§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, the provisions of this Bill are intended to remedy some defects in the Musical Copyright Act of last year, and I do not think I need detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes in explaining its provisions. As your Lordships are probably aware, the practice of printing and selling pirated copies of musical works, has very largely increased of recent years, and at the present moment is carried on to a general and universal extent. I do not propose to enlarge upon the actual extent to which this particular form of property is pirated, but representations have already been made to the Home Office and to the Board of Trade by the large firms of music publishers in which they have set forth in the clearest possible manner, and with the fullest evidence, the way in which their rights have been infringed, their property 1049 stolen, and the trade in which they are engaged practically brought to a standstill. In order to remedy that situation Lord Monkswell introduced a Bill last year, and in the form in which that Bill was first introduced I believe it would have gone a very long way to put an end to this particular practice. But, unfortunately, in order to secure its speedy passage into law, the noble Lord had to submit to certain changes in the Bill and to make certain sacrifices of important clauses, with the result that by the time it reached its final stage it became a shadow with very little substance. The law as it now stands only allows a police constable to seize particular copies which he sees being sold in the streets, and those copies, when seized and brought before a magistrate, according to a recent decision of the High Court, cannot be destroyed until a summons has been served on the hawker. The hawkers, as a rule, are a vagrant body, and it has been found impossible to serve summonses upon them. They invariably give false names and addresses, and though a great many summonses have been issued during the last year it has been found practically impossible to serve them. In fact, the time of the owners of musical copyright who have attempted to put the Act in force has been chiefly occupied in serving summonses on empty houses and in looking up and down streets for houses which do not exist. Therefore, the Act of last year, instead of giving a little needed protection to owners of musical copyright, has merely handed them over still more to the mercies of their enemies. The Memorandum attached to the Bill states that there has been an enormous increase in the repertoire and number of pirated copies of music printed and offered for sale, and, incredible as it may seem, this has undoubtedly been the case, because the passing of the Act of last year, and the various futile attempts which have been made to put it in force, have merely acted as an advertisement of the very lucrative nature of the trade; and the utter failure of its administration has given confidence to the classes engaged in it. I think I can best explain the contempt in which the law is held, by reading an extract from a letter of a facetious hawker, whom the Musical 1050 Copyright Association were endeavouring to prosecute for having pirated music. He writes—I am of opinion that the ridiculous Act and its comic results would have made a good subject for the forthcoming Drury Lane pantomime.In other words, the Act is denounced as a mere sham by the very people against whom it was directed; and not only the hawkers, but the printers and distributors of this pirated music, have equally gained confidence from the failure of the Act. Advertisements have been sent round to houses, and inserted in the newspapers, offering to sell this music, to use their own words, "at ridiculously low prices." I trust that your Lordships will agree that it is time this sort of thing was put a stop to, and that some protection should be given to musical authors and publishers. By Clause 1 of this Bill a penalty is inflicted of 5s. for every copy of this kind of stolen music which is printed, hawked, sold, or imported; every copy is liable to a fine of 5s. up to a total of £50 for one offence. I may mention that some protection is given, under Clause 4, to a bonâ fide purchaser, because, by Clause 4, the name and address of the printer are required to be placed upon every copy of music which is sold. In that way it is possible for an innocent person to have a very ready means of finding out whether the music has been pirated or not. Clause 2 allows a magistrate to issue a search warrant after he has received satisfactory evidence that pirated music is being sold and distributed on a large scale. After issuing a summons he is then able to issue a search warrant in order that these copies may be seized. The Act of last year, which only authorised the seizure of the copies found upon hawkers in the streets, left the whole root of the evil untouched, and by this clause it will be possible to get at the real offenders—the wholesale distributors and printers of pirated music. Clause 3 really consists of two parts. The first allows the copies of music which have been seized from hawkers to be destroyed without evidence that a warrant has been issued, if the magistrate thinks fit to do so. This is necessary because of the impossibility which has been found under the Act of last year of serving warrants on the people who hawk this 1051 music. At the same time it provides the owner of these copies with the power of claiming his property within a fortnight. Clause 5 proposes to include in the definition of "pedlar" anybody offering for sale music in a public place. The definition of a pedlar in the Act of 1871, is a man who goes to other men's houses, or from town to town; and as this has been interpreted by some magistrates to apply to hawkers of music who go from borough to borough, and as it certainly applies to hawkers of music who go from town to town in the country, it has been thought necessary to apply this definition generally, in order to secure that all hawkers of music shall be on an equal footing. This clause will therefore require in future all hawkers of music to have a pedlar's licence. In moving the Second Reading I would venture to express the hope that His Majesty's Government will see their way to accept the Bill and give some facility for its being passed into law, because the evil which it seeks to remedy is really a very serious one. The sufferers under the present state of the law include, not merely musical authors, who are unable to enjoy the rights which they have acquired, but the class of small shopkeepers who have sought to act honestly and to sell the legal copies of music, but who have found it quite impossible to meet the pressure of competition of musical pirates, and who are bound, therefore, to give up selling this music altogether. In the interests and on behalf of those two classes I commend the Bill to your Lordships' consideration.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Lytton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
As far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, I do not think there is any objection to the Second Reading of this Bill, though the noble Earl must be prepared for some Amendments, not necessarily of substance, but with respect to drafting, in Committee.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a (according to Order) and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.