, and the fear was induced by his perusal of the evidence. He thought, too, that there was no rule with 496 reference to the copyright of design which could be made applicable to the whole system, and on that account he was indisposed to venture upon the adoption of any new legislation. Most undoubtedly the carrying out of the measure which was proposed would, in his opinion, give rise to much litigation; and when he looked at the existing law and its operation, besides the present state of the trade, he was convinced of the impolicy of introducing any new system which should make the trade less profitable, or which should make it distinguished for the litigation of its members as to what was, or what was not, original; and he said this, not merely upon the general grounds of the inexpediency of such a result being produced, but because the interests of the trade would be materially involved in the discussion of minute questions of the originality of patterns, without any (the smallest) benefits being produced to the consumer. The consumer undoubtedly was the most important person whose interests were to be considered, and if there was anything in the proposed law which should have the effect of increasing the cost of the article of consumption unnecessarily, he conceived that that was a sufficient ground of opposition to the measure. A constant succession of new patterns was, in his opinion, the main object to be gained; but that was an end which would not be effected by this measure; and the continuance of the maintenance of any particular matter was of no real importance to the public. The truth of this observation was shown by the fact, that those who had made the greatest exertions to meet the public taste had been found to succeed the best. He repeated, that it was not his wish to oppose the introduction of the bill. Opportunities would be afforded hereafter for the discussion of its provisions more in detail, but he had thought it right to take this opportunity of stating, that his opinion had undergone no change; otherwise than to lead him to a conclusion of the inexpediency of extending the copyright. If his hon. Friend had any further evidence which he could produce upon the subject of foreign competition, he might not, perhaps, think it unfit that the committee should resume its labours of inquiry.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that as he was aware that there would be other occasions of discussing this question, he only troubled 497 the House in order to set the hon. Member for Belfast right upon a matter of fact, upon which he imagined that he had fallen into error. The hon. Member had said very truly, that the law, as it now stood had been proposed to be amended by Lord Sydenham, and that he had proposed to give the manufacturers an extension of copyright to twelve months, provided they would accept a system of registration in conjunction with it. He knew that that had been the first proposition of his noble Friend, but he had reason to believe that before this inquiry Lord Sydenham had great doubts whether he could, with safety to the trade, have asked the House to extend the copyright for twelve months. When the hon. Member in the course of last Session, brought forward his motion, he (Mr. Labouchere) readily acceded to what appeared to be the general wish of the House, that in a case in which there were such conflicting statements, the whole question should be submitted to the inquiry of a select committee, and he was in hopes from the exertions which were made by that committee, and from the means which they had of looking into the subject, that some well-digested scheme would have proceeded from them, supported by facts and arguments which would have justified its adoption by the House. He found, however, that he was disappointed—that on both sides there were conflicting statements—that persons who were deeply interested in the matter had expressed views on the subject which were distinctly opposed to each other. Among the petitions which were presented to the House, he found some proceeding from those manufacturers who were engaged in producing the best goods in favour of the alteration of the law, while on the other hand those who were engaged in the production of the commoner articles, and who were to be found mainly located in Lancashire, expressed their apprehension at any change being made in the law. It was to be observed that this latter class was one of the highest importance. It was from them that the major part of those manufactured goods proceeded which were the subject of export, and they formed a class whose interests must be considered as of the highest importance. The committee when they were engaged in the consideration of the question, appeared to be equally divided as to whether they should express any opinion to the House. When the 498 question was raised of whether they should make any report or not, it was found that there were six for the report and six against it, and the hon. Chairman gave his casting vote in favour of the report.
§ Mr. E. Tennent
wished to explain—The first motion for a report was met by a motion that there should be no report, and carried, he must admit, by his casting voice. The next question was, as to whether the report should be in favour of, or against the extension of the copyright, when six Members voted in favour of the extension and three against it.
§ Mr. Labouchere
would not discuss this matter with the hon. Gentleman now, but the hon. Gentleman must admit, that it was by a bare majority the report was agreed to. Under these circumstances he confessed that he remained in the same opinion as that which he had entertained last year. He admitted, that he thought that a case of great hardship had been made out on the part of those who, having gone to the expense of procuring designs to be made, afterwards found that other persons had profited by their labour and exertions; and he wished that he could redress their grievances, but he felt that he could not do so without inflicting greater injury on others—without producing litigation in this country, and difficulties and inconvenience to our foreign trade. He could not agree with the hon. Member opposite, that the fears which had been expressed on the subject were quite so visionary as he described. He should be ready to give the measure, when it was introduced, his best consideration; but he would wait to see in what manner the hon. Member proposed to apply his principles before he expressed any decided opinion upon it, because he felt that on a question of such magnitude and importance, one false step might produce the most serious consequences. He had stated last year that he thought the best way would be to extend the copyright on the system of registration to six months, and he still thought that that might be the best course to adopt; but at present he held himself undetermined as to the decision to which he should come. He hoped that when the hon. Member brought in his bill he would give it time to be fairly and duly considered, not only as to its principle, but as to the mode in which that principle was to be carried into effect.
wished to ask, if quantity and cheapness were of the utmost importance to our foreign trade, in what respect could cheap calicoes be affected by the extension of the copyright, while the present state of the law was of serious injury to the finer branches of the trade. He entreated the right hon. Gentleman to consider if he looked to foreign markets and the markets of Europe alone, whether he would not effect his object better by taking care of the finer branches of the manufacture. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the trade was nearly divided on the subject, but he could say, that, as far as the calico trade was concerned, there was an overwhelming majority in favour of the extension. If hon. Gentlemen would look to that large volume on the table, they would find abundance of evidence in it. In Manchester the trade was suffering to a large extent for want of the proposed protection. The hon. Member for Wigan had frequently brought before the House a plan for establishing a school of design, in connexion with our manufactures, but no school of design could be more effective than giving a liberal scale of remuneration, and thus raising the character of our designs by employing a higher class of artists. On all those grounds he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would extend the copyright to twelve months, or, at all events, to six months.
§ Mr. Morrison
, conceived that it was of the greatest importance that in this country the most liberal attention should be given to the improvement in the arts of design, in reference to our manufactures. There was a wide difference between the position of England in this respect and France, and the vast superiority which France had over us was most strikingly manifested by the magnitude and success of their silk trade. The very heavy amount of duty which they were enabled to pay, and yet sell their goods to advantage in our market, afforded a convincing proof of their superiority over us. They purchased the material at the same market with us, their labour was not less expensive than ours, and yet, by reason of the great superiority of the articles which they manufactured, they were enabled to obtain a price remunerating them for all their necessary outlay. He had adverted to the silk trade, because it was the most remarkable, for their cotton trade was by no means so suc- 500 cessful. We had hitherto forced our foreign trade by the cheapness of our goods, but if we were to maintain it any longer it was necessary that we should be able to improve our designs. He thought, however, that it was not merely an improvement in our arts, of which we stood in need, but that we required what might be termed an English style. He might give some offence by saying so, but the real truth was, that there was no English art of design. All the designs we had were wholly or in part foreign—altered, no doubt, from the originals, but the alterations were generally of such a character as that the less extensive they were the better, and that if the original designs were altogether untouched it was best of all. It was true, he admitted, that there were many manufacturers who did not resort to this system, but who employed persons of superior talent; but with reference to the ordinary manufacturers, he believed that our supposed superiority over the continental manufacturers was derived from the causes which he had pointed out. America to which very little attention was paid, was progressing rapidly in its cotton manufactures. Already as many as 300,000 bales of cotton were consumed there, and she was gradually manufacturing one article after another, and extending her trade in all directions. In China, the Pacific, and even the Levant, they were beating us in our trading, and were driving us out of the market, and we must not imagine that the advantages which we had so long enjoyed would continue for ever. It was necessary to improve our designs in manufacture, in order to maintain our position; and he would cordially join the hon. Member opposite in endeavouring to give the manufacturer all that he would be entitled to, although he could not support him in the measure which he proposed to the House. The only other thing to which he would advert was the term of extension. They should consider that the articles which were produced were sold, if at all, within the following three months. In common justice he thought it right to give the inventors the whole season from the time of publication. He did not think the public would suffer if some extension of the present term were conceded, and he believed that an extension to six months was as much as any manufacturer would desire, as the same patterns which were produced 501 in the summer were seldom required for the winter; and if the term were extended to twelve months, it would extend over two seasons, which was unnecessary. The establishment of schools of design was undoubtedly essential in a manufacturing country like this, and it might be considered somewhat discreditable to former Governments that we had been so long without them; but it was impossible for the manufacturers to give employment and sufficient remuneration to the artists educated in those schools, unless they could ensure a sufficient return by the first sale for the capital expended in the production of the design. He should support the motion now before the committee; but when the details of the bill should come under discussion, he should support the proposition for extending the term to six months, instead of twelve.
said, that after having paid great attention to the evidence taken before the committee who had sat on that subject, he had come to an entirely different conclusion from the hon. Member for Belfast. He was persuaded, that a change in the present law of copyright of designs would prove most injurious to the calico-printing trade of this country. The present law had been in operation for more than fifty years, and during the whole of that period, though many of the principal persons engaged in the calico trade had seats in that House, not one of those parties had proposed any alteration of the law. He was sure that if they extended the period of protection to designers, such a measure would be a source of endless litigation. All designs were taken from the vegetable or animal world, and how was it possible that every pattern taken from those sources, could be a completely new one? One of the largest calico printers in this country, had stated, that 250,000 patterns were produced here annually; and there could be no doubt, that not less than 30,000,000 of designs had been produced within the last fifty years. How, then, was it possible, that new patterns could be anything more than a compound of the old ones. If, therefore, they held out the prospect of a higher reward to designers, they would be introducing a measure which would probably lead to litigation and abuse. He would give his most decided opposition to any attempt to extend the copyright of designs, from an impression that it would 502 be most injurious to that branch of our manufactures.
§ Mr. Sergeant Talfourd
would not detain the House from the business before it, but having applied himself for some time to the consideration of a subject nearly akin to this, and being of opinion, that there was some analogy between inventions in machinery and the fine arts and literary productions in respect to copyright, he could not allow this discussion to pass without expressing his entire sympathy with the hon. Member for Belfast in the object he had in view, and tendering him his humble support. He quite agreed in the principle that there was a property in works of art, and that it was necessary to give some incitement to the exertions of genius and skill in the way of a right of property in the production, whatever it might be, be the term longer or shorter. With respect to his own bill (the Copyright Bill), he thought he had been defeated merely by an accident, and not by any argument that had been brought forward against him. He had no doubt that the result would be different when he brought forward the measure next Session. While he remained a Member of that House, he was determined not to lose sight of that which he considered to be no more than justice to literary men, viz., to give them a right of property in their own productions.
would make an observation which was, he thought, rendered necessary by what had fallen from the hon. Member for Inverness. It was said, that competition was increasing daily between the manufactures of this country, and those of foreign countries in neutral markets, and that the day was fast approaching when the manufactures of those countries would be offered as cheap as our own; and it was also said that there was more of talent, skill, and taste, brought to bear in the manufacture of foreign goods than our own. What followed? Why, that we must compete with those countries in those higher qualities. He thought the argument of the hon. Member for Inverness was as much in favour of an extension of the term of copyright in designs to twelve months as six. The hon. Gentleman's conclusion did not agree with his argument; and he (Mr. O'Connell) hoped that at a future stage of the bill he would see the propriety of supporting 503 the proposition for extending the term to twelve months. The only question was as to the time of protection, and he thought it a paltry matter to quarrel whether it should be six or twelve months.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, that his hon. and learned Friend, who had just sat down, was going a great deal too far. Was he certain that the granting protection ensured excellence? How was it that other countries excelled without protection being afforded them? The manufacturers of chintz in Switzerland had never been excelled, and there they had no protection. He mentioned that country because there they had no custom-houses, and the Swiss manufacturer laboured under the disadvantage of having to bring the raw materials a long way by land to his manufactory. He thought instead of extending the time they ought rather to consider whether the three months at present allowed was not too much, whether they ought not to do away with all protection. The whole doctrine of protection was a fallacy. The witnesses who had been examined said, that three months was no protection, and if so, there could be no harm in doing away with it. He thought, the Government should correct the errors of the old times, and do away with what is falsely called protection altogether. The true way to excel was to pay attention to those arts by which our manufactures might be made superior—we were superior in weaving, why should we not be in all other arts? He, for one, thought, that all protection should be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Brotherton
thought, the House ought to pause before coming to a decision, when they considered the conflicting nature of the testimony given before the committee, and that the report in favour of copyright had only been carried by a majority of one. There was something like justice in asking, as the learned Sergeant had done, for a copyright for authors; but who would stand up and ask for a copyright for booksellers? Yet that was what was sought to be obtained by the present bill. These designs were not the inventions of the master printers themselves—they were purchased by them for a few shillings—and this bill was to enable them to make rapid fortunes by taking advantage of the inventions of others. He agreed with the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that there was no necessity for any copyright at all. It took two months 504 to prepare the plates before a design could be struck off, so that after any design appeared it would be three months probably before a copy of it could be in the market. The bill would give rise to endless litigation. He did not see how it was possible to distinguish between a copy and an original pattern, and unless a system of registration were established, it would be impossible for the honest tradesman to know whether the designs he might purchase were copies or not. The bill was calculated to favour the few at the expense of the many, and he thought it was best to let well alone, and not make any alteration in the present law.
§ Mr. Warburton
thought his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, went too far. He thought, with regard to the copyright, both in literary works and mechanical inventions, no one could say that no remuneration ought to be afforded to the inventors. The great object to be kept in view was to reconcile the interests of the inventors with those of the public, to give some short period of copyright, just sufficient to act as a stimulus to the inventor, and having done so, to secure the reversion to the public. That was the proper principle to found a bill as regarded literary copyright, and the copyright of designs. If, as the hon. Member for Inverness stated, the foreigners were so rapidly overtaking us, that in two or three years, they would be able to manufacture as cheaply as ourselves, they ought not to extend the copyright an inch beyond the time absolutely necessary, as the designs might otherwise be carried to foreign countries, where fac similes would be produced at a cheaper rate than the original was, inasmuch as they would not have to pay the original designer. He thought the term proposed by the bill would be a hazardous term for the export trade of this country if it were carried into effect.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ The House resumed, and the resolution was reported, and a bill founded on it, ordered to be brought in.