§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, this Bill is, for the most part, word for word the same Bill that passed through the Select Committee of your Lordships' House last year. In two particulars, however, it differs. The International Copyright Clauses have been re-drafted by Lord Thring, who has had the advice of the Foreign Office. The Committee are under a very deep obligation to Lord Thring for having undertaken this exceedingly difficult task, and for re-drafting the international clauses in such a way as to make them free from objection. Lord Thring has added to the Bill certain Custom House Clauses in order to facilitate its working. The question of colonial copyright was very carefully considered 607 in the Committee. We had before us an eminent professor from Canada who was empowered to give evidence on behalf of Canadian authors, and, to some extent, on behalf of Canadian publishers. The principal change the Bill proposes is to remedy the grievance that is felt in the colonies, particularly in Canada, and which presses hardly on colonial publishers. The present law gives an advantage to the English publisher over the colonial publisher, for while the English publisher is empowered to flood the colonies with an English copyright edition, the colonial publisher is expressly forbidden to import into England his own colonial copyright edition. This Bill proposes to place the English publishers under the same restriction as the colonial publishers are now under, and I am pleased to find that the English publishers concur in the change, and think it is only right that it should be carried into effect. It may be of interest to your Lordships to know that if the Select Committee, to whom I shall move that this Bill be referred if it is read a second time, is appointed, a very distinguished author, Mr. Samuel Clemens, better known as "Mark Twain," is desirous of giving evidence, and I am sure the Committee will gladly hear him.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Monkswell.)
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I have, owing to special circumstances, the duty of representing the Board of Trade in this House for the time, and, on behalf of that Department, and in so far as that Department is interested, I do not propose to offer any objection to the Second Reading of the Bill or to the appointment of the Select Committee. But I hope, in assenting to this motion, that it will not be understood that we assent to anything further, or agree that at the present time it will be convenient that these Bills should be passed into law. I do not think that the course taken by the noble Lord opposite is altogether the most convenient one. He has candidly told your Lordships that in two points—one an important point—the Copyright Bills down for Second Reading to-day are not the same as those which passed through certain stages in this House last year. The Bills as they were then passed were sent to various colonies 608 for observation, and I think ft will be obviously very undesirable that different Bills from those sent to the colonies should make progress through Parliament until a full opportunity has been given for the answers to have been received from the Colonial Governments. I am not, of course, in a position to say definitely how far those answers have been received, but up to the last date when any communication was made to the Board of Trade on the subject answers had only been received from very few of the colonies. My noble friend who represents the Colonial Office may be able to give more information than I can on that subject, but I have to say, on behalf of the Board of Trade, that they think it undesirable to hold out any hope that the Bills will have a rapid progress.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of SELBORNE)
I must confess that the course which the promoters of this Bill have taken does seem to me to be rather inconvenient. The Bill, as it passed the Select Committee last year, was sent, at the request of its promoters, to all the colonies concerned, and the assumption made in sending the Bill was that it would be reintroduced into Parliament practically unmodified. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill has spoken as if the changes which have been introduced are not of great importance, but I must take leave to differ from him. Without worrying the House by giving details of the changes, I may say that in our opinion the Bill has been materially modified, and it will be absolutely necessary to send the fresh Bill, when it emerges from the new Select Committee, again to all the colonies, for no answer made in respect of the Bill of last year can fairly be held as binding on them in respect of the Bill now introduced. So far, three answers only have been received from the colonies, namely, from the Cape, Natal, and South Australia, but we are expecting the other answers shortly. I only make this statement in order to put the position of the Colonial Office quite clear. Whilst we are willing in respect of this Bill, when it emerges from the Select Committee, to act as the forwarding agency to the colonial governments without accepting any responsibility for the Bill, any delay that occurs in the solution of this matter must be laid, not to the door of the 609 Colonial Office or of the colonies, but of the promoters of this Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
I do not wish to commit myself to the merits of the alteration, but I think it only right, in justice to the noble Lord who drafted the Bills, to say that he had to deal with a mass of confusion which none but a lawyer could properly appreciate, and that he has managed with wonderful skill to evolve harmony and clearness out of that confusion.
§ LORD THRING
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the praise he has bestowed on this Bill. I cannot imagine what the Colonial Office really mean. The Bill, so far as the Colonial Clauses are concerned, is practically the same as the Bill of last year. It is true that the International Clauses have been changed, but that has been done with the approbation of the Foreign Office. So far as the Colonial Clauses are concerned, there is, as I have said, no substantial difference whatever between the present Bill and that of last year.
The noble Earl the Under Secretary for the Colonies is mistaken in assuming that any alteration has been made in the Colonial Clauses.
§ On Question agreed to; Bill read 2a, and referred to a Select Committee.
§ The following Lords were named of the Select Committee—
- L. Chancellor.
- E. Selborne.
- V. Knutsford.
- L. Balfour.
- L. Hatherton.
- L. Monkswell.
- L. Thring.
- L. Farrer.
- L. Welby.
- L. Davey.
- L. Avebury.
§ The Committee to meet on Tuesday next at Twelve o'clock, and to appoint their own Chairman.