Commentary on:
Copyright Act (1814)

Back | Commentary info | Commentary
Printer friendly version
Creative Commons License
This work by www.copyrighthistory.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

www.copyrighthistory.org

Identifier: uk_1814

 

Commentary on Copyright Act 1814

Ronan Deazley

School of Law, University of Birmingham, UK

 

Please cite as:
Deazley, R. (2008) ‘Commentary on Copyright Act 1814', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

 

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Isaac D'Israeli and the Copyright Term

4. The aftermath of Beckford v. Hood (1798)

5. The 1808 Copyright Bill

6. University of Cambridge v. Bryer (1812)

7. The booksellers' response and the Select Committee Report 1813

8. The Copyright Bill 1814 and the Author's Voice

9. The Transformation of the 1814 Bill

10. The Life of an Author and the Bill in the Lords

11. The Rationale behind the Lifetime Copyright Term

12. References

 

1. Full title

An Act to amend the several Acts for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies and Copyright of Printed Books, to the Authors of such Books or their Assigns, 1814, 54 Geo.III, c.156 (1814)

 

2. Abstract

Legislation replacing the Statute of Anne 1710 (uk_1710) and providing that copyright in a literary work would last for twenty-eight years from the time of publication, but that ‘if the author shall be living' at the end of that period then the work was to be protected ‘for the residue of his natural life'.

 

The commentary explores the background to the legislation, and in particular the controversy over the library deposit provision in the wake of the decision in Beckford v. Hood (1798) (uk_1798a). The commentary suggests that the introduction of the reversionary lifetime copyright term had more to do with the opportunistic and timely intervention of one Member of Parliament (Samuel Egerton Brydges) than with any principled or considered position adopted on the part of the legislature.

 

3. Isaac D'Israeli and the Copyright Term

When one thinks of notable debates upon the copyright term in nineteenth century Britain one thinks of Sergeant Talfourd (1795-1854), Thomas Babington (1758-1837), and the parliamentary wrangles surrounding the Copyright Amendment Act 1842, an Act which provided an author with a copyright that lasted for his or her lifetime with a seven year post-mortem term, or 42 years, whichever was longer.[1] This, however, was not the first time, in Britain at least, that the legislature had granted a lifetime interest in a copyright work. That first occurred with the passing of the Copyright Act 1814, which provided that copyright in a literary work would last for 28 years from the time of publication, and that "if the author shall be living" at the end of that period then the work was to be protected "for the residue of his natural life".[2] In this regard the Copyright Act 1814 represents something of a blind-spot in accounts of British copyright law,[3] overshadowed somewhat by the protracted and rhetorically beguiling debates concerning the 1842 Act. This commentary aims to bring into focus the various discussions and debates which led to the enactment of the 1814 Act, in pursuit of an answer to the question as to why the legislature decided to introduce the lifetime term at this point in time, and upon what basis.

 

The poet Robert Southey (1774-1843), writing in the Quarterly Review in January 1819, notably pleaded the authors' case for perpetual copyright.[4] However, seven years before Southey, in 1812, Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848), father to Benjamin (1804-1881), published a collection of essays concerning the Calamities of Authors in which (aside from his telling observation that "Authors continue poor, and Booksellers become opulent; an extraordinary result!") he too called for "justice" in relation to the copyright term:

"The cause we are pleading is not the calamities of indifferent writers; but of those whose utility, or whose genius, long survives that limited term which has been so hardly wrenched from the penurious hand of verbal lawyers. Every lover of literature, and every votary of humanity, has long felt indignant at that sordid state and all those secret sorrows to which men of the finest genius, or of sublime industry, are reduced and degraded in society."

Secure authors their "natural right", he continued, and "[l]iterature would acquire a permanent and a nobler reward":

"Where then is the Author to look ... for a provision for his family, or for his future existence? It would naturally arise from the work itself, were Authors not the most ill-treated and oppressed class of the community. The daughter of Milton need not have excited the alms of the admirers of her father, if the right of Authors had been better protected; his own Paradise Lost had then been her better portion, and her most honourable inheritance. The children of Burns would have required no subscriptions; that annual tribute which the public pay to the genius of their parent, was their due, and would have been their fortune."[5]

This was the time of Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Coleridge (1772-1832), Byron (1788-1824) and Shelley (1792-1822), when the English Romantic tradition was in full bloom, and it was Wordsworth, of course, who would later support Talfourd in taking up the copyright question in 1837.[6] In introducing a copyright term that would last for the life of an author in 1814, was the legislature similarly responding to D'Israeli's earlier plea that the situation of authors be addressed?

 

4. The aftermath of Beckford v. Hood (1798)

Any meaningful discussion of the origins of the 1814 Act must start with the decision of the King's Bench in Beckford v. Hood (1798) which had two main impacts upon the history of the development of copyright law within the UK. The first has been discussed elsewhere within this archive and concerned the influence which the case exerted over the manner in which the decision of the Lords in Donaldson v. Becket (1774) [7] was subsequently understood throughout the nineteenth century.[8] The second was of a more immediate nature. In Beckford the plaintiff had failed to register his work in accordance with requirements of the Statute of Anne 1710 and so could not pursue for the remedies provided therein. Instead he sought damages at common law, by way of an action on the case, and the issue for the court was whether such an action could be sustained. The court, under Lord Kenyon (1732-1802), decided that it could. In effect, this meant that booksellers no longer needed to register their works with the Company of Stationers to ensure that a copyright infringer might be held financially liable for their actions before the courts. In the five years before Beckford the average number of books registered with the Company each year was around 620; in the five years that followed, registrations dropped to around 370.[9] The corollary to this drop in registration was that fewer and fewer works were being deposited with the Company for the benefit of the libraries,[10] a situation that wasn't helped by the wording of the Copyright Act 1801 which seemed to suggest that unless a book was registered with the Company then there was no need to deposit a copy of the same for the use of the libraries.[11] However, it was not until Basil Montagu (1770-1851), a barrister and author,[12] was sent to Cambridge University library for the seventh volume of the Term Reports (the volume which, ironically, contained the report of the decision in Beckford), only to find that the library did not have a copy, that the controversy over the library deposit requirement in the Statute of Anne became a live issue.

 

Montagu, troubled by the absence of the latest volume of the Term Reports from the university library, decided to investigate the matter further. Of all the works published in 1803 (which he underestimated at 391) he could only find 22 in the main library at Cambridge. Fearful of the fact that "the intention of the legislature, to assist in the regular augmentation of the library, was likely to be defeated",[13] he published a short commentary on the issue in 1805 arguing that the deposit obligation did not depend upon whether the work was registered with the Stationers' Company. Registration, he suggested, only impacted upon an owner's ability to pursue for the statutory penalties. Regardless of whether a work was registered or not, he continued, the obligation to deposit copies for the benefit of the libraries remained. Following this, Edward Christian (bap.1758-1823), the Downing Professor of the Laws of England at Cambridge, and brother to Fletcher Christian of Bounty fame, published a second pamphlet in 1807, A Vindication of the Right of the Universities,[14] which made its way into the hands of John Villiers (1757-1838), then an M.P. for Queenborough.[15] Villiers, speaking before a House of Commons Select Committee in 1818, explained his interest in the subject as follows:

"Having lived a great deal in the University, I had a very strong sense of the importance of that right, which the University supposed they were possessed of; it was at that time in litigation, and an idea was entertained, that it might be evaded by not entering the books at Stationers Hall; the sense I entertained of the value of that right to the University, which, I believe to be of the utmost importance; and presentation of new books constantly before the eyes of the University, particularly to that part of the University which is either occupied in the giving or receiving lectures, was, that it was a very valuable privilege; this I state as the motive which led me to interfere in the matter..." [16]

5. The 1808 Copyright Bill

On 16 June 1808 leave was given in the House of Commons to bring in a Bill for the further encouragement of Learning in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, by securing to the Libraries of the Universities, and other public libraries, copies of all newly-printed books, and books reprinted with additions, and by further securing the copies and copyright of printed Books to the authors of such books, or their assigns, for a time to be limited.[17] The Bill itself was relatively short. It set out that eleven copies of every work published should "in all cases be delivered by the Printer or Printers thereof, to the Warehouse-keeper of the Company of Stationers" before publication and regardless of whether the book was registered with the Company.[18] Second, the Bill proposed to do away with the interest set out in the Statute of Anne that was contingent upon the life of the author.[19] Instead, as was the case with designers and engravers under the Engravers Copyright Act 1766,[20] any works published after the commencement of the Bill would enjoy a single period of protection lasting 28 years.[21] Third, it set out that the authors of any book published within an undefined period of time prior to the passing of the Bill, or their personal representatives (if deceased), were to have the sole liberty of printing their works "either with or without any new notes, additions, or alterations", for the term of, presumably 28 years,[22] or what remained thereof, from the time of first publication of the work. Moreover, this was to be the case notwithstanding "any general words in any former agreement or assignment to the contrary".[23]

 

When the Bill came up for discussion in a Committee of the Whole House it provoked considerable debate. One might have suspected that the third clause, which proposed to render null and void many existing contractual arrangements between publisher and author, to the author's advantage, would prove particularly controversial, but not so. That provision was dropped during the committee stage, but the most heated discussions in the Commons concerned the library deposit requirement. Samuel Romilly (1757-1818), for one, agreed that it was expedient that the university libraries should be provided with books, but that "it should be proposed to lay a tax upon authors for that purpose" he considered quite unacceptable.[24] Charles Williams-Wynn (1775-1850) objected as well, noting that the booksellers "felt it would be so injurious to their interests, that they had prepared a petition against that part of [the Bill]".[25] Presumably this came as something of a surprise to Villiers given that he had spent a considerable amount of time meeting with representatives of the London book trade in the hope of having the matter resolved. Villiers recounts the nature of those discussions in the following manner:

"I was very desirous not to interfere in any manner to the prejudice of authors, or the purchasers of copyrights; I therefore took some pains in looking over the whole of the question, to see whether anything occurred which might be a beneficial arrangement for them, as well as facilitate the enjoyment of the right belonging to the University, whether the enlargement of the copyright, which stood at that time upon a very inconvenient and very unjust footing, might not induce the persons engaged in publications to acquiesce without further hesitation in the claim of the University to their books. I really cannot state with precision, whether that idea occurred to myself, or it was suggested to me; but in consequence of that there were several meetings, some at my own home, and at the house of Mr. Butterworth, of the persons who I understood to represent generally the trade in London, and in consequence of that meeting a bill was prepared, which certainly met with the concurrence of all those gentlemen..."[26]

Christian, who claimed to have first suggested the idea of unifying the copyright term as a means of addressing the interests of the booksellers,[27] must have been equally taken aback:

"I attended several of their meetings at the London Coffee-house, and Mr. Villiers' house, and Mr. Villiers undertook to bring in a bill, that it should be amiably settled; we were all then agreed, if the Universities could induce the House by the influence of their members and their representatives, to get an increase of copyright; the booksellers undertook never to disturb us again."[28]

It may be that Villiers and Christian were overstating the nature of the agreement they had negotiated with the booksellers, or simply misunderstood the extent to which John Butterworth spoke for the general interests of the London book trade.[29] Butterworth was certainly one of the booksellers who signed a petition on 24 June, 1808, requesting that the Bill be put off until the following parliamentary session "in order to give time for a full consideration of [the] subject, in which such a variety of persons, and so large a property are materially concerned".[30] Villiers, although by no means clear on the sequence of events, recalled in 1818 that it was on account of the booksellers' petition that he dropped the Bill.[31] It was never brought before the House again, and soon after Villiers was appointed as the British envoy to the Portuguese court where he spent the next two years. Christian and the University of Cambridge had lost their sponsor.

 

6. University of Cambridge v. Bryer (1812)

Following the loss of the 1808 Bill in the Commons, Christian persuaded the University to take matters into its own hands.[32] In 1811 they began proceedings against Henry Bryer, the printer of Samuel Heywood's (1753-1822) A Vindication of Mr. Fox's History of the early Part of the Reign of James the Second, for failing to deliver a copy of the work for the use of the University library. The London booksellers, sparing no expense in sponsoring Bryer's defence, engaged the formidable Henry Brougham (1778-1868) as counsel. Brougham's star had risen considerably the previous year when he defended Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) and his brother, against an accusation of libel levelled at them by the Crown, over an article they published in their paper, the Examiner, which was critical of the army's use of flogging to discipline and punish recruits.[33] Brougham, against popular expectation, triumphed. Lord Ellenborough (1750-1818) claimed it was his duty to direct the jury that he considered the two brothers guilty of intending to raise sedition in the forces; the jury, nevertheless, acquitted them both, a decision attributable to Brougham's eloquence upon the liberty of the individual and the importance of maintaining a free press.[34] In defending Bryer, Brougham once again stood before Ellenborough, but this time his oratorical flair would not prevail. Ellenborough, a one time fellow of Peterhouse College, and the fourth son of Edmund Law (1703-1787), who had held the post of librarian for Cambridge University (Protobibliothecarius) between 1760 and 1769, held for the University.[35] In doing so he commented that the Statute of Anne had two main goals: "the object of protecting copyright, and that of the advancement of learning".[36] The library deposit provision, he considered, was designed "to make learning easy of access".[37] In that light, he continued, regardless of the fact that Bryer had not registered the work with the Company, he was nevertheless required to comply with the library deposit provision, and the University was entitled to recover the statutory penalties for non-delivery. Le Blanc J. (1748/49-1816) put the decision in the following manner:

"[I]t appears to me that notwithstanding the title of the book has not been entered with the Clerk of the Stationers' Company, yet inasmuch as the author of this book is, according to the decision of this Court in Beckford v. Hood, entitled to all the privileges granted by the statute of Anne, and secured by a much more effectual remedy than the penalties which are given by the first section of the act, namely, by action to recover damages against any person who shall infringe his right, this privilege to the different libraries is also given by the fifth section of this act, notwithstanding there may not have been any such entry as is required by the second section..."[38]

7. The booksellers' response and the Select Committee Report 1813

The decision of the court provoked an almost immediate response from the London booksellers and publishers. Within three weeks a petition was presented to the Commons on their behalf, by Davies Giddy (1767-1839), mathematician and M.P. for Bodmin, claiming that the Bryer decision would subject them "to great expence, and operate very seriously to discourage literature". The petitioners continued that "many works are now printed by authors at their own expence", and that to enforce delivery of eleven copies of all books would "in the cases in which, from the nature of the works, and limited sale, a small number only is printed, operate as a great discouragement to the undertaking of such works".[39] The booksellers' petition was joined by a further petition from the printing community on 11 March 1813 in which they too stressed the impact which the decision would have upon the production of books of "learning and science", which works were very often "expensive publications", subject to small print runs, and "of great importance in the eyes of other countries, and form, in peaceable times, objects of national commerce and reputation".[40] The book trade's concerns were also played out in the press in that a pamphlet war ensued.[41] Those condemning the decision invoked the conceit of an author's copyright subsisting at common law, and, as with Romilly in 1808, portrayed the deposit requirement as a tax upon this natural property right.[42] Samuel Egerton Brydges (1762-1837), author and publisher,[43] antiquarian and the M.P. for Maidstone,[44] wrote that "[t]he Legislature has long acknowledged (and the Common Law seems from early ages to have acknowledged) the principle of property in the productions of a man's mind"; he continued: "[t]his tax then is a blight to production. It nips the most valuable fruits of Literature in their very bud".[45] Immediately after the printers' petition had been received in the Commons, Giddy moved that a select committee be appointed to look into the matter.[46]

 

Those called before the committee to give evidence were almost exclusively drawn from the community of booksellers and printers.[47] As might be expected, much of the evidence presented to the committee concerned the economics of book publishing, the financial burden which the deposit provision imposed upon the book trade, as well as anecdotal evidence about works that might be abandoned should the provision be insisted upon. Joseph Mawman, for example, reported that "[a]n author has declared, though he has a work already in press, and which he prints with a view to profit, if this legislative regulation should take place for the eleven copies, he will destroy what he has already printed, and suppress the work altogether".[48] Attention was also drawn to the more favourable situation of printsellers who already enjoyed a continuous 28 year term of copyright protection and without the burden of library deposit.[49] Towards the end of the process Sharon Turner (1768-1847), the solicitor who had been appointed by the London book trade to defend Henry Bryer, submitted a paper setting out the "modifications desired by the booksellers" with respect to the current legislative regime. In short, it requested that the deposit provision be reduced to five copies,[50] or, if more were required, that the libraries be required to contribute to the cost of the same.[51] To this was added a long list of works that were to be excluded from the provision entirely, including "books with coloured prints" and those "with prints only, songs and music, newspapers, reprints of foreign works, no works sold above ten guineas", and those "where the copyright is abandoned".[52]

 

Even though the university libraries did not give evidence before the Select Committee, it was nevertheless recommended that the deposit system be retained. Despite that "great changes have taken place in the literary systems of this Country", since the enactment of the Statute of Anne, the Committee considered that "continuing the delivery of all new works, and in certain cases subsequent editions, to the Libraries now entitled to receive them, will tend to the advancement of learning, and to the diffusion of knowledge, without imposing any considerable burden on the Authors, Printers, or Publishers of such works".[53] They did, however, propose that certain changes might be made to the existing system. For example, not all works need be submitted on the finest paper and in the largest size,[54] and a system of only supplying books upon request might be introduced. As to the copyright term, they suggested that "a fixed term should be assigned beyond the existing period of fourteen years".[55] The question does of course beg as to why, given the nature of the evidence presented before the Committee, their recommendations were not more favourable to the booksellers' interests. Perhaps it was the presence of Lord Archibald Hamilton (1770-1827) who, during the debate on the printers' petition earlier that year, had astutely observed that while the law had been called a tax on authors "it was the booksellers who now complained ... and asked for its revision". Moreover, he continued, the cost of delivery to a publisher was surely not so great "as to be any balance to the advantage of furnishing the Universities and public bodies with copies of all literary productions".[56] Presumably, Sir William Scott (1745-1836), judge of the admiralty court and the parliamentary representative for Oxford University, would also have had something to say on the matter,[57] or indeed J.H. Smyth or Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865),[58] the two Members for the University of Cambridge.[59] In any event, the committee report remained on the table until the end of that parliamentary session.

 

8. The Copyright Bill 1814 and the Author's Voice

On 10 May 1814 Giddy once again raised the question of whether or not to revise the literary copyright statutes before the Commons. "The class of books which the Universities are desirous to get" he explained "were least profitable to booksellers, and it was a hardship on them", whereas "there were other books, such as novels, which could be of no use to the Universities".[60] The Bill he proposed to introduce to remedy this situation was relatively straightforward.[61] It was to repeal the previous deposit provisions, and provided that eleven copies of every book "upon the Paper upon which the largest number or impression of such Book shall be printed for Sale" were to be delivered to the Stationers' Company for the benefit of the libraries provided the same were requested in writing to the printer of the book within six months of first publication.[62] No second editions of a work were to be requested unless they contained "material additions".[63] The copyright term for works published after the commencement of the Act was to be 28 years.[64] Finally, an amnesty was provided for those publishers who had not deposited books in accordance with the previous legislation.[65]

 

When the Bill was committed a number of additional clauses were added. The first required that every work published after the Act was to be registered within one month of publication subject to a 40 shilling penalty, "in order to ascertain what books shall be from time to time published".[66] The rest all decidedly favoured the interests of the book trade and, in the main, had their genesis in the suggestions the publishers had submitted to the select committee the previous year: if the owner of a book did not wish to "retain or preserve the exclusive copyright" in the work then there would be no obligation to deposit copies for any libraries other than the British Museum;[67] all libraries, other than the British Museum, were to contribute one-third of the retail price of any works they requested;[68] also, any copies delivered for the use of the libraries were not to be sold within seven years.[69]

 

Yet the progress of this Bill was not to be straightforward; it was re-committed a further three times and several other amendments were made before it passed to the Lords for consideration. During this period, Giddy lost control of the Bill, and what started with a petition from the book trade against the iniquity of the decision in Bryer resulted in an Act that further secured the interests of the universities. This turnaround was testament to the strength of the University lobby within the House, but was also due in part to the fact that Giddy, the Bill's sponsor, suffered his third bereavement in a year, when his fifth child, a son, died in June 1814 in the midst of these committee stages.[70] About this event, Todd, Giddy's biographer, writes: "Three deaths within a year pulled their pall of depression over him, and sapped still further his reserves of energy. Not until the autumn of 1814, after another convalescence in Cornwall, does he seem finally to have demonstrated his old interest in work and the pleasure he found there".[71]

 

The backlash against the Bill began on the day before it was re-committed for the first time, when a petition was received from the "Provost, Fellows and Scholars" of Trinity College in Dublin "taking notice of the Bill ... and praying that they may be heard, by their counsel, against the same".[72] Other libraries followed suit: the Faculty of Advocates and the University of Edinburgh;[73] the Universities of Glasgow and Saint Andrews;[74] the University of King's College at Aberdeen;[75] the University of Cambridge;[76] and finally, the University of Oxford who simply requested that the House "maintain and preserve the privileges of the University with respect to its claim of Copies of Books in such manner as shall seem most fit and reasonable".[77] Amongst these university submissions three further petitions were laid before the house. The first came from the booksellers and publishers of London and Westminster praying that the Bill "may pass into law".[78] The next two petitions, both presented on the 28 June, are the more interesting. The entry in the Journal of the House of Commons reads as follows: "Two petitions - of Authors and Composers of Books, were presented and read; taking notice of the Bill ... And praying, [t]hat the same may pass into a Law".[79] Throughout the eighteenth century the booksellers had petitioned parliament for protection on behalf of writers, authors, and learned men. For the first time, a group of authors were petitioning parliament on their own terms and in their own interest - an arguably significant moment in the history of the development of the author as professional.[80] That this occurs in relation to an Act that would ultimately grant an author the first statutorily defined lifetime protection in his published work is also interesting, if not necessarily a direct consequence thereof.

 

And yet there are perhaps reasons to be sceptical about the extent to which the petitions presented on 28 June can be relied upon as evidence of authors independently organising themselves to lobby parliament, absent the backing of the paraphernalia of the book trade. In 1818, for example, when Brydges led what would prove to be an unsuccessful parliamentary campaign to amend the 1814 legislation,[81] John Nichols (1745-1826), once Master of the Company of Stationers, wrote to the Rev. Rogers Ruding (1751-1820), the author of Annals of the Coinage of Great Britain and its Dependencies (a text which Nichols had printed),[82] in the following terms:

"Booksellers, Authors, and all persons interested, are making a strong push at present (under the guidance of Sir Egerton Brydges) to endeavour to get redress from the onus of the Copyright Act. Several Petitions will be presented to the House of Commons from Authors; among whom your case has occurred to the Booksellers' Committee as a very hard one. If you have no objection to present a Petition to the House, Mr Sharon Turner (of Red Lion Square) would draw it up under your direction; and save you all the trouble & expense in the business. It might serve the Cause, to which I know you are a well-wisher."[83]

Sharon Turner, who, like Nichols, operated out of Red Lion Square, had been retained by the booksellers as solicitor for Henry Bryer, and Nichols had published Turner's anonymous tract, Reasons for a Modification of the Act of Anne respecting the delivery of Books, and Copyright in 1813, following Ellenborough's decision in favour of the universities. Ruding obviously contacted Turner, because a petition was prepared on his behalf, and submitted to the Commons on 8 April 1818.[84] On the same day, a Petition from Authors on the Copy-Right Act, printed by Nichols, and presented to the Commons on 6 April 1818, was signed by 65 authors "of the first respectability", the last of which was naturally Turner.[85]

 

Unfortunately, no copies of the authors' petitions from 28 June 1814 appear to have survived but it seems likely that Turner was responsible for drafting those also. Moreover, in his tract from 1813, Turner on the one hand set out that "authors before the [Statute of Anne] had the same perpetual right of property in their works as in their money"; in this regard, he continued, the 1710 Act "instead of being a boon and a benefit to authors, has operated to their injury, since it has been found to curtail their natural and legal right to their intellectual property. If this Act had not been passed, they would not only have had no copies to deliver, but their Copyright would have been perpetual".[86] On the other hand, unlike D'Israeli before him, or Southey who was to follow, Turner pressed for no more than "the removal of the contingency which at present interrupts the full enjoyment of the twenty-eight years statute-right". He continued:

"If it has been thought just that the Universities should have their Copyrights, in perpetuity,[[87]] it cannot be deemed unjust that authors and their assigns should have them for at least the present twenty-eight years, without any clause of contingency. In an age of increased liberality, let Literature receive this additional encouragement..."[88]

The removal of the contingent term in the Statute of Anne was, naturally, what Villiers and Christian had negotiated with John Butterworth and others in 1808, and had also featured in the Bill which Giddy first presented to the Commons on 12 May.[89] In all of this, one senses the "Booksellers' Committee" standing over the "Authors and Composers of Books" and pulling the rhetorical strings with which they thought they might best capture the sympathies of the legislature.[90]

 

9. The Transformation of the 1814 Bill

As previously noted, the Bill was re-committed a further three times. On 7 June the Bill emerged from committee with two significant changes to the main deposit clause.[91] First, not just books, but books "together with all Maps and Prints belonging thereto" were to be delivered on demand. Second, the individual responsible for delivery was no longer the printer but rather the publisher.[92] A number of other changes were also made to the Bill. Second editions were subject to the delivery requirement if they contained any addition, alteration or correction, and not just "materials additions".[93] Registration of the title of a book, as well as the name of the publisher, was to take place within three months and one copy of the work, upon the best paper, was to be delivered, without the need for a prior request, to the British Museum.[94] In addition, the "warehousekeeper" of the Stationers' Company was required to submit a list of all the books registered to the libraries at least four times a year.[95] Those who didn't want to retain the copyright in their works, upon registration, were required to make a written declaration to the same effect whose entry was to be "deemed and taken to be a full and complete renunciation, by such Proprietor or Proprietors, of all Copyright at common law and otherwise".[96] Finally, the contribution that libraries were to make towards the cost of the books requested was reduced to one-fifth,[97] and a six month limitation of actions was added.[98] Significantly, the amnesty for non-deposit of works prior to the coming into force of the Bill was dropped.[99]

 

On 12 July, when the Bill was reconsidered, the first notable alteration was made to the preambulatory justification for legislating at all.[100] Whereas the first two drafts had made mention of the fact that the previous legislation imposed a "very heavy expense to the Authors or Proprietors of such books",[101] and without producing any "adequate encouragement to learning',[102] now the Bill simply provided that "it is expedient that Copies of Books hereafter printed, or published, should be delivered to the Libraries hereinafter mentioned".[103] In addition, the deposit obligation was to extend to works published after the 1 January 1813 with the libraries now allowed 12 months to request copies thereof,[104] second editions with "additions or alterations" were subject to delivery,[105] and the limitation period was, like the request period, extended to 12 months.[106] That which was dropped from the earlier incarnations of the Bill was much more significant, all of which omissions operated in favour of the universities. The option of abandoning your copyright and by extension the obligation to deposit was dropped, as was the requirement that the libraries make some financial contribution towards the cost of the works they requested, and the prohibition on libraries selling such works within seven years of deposit. The new colour of the Bill, as one primarily designed to further the interests of the libraries, was maintained, when it emerged from committee for the final time on 18 July with relatively minor changes,[107] including a new provision which authorised publishers to deliver their deposit copies directly to the libraries requesting the same.[108]

 

The life of the Bill had certainly been eventful, and its focus had clearly shifted, to the consternation of many who had been involved therein. What had started with a booksellers' petition against the inequity of the decision in Bryer, had in effect, simply led the House to re-affirming the deposit obligation with the additional burden of the compulsory registration of all published works so that the deposit provision could be more rigorously enforced. There were of course elements of the Bill that were designed to ameliorate the grumbles of the book trade to some extent. The quid pro quo which Villiers had negotiated in 1808 in the guise of the single 28 year copyright term was there, but the booksellers had made clear before the committee (whether disingenuously or not) that the extended term was of little interest or value to them.[109] Moreover, the booksellers were now only obliged to deliver copies requested by the deposit libraries, but as it soon became clear, the libraries rarely exercised any discretion in the demands that they made, often simply requesting all the works on the lists sent to them from the Stationers' Company.[110] And so, the Select Committee established in 1813 amidst the arguments of the manner in which the deposit obligation injured the printing trade, represented a threat to the development of science and learning, or operated as an inexcusable tax upon "a body seldom able to meet great exactions - the body of authors",[111] had resulted in a Bill that did little other than service the needs and interests of the university libraries. Giddy, on 12 July, no doubt realising the extent to which the substance of the Bill had gotten away from him, suggested its consideration be postponed to the following session.[112] Not surprisingly, those M.P.s representing the universities were not prepared to let the matter drop. After Giddy's suggestion that the Bill be postponed, various members of the House spoke to the "expediency of the Bill being then re-committed", which members included both William Scott and Palmerston.[113]

 

When, on 18 July, the Bill emerged from committee for the final time it was clear that it was as contentious as it had been when first introduced before the House. Williams-Wynn, M.P. for Montgomeryshire, expressed his regret that the provision prohibiting the sale of deposit copies had been removed,[114] and spoke generally against the principle of the deposit obligation. Better, he continued, to publicly fund the universities so that they might purchase new works, rather than "impose upon publishers the tax proposed in this Bill".[115] He concluded with the hope that "the discussion of this measure would lead to the adoption of some plan next session, which would be more conducive to the advantage of the Universities, and to the general interests of science and literature, than any Bill of this nature was ever likely to do".[116] Although Giddy, when he motioned for the select committee in March 1813, explained that "[h]e had undertaken to present the Petition of the Booksellers, on the clear understanding that he was not to stand forth as their champion",[117] the extent to which the substance of the Bill had gotten away from him and his initial hopes had been frustrated, was revealed in his endorsement of Williams-Wynn's proposal:

"Mr. Giddy expressed his entire concurrence in the general observations of the hon. Gentleman, particularly in the wish and hope that, in the next session, some pecuniary provision would be made from the public purse, to supply the public libraries with new books, and thus to relieve the booksellers from the hardship of which they complained."[118]

Others spoke to the "petty advantage" which the universities had secured, and exhorted them to relinquish the same; Charles Marsh (c.1774-1835), M.P. for East Retford, castigated the Bill as "a relic of barbarous times", and one that was "inconsistent with the liberal spirit of the present age".[119] Brydges simply pronounced that he was "against the Bill".[120] Despite the protests, the Bill was carried; it was read for the third time the following day (19 July) after which Giddy was instructed to carry it before the Lords.[121]

 

10. The Life of an Author and the Bill in the Lords

The Bill that Giddy carried to the Lords on 19 July differed from that which, on the previous day, emerged from the final committee in the Commons in one significant respect. Whereas the Bill had originally set out that every book thereafter published was to be protected for "the full term of twenty-eight years",[122] it now provided that "if the author shall be living" at the end of that 28 year period then the work was to be protected "for the residue of his natural life".[123] Here then we come to the nub of this commentary - how and why was the residuary lifetime term introduced? The answer lies with Samuel Egerton Brydges. On 18 July when the committee's report on the Bill was being considered by the House, Brydges, before speaking "against the Bill", also "gave notice of a motion for tomorrow, for an amendment in the Bill to further extend the period of Copyright".[124] There is sadly no further record of what Brydges said in support thereof, but there seems little doubt that, when on 19 July, the Bill was amended upon its third reading,[125] it was Brydges who was responsible the introduction of the residuary lifetime interest. That Hansard records no debate does suggest that there was little if any significant discussion on the matter; it is the very absence of debate that fascinates. By this time, of course, the events surrounding the need for new legislation had been heatedly debated both within and outside of Parliament for over eighteen months. It may well be that the Commons was unwilling to let the legislation stumble at this late stage, or that it was simply indifferent to the amendment; we can never know. Here then we have Peer Gynt's onion: one peels away the layers only to find that there is little if any substance at the core.

 

In any event, the Bill was read before the House of Lords for the first time on 20 July,[126] for the second time two days later, and passed through the committee of the house on the 25 July without amendment.[127] The following day, upon its third reading, two clauses were added without any significant discussion and the Bill was passed.[128] Both clauses concerned the new copyright term. The first provided that if any author, still living, who had published work with the previous fourteen years, should die after the legislation came into force but before the expiration of the first fourteen year term provided by the Statute of Anne, then they (or their personal representatives) were, nevertheless, to enjoy the benefit of the extended 28 year term. This, however, unlike the restructuring of author-publisher relations proposed by the initial drafts of the 1808 Bill, was not deemed to interfere with any existing contractual terms between an author and his assignee.[129] The second amendment was a direct response to the lifetime interest introduced by Brydges in the Commons. It provided that if any author of a work already published, was, at the end of the 28 year term, still living, then he or she would also enjoy the copyright in their work for "the remainder of his or her life".[130] The Commons accepted the amendments without challenge, and the Bill received the Royal Assent on 29 July 1814,[131] the day before parliament was prorogued.[132]

 

11. The Rationale behind the Lifetime Copyright Term

By comparison with the wrangles over the length of the copyright term in the late 1830s and early 1840s, that there appears to have been little if any significant discussion about Brydges' proposed extension is at the same time infuriating and intriguing. It goes without saying that the decision to grant a reversionary lifetime interest in literary works was by no means inevitable. As regards other contemporary copyright legislation, engravings enjoyed a single 28 year term, works of sculpture were protected for only 14 years,[133] while fabric designers received no more than three months security.[134] In the six years of debate concerning the library deposit obligation that preceded the 1814 legislation, there had been neither discussion of, nor request for, a copyright term that would last for the life of an author. When Thomas Longman spoke at length about the operation and the economics of the book trade to the parliamentary Select Committee in 1813,[135] he rejected the idea that even introducing a single 28 year term would hold out any significant benefit for the publishing community over the existing copyright regime.[136] In any event, from 1808 onwards, and throughout most of the life of the 1814 Bill itself, it seemed certain that the copyright term would be extended to 28 years and no longer. Only at the eleventh hour did Brydges propose the extended lifetime term. Brydges naturally had his own reasons for suggesting the same, but they remain opaque to us. His autobiography offers no further insight; indeed, he somewhat understates his role in our story in simply observing that: "I took an active part in ... the copyright bill".[137] Perhaps no more can be said in this respect than that the introduction of the lifetime term had more to do with the opportunistic and timely intervention of one Member of Parliament (albeit an author), than with any principled or considered position adopted on the part of the legislature.

 

12. References

Government papers and legislation

Statute of Anne, 1710, 8 Anne, c.19

Universities Act, 1775, 15 Geo.III, c.53

Designers and Printers Act, 1794, 34 Geo.III c.23

Engravers' Copyright Act, 1766, 7 Geo.III c.38

Models and Busts Act, 1798, 38 Geo.III, c.71

Copyright Act, 1801, 41 Geo.III, c.107

Copyright Act, 1814, 54 Geo.III, c.156,

Sculpture Copyright Act, 1814, 54 Geo.III, c.56.

Copyright Amendment Act, 1842, 5 & 6 Vict., c.45

Report of the Select Committee on Acts for the Encouragement of Learning, 1812-13, Paper No.292, IV., 999

Select Committee on Acts for the Encouragement of Learning: Minutes of Evidence, 1812-13, Paper No.341, IV., 1003

Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Copyright Acts, 1818, Paper No.280, IX.,257

 

Cases

Donaldson v. Becket (1774) 4 Burr. 2408

Carnan v. Bowles (1786) 1 Cox 283.

Beckford v. Hood (1798) 7 D. & E. 620

University of Cambridge v. Bryer (1812) 16 East's Reports 317

Brooke v. Clarke (1818) 1 B. & Ald. 396

 

Books and articles

Barnes, J.J., Free Trade in Books: A Study of the London Book Trade since 1800 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964)

Barwick, G.F., The Reading Room of the British Library (London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1929)

Bonham-Carter, V., Authors by Profession, 2 vols. (Los Altos, CA: William Kaufmann, 1978)

Brydges, E., A Summary Statement of the Great Grievance imposed on Authors and Publishers (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1813)

Brydges, S.E., The Autobiography, Times, Opinions, and Contemporaries of Sir Egerton Brydges, 2 vols. (London: Cochrane and McCrone, 1834)

Britton, J., The Rights of Literature; or an Inquiry into the Policy and Justice of the Claims of Certain Public Libraries on all the Publishers and Authors of the United Kingdom, for eleven copies, on the best paper, of every new publication (London: Valpy, 1814)

Christian, E., A Vindication of the Right of the Universities of Great Britain to a copy of every new publication (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1807)

Christian, E., A Vindication of the Right of the Universities of Great Britain to a copy of every new publication, 2nd ed. (London: Clarke & Sons, 1814)

Cochrane, J.G., The Case Stated between The Public Libraries and the Booksellers (London: Moyes, 1813)

Couper, J., Memorial and Representation of the University of Glasgow, against a petition of "several booksellers in London and Westminster", presented to the House of Commons on the 16th December 1812 (Glasgow: Reid & Co., 1813)

Deazley, R., On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1695-1775) (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004)

Dibdin, T., Typographical Antiquities: or the history of printing in England Scotland and Ireland: containing memoirs of our ancient printers, and a register of the books printed by them (London: Miller, 1812)

D'Israeli, I., Calamities of Authors, 2 vols. (London: Murray, 1812), 1: 25, 41-43

Duppa, R., An address to the Parliament of Great Britain on the claims of authors to their own copyright (London: n.p., 1813)

Feather, J., "Publishers and Politicians: The Remaking of the Law of Copyright in Britain 1775-1842, Part I: Legal Deposit and the Battle of the Library Tax", Publishing History, 24 (1988): 49-76

Hargrave, F., An Argument in Defence of Literary Property (London: Otridge, 1774)

McKitterick, D., Cambridge University Library, A History: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Montagu, B., Enquiries and Observations respecting the University Library (Cambridge: Hodson, 1805)

Montagu, B., Enquiries Respecting the Proposed Alteration of the Law of Copyright (London: Butterworth, 1813)

Montagu, B., Enquiries Respecting the Proposed Alteration of the Law of Copyright, as it Affects Authors and the Universities (London: Butterworth,1813)

Oates, J.C.T., "Cambridge University and the Reform of the Copyright Act, 1805-1813", The Library, 5th ser., 27 (1972): 275-92

Partridge, R.C.B., The history of the legal deposit of books throughout The British Empire (London: The Library Association, 1938)

Ruding, R., Annals of the Coinage of Britain and its Dependencies: from The Earliest Period of Authentick History to The End of the Fiftieth Year of his Present Majesty King George III (London: Nichols, 1817)

Seville, C., "Talfourd and His Contemporaries: The Making of the 1842 Copyright Act". In The Prehistory and Development of Intellectual Property Systems. Edited by Firth, A., (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1997), 47-80

Stewart, R., Henry Brougham 1778-1868: His Public Career (London: The Bodley Head, 1985)

Swartz, R.G., "Wordsworth, Copyright and the Commodities of Genius", Modern Philology, (1992): 482-509

Taylor, R., A Short Plea on Behalf of Learning, against the claims of the Universities and certain libraries to copies of all new books (London: Taylor, 1814)

Todd, A., Beyond the Blaze: A Biography of Davies Gilbert (Truro: Bradford Barton, 1967)

Turner, S., The History of the Anglo-Saxons, 4 vols. (London: Cadell and Davies, 1799-1805)

Turner, S., Reasons for a Modification of the Act of Anne, Respecting the Delivery of Books and Copyright (London: Nichols and Son and Bentley, 1813)

Turner, S., Reasons for a Modification of the Act of Anne respecting the Delivery of Books, and Copyright (London: Nichols, Son and Bentley, 1813)

Young, B.W., "Law, Edmund (1703-1787)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, available at www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16141

Woodworth, M.K., The Literary Career of Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1935)



[1] Copyright Amendment Act, 1842, 5 & 6 Vict., c.45, s.3.

[2] Copyright Act, 1814, 54 Geo.III, c.156, s.4. Nor was this the first time that a lifetime interest had been suggested by the legislature - that first occurred in 1737; for details see: uk_1737; R. Deazley, On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1695-1775) (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004), 103-108.

[3] For commentaries upon the 1814 Act see: J. Feather, "Publishers and Politicians: The Remaking of the Law of Copyright in Britain 1775-1842, Part I: Legal Deposit and the Battle of the Library Tax", Publishing History, 24 (1988): 49-76; D. McKitterick, Cambridge University Library, A History: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 394-445; J.C.T. Oates, "Cambridge University and the Reform of the Copyright Act, 1805-1813", The Library, 5th ser., 27 (1972): 275-92.

[4] Southey wrote as follows: "The question is simply this: upon what principle, with what justice, or under what pretext of public good, are men of letters deprived of a perpetual property in the produce of their own labours, when all other persons enjoy it as their indefeasible right - a right beyond the power of any earthly authority to take away? Is it because their labour is so light,- the endowments which it requires so common,- the attainments so cheaply and easily acquired, and the present remuneration so adequate, so ample, and so certain? ... The decision which time pronounces upon the reputation of authors, and upon the permanent rank which they are to hold, is unerring and final. Restore to them that perpetuity in the copyright of their works, of which the law has deprived them, and the reward of literary labour will ultimately be in just proportion to its deserts"; Southey, R., "Inquiry into the Copyright Act", Quarterly Review, (1819): 196-213 (211-13).

[5] I. D'Israeli, Calamities of Authors, 2 vols. (London: Murray, 1812), 1: 25, 41-43.

[6] C. Seville, "Talfourd and His Contemporaries: The Making of the 1842 Copyright Act", in A. Firth, ed., The Prehistory and Development of Intellectual Property Systems (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1997), 47-80, 57; see also R.G. Swartz, "Wordsworth, Copyright and the Commodities of Genius", Modern Philology, (1992): 482-509.

[7] Donaldson v. Becket (1774) 4 Burr. 2408.

[8] See: uk_1798a.

[9] R.C.B. Partridge, The history of the legal deposit of books throughout The British Empire (London: The Library Association, 1938), 315.

[10] Statute of Anne, 1710, 8 Anne, c.19, s.5. For example, Basil Montagu writing on the matter, estimated that of the 391 books published in London in 1803 only 23 were received free of charge by the University of Cambridge; in the following year only 25 out of 400 published works were received; B. Montagu, Enquiries Respecting the Proposed Alteration of the Law of Copyright (London: Butterworth, 1813). Feather suggests that dissatisfaction with non delivery of library copies began to manifest in the mid-eighteenth century, a situation that was not helped however by the decision in Beckford; by the end of the eighteenth century, he continues, "[t]he deposit clause became a dead letter"; J. Feather, "Publishers and Politicians: The Remaking of the Law of Copyright in Britain 1775-1842 Part I: Legal Deposit and the Battle of the Library Tax", Publishing History, 24 (1988): 49-76 (52). See also Barnes who notes that, after Beckford, "[i]t was not long before publishers and authors realized that they could avoid delivering a copy of each new book to the copyright libraries by merely neglecting to register new titles"; J.J. Barnes, Free Trade in Books: A Study of the London Book Trade since 1800 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 2.

[11] Copyright Act, 1801, 41 Geo.III, c.107, s.6 provided as follows: "That from and after the passing of this Act, in Addition to the nine Copies now required by Law to be delivered to the Warehouse-Keeper of the said Company of Stationers, of each and every Book and Books which shall be entered in the Register Book of the said Company, one other Copy shall be in like Manner delivered for the Use of the Library of the said College of the Holy Trinity of Dublin, and also one other Copy for the use of the Library of the Society of the King's Inns, Dublin, by the Printer or Printers of all and every such Book and Books as shall hereafter be printed and published"; the 1801 Act also set out that Clerk of the Company was to prepare a bi-annual list of books registered with the Company "and shall upon demand deliver the said lists or cause the same to be delivered to any person or persons duly authorized to receive the same for and on behalf of [Trinity] College"; s.4.

[12] Montagu, who was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1789, graduated from Cambridge University in 1790 (BA) and 1793 (MA); after graduation he continued to live in Cambridge with his wife, Caroline Matilda Want.

[13] B. Montagu, Enquiries and Observations respecting the University Library (Cambridge: Hodson, 1805), Preface.

[14] E. Christian, A Vindication of the Right of the Universities of Great Britain to a copy of every new publication (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1807).

[15] Christian recalled the incident as follows: "I examined the subject for many days and weeks, and drew up all I could find on the subject on both sides, and my conclusion was, that we were entitled to the privilege under the statute of Anne, though the books were not entered at Stationers Hall; I printed this, though not for sale; I gave it away among my friends. The Honourable Mr. Villiers happened to be at Cambridge, and I gave one to him; he wrote to me in a few days, that he was glad I had paid attention to so important a subject, that he considered it of great importance, and he would bring it before Parliament, and try to have it amiably settled; I communicated that to the University of Cambridge, and all the friends of the University and libraries were glad of it"; Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Copyright Acts, 1818, Paper No.280, IX.,257, 84.

[16] Minutes of Evidence, 1818, 93.

[17] Bill for the further encouragement of Learning in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, by securing to the Libraries of the Universities, and other public libraries, copies of all newly-printed books, and books reprinted with additions, and by further securing the copies and copyright of printed Books to the authors of such books, or their assigns, for a time to be limited 1808, Paper No.314, I., 783 (16 June), and, Paper No.321, I., 799 (22 June). See: Journal of the House of Commons (CJ), 63: 441, 446, 461, 463.

[18] Draft Bill, 16th June, clause 1.

[19] Statute of Anne, s.11.

[20] Engravers' Copyright Act, 1766, 7 Geo.III c.38, s.7.

[21] Draft Bill, 16th and 22nd June, clause 2.

[22] The first printed version of draft bill (16th June) leaves the period of time unspecified.

[23] Draft Bill, 16th June, clause 3.

[24] Hansard, 2nd ser., 11 (1808): 990.

[25] Ibid, 989. The extent of the disagreement upon the deposit requirement in the Commons even resulted in the suggestion that that the extension of the copyright term and the deposit provision might best be addressed in two separate Acts; ibid. See also: CJ, 63: 461.

[26] Minutes of Evidence, 1818, 93.

[27] "I suggested this; ‘if there is any difficulty upon this, or if you consider it any hardship, increase the extent of copyright, let it be twenty-eight years certain ...;' they were all delighted with it; Mr Butterworth and others were highly pleased with it'; Minutes of Evidence, 1818, 84.

[28] Ibid.

[29] When Thomas Longman gave evidence before the Select Committee in 1813 he was asked about the meetings between Villiers and the booksellers: "[Davies Giddy]: Were you concerned in some meetings which were held between the booksellers some years ago, in reference to a Bill which Mr. Villiers brought into Parliament on this subject? - [Thomas Longman]: I was present at those meetings. [DG]: As a principal bookseller, and a great purchaser of copyright, did you not consider an extension in the term of copyright, quite equivalent for the loss which they would sustain by the delivery of the eleven copies? [TL]: I did not consider that. [DG]: Was that not generally thought? [TL]: I do not think it was; there were some persons of that opinion"; Select Committee on Acts for the Encouragement of Learning: Minutes of Evidence, 1812-13, Paper No.341, IV., 1003, 11-12.

[30] Minutes of Evidence, 1818, 93-94.

[31] He observed as follows: "I am quite confident that, in opposition to all those persons, I should not have gone on with the bill; I should think it most probable, that it was in consequence of this suggestion that the bill was dropped for the time; I should also think, that amongst those there were many persons who had attended the meeting, and had approved of the principle of the bill, but on hearing objections stated by different people, they wished, exactly what those resolutions purport, that the bill should be postponed, so as to allow an opportunity of discussing the different interests"; Minutes of Evidence, 1818, 94.

[32] Feather, 54.

[33] In fact, the piece, written by John Scott, had been first published in the Stanford News; R. Stewart, Henry Brougham 1778-1868: His Public Career (London: The Bodley Head, 1985), 74.

[34] Brougham spoke as follows: "If there is a difference in the importance of different subjects - if one person naturally feels more strongly than another upon the same matter - if there are some subjects on which all men who, in point of animation are above the level of a stock or a stone, do feel warmly;- have they not a right to express themselves in proportion to the interest which the question naturally possesses, and to the strength of the feeling it excites in them? If they have no such power as this, to what, I demand, amounts the boasted privilege of free speech? It is the privilege of a fettered discussion; it is the unrestrained choice of topics which another selects; it is the liberty of an enslaved press; it is the native vigour of impotent argument. The grant is not qualified, but resumed by the conditions. The rule is eaten up with the exceptions"; for an account of the trial see Stewart, 74-77.

[35] McKitterick, 403; see also B.W. Young "Law, Edmund (1703-1787)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, available at www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16141.

[36] University of Cambridge v. Bryer (1812) 16 East's Reports 317, 321.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid., 333.

[39] Hansard, 2nd ser., 24 (1812): 310.

[40] Hansard, 2nd ser., 25 (1813): 11. A third petition was laid before the House, on 9 April, this time from the Edinburgh booksellers. They too, like the previous petitioners stressed the impact which the deposit requirement would have upon "the publication of large and valuable works", as well as the impact upon individual authors who they suggested often published their own works "at a considerable expence, and only with the prospect of a slow and uncertain sale"; ibid., 762-63.

[41] See for example: E. Brydges, A Summary Statement of the Great Grievance imposed on Authors and Publishers (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1813); J.G. Cochrane, The Case Stated between The Public Libraries and the Booksellers (London: Moyes, 1813); J. Couper, Memorial and Representation of the University of Glasgow, against a petition of "several booksellers in London and Westminster", presented to the House of Commons on the 16th December 1812 (Glasgow: Reid & Co., 1813); R. Duppa, An address to the Parliament of Great Britain on the claims of authors to their own copyright (London: 1813); B. Montagu, Enquiries Respecting the Proposed Alteration of the Law of Copyright, as it Affects Authors and the Universities (London: Butterworth,1813); S. Turner, Reasons for a Modification of the Act of Anne respecting the Delivery of Books, and Copyright (London: Nichols, Son and Bentley, 1813); J. Britton, The Rights of Literature; or an Inquiry into the Policy and Justice of the Claims of Certain Public Libraries on all the Publishers and Authors of the United Kingdom, for eleven copies, on the best paper, of every new publication (London: Valpy, 1814); E. Christian, A Vindication of the Right of the Universities of Great Britain to a copy of every new publication, 2nd ed. (London: Clarke & Sons, 1814); R. Taylor, A Short Plea on Behalf of Learning, against the claims of the Universities and certain libraries to copies of all new books (London: Taylor, 1814).

[42] See for example Sharon Turner who wrote that "authors before [the Statute of Anne] had the same perpetual right of property in their works as in their money", and that "no one ought to lose sight of the important principle, that the rights of private property are sacred, and ought never to be intruded upon without the last necessity". "[I]n taking eleven copies of every work compulsorily from its author or proprietor' he continued ‘his right of property is directly invaded; it is invaded as completely as if it were to be enacted, that a silversmith should give to these public bodies eleven silver candlesticks"; Turner, 24, 38-39. John Britton, antiquarian, topographer and author, castigated the deposit requirement as "arbitrary, unjust and impolitic". He continued: "I think it is plainly proved that the tax on authors and publishers, as pointed out by the act of Queen Anne, and rendered imperious by the recent decision of the judges, is cruel, oppressive, and unjust; that if enforced, and fully acted upon, it must materially harass and distress every author, and must also levy a contribution on all purchasers of books ... It will sound oddly to posterity, that in a polite nation, in an enlightened age, under the direction of the most wise, the most learned, the most generous encouragers of knowledge in the world, the property of a mechanic is better secured than that of a scholar! That the poorest manual operations should be more valued than the noblest products of the brain! That it should be a felony to roc a cobbler of a pair of shoes, and no crime to deprive the best author of his whole subsistence"; Britton, 66-67.

[43] Brydges owned the Lee Priory Press, a private press based in Kent, which published just over one hundred works between July 1813 and January 1823; for details of the Lee Priory Press catalogue see: www.presscom.co.uk/leepriory1.html.

[44] Brydges was a vocal opponent to the deposit requirement during the debates in the Commons leading up to the Copyright Act 1814. About his involvement Woodworth writes: "From the reports of the proceedings of the House of Commons it appears that Brydges took a conspicuous part in the debates. But he spoke with insufficient eloquence and his impetuous temperament frequently antagonized many of the honourable members". As to his general reputation she observes: "In London literary circles he was esteemed for his collections of old literature, for his private press, his essays on retirement, his good work in behalf of the Copyright Act. Lord Byron referred to him as a ‘strange but able old man'"; M.K. Woodworth, The Literary Career of Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1935), 21, 152.

[45] Brydges, 12. See also George Cochrane, a bookseller, who wrote that "[f]rom the first introduction of printing into England ... there had been no legislative enactment on the subject, but it had always been understood and acted upon, that the copyright of every author or proprietor was vested in him in perpetuity"; Cochrane, 3.

[46] Hansard, 2nd ser., 25 (1813): 12.

[47] Those giving evidence included: Henry Parry (bookseller), Thomas Longman (bookseller), Joseph Mawman (bookseller), George Cochrane (bookseller), William Davies (bookseller), John Nichols (printer), Thomas Bensley (printer), and Richard Taylor (printer). The other two individuals to give evidence before the committee were the Rev. Thomas Dibdin, barrister, bibliographer and the author of Typographical Antiquities: or the history of printing in England Scotland and Ireland: containing memoirs of our ancient printers, and a register of the books printed by them (London: Miller, 1812), and Sharon Turner, a barrister, and the author of Reasons for a Modification of the Act of Anne, Respecting the Delivery of Books and Copyright (London: Nichols and Son and Bentley, 1813), a treatise critical of the library deposit provision.

[48] Minutes of Evidence, 1812-13, 17. In a similar fashion, Richard Taylor commented: "There are a great many works with respect to which the burthen of publication falls on the author himself, because the booksellers cannot be induced to undertake them, as they do not hold out any prospect of profit, and that class of works is very large and a very valuable class. Treatises very often upon some single point in any of the branches of science, which are not likely to have a great sale, the booksellers therefore cannot be expected to take upon themselves the expence of publishing, and the publication is either prevented, or they are published at the expence of the author; and I know very well, that very frequently, those works do not pay their expenses; and there are several instances of works of great reputation that have not paid the expence of printing, when printed at the expence of the authors ... I have no doubt, the eleven copies would, with respect to the printing of many works, prevent their being printed at all"; ibid., 29-30.

[49] Minutes of Evidence, 1812-13, 18.

[50] "[O]ne to each of the three Kingdoms, and one to each of the two English Universities"; ibid., 32.

[51] "That One-third, or one-forth of the price, as published, be paid for the copies delivered"; ibid.

[52] In this regard the booksellers suggested that "[a]ll books [were] to be entered, where the copyright is meant to be claimed"; ibid.

[53] Report of the Select Committee on Acts for the Encouragement of Learning, 1812-13, Paper No.292, IV., 999, 1.

[54] That is, with the exception of the copy delivered to the British Museum, which was to be presented "in its most splendid form"; ibid.

[55] Ibid, 2.

[56] Hansard, 2nd ser., 25 (1813): 14.

[57] Sir William Scott had, in February 1806, been approached by the Trustees of the British Museum for advice concerning "the existing laws respecting the delivery of copies of books at Stationers' Hall'. He, and William Grant, then Master of the Rolls, reportedly advised then that "the Museum had an evident claim"; G.F. Barwick, The Reading Room of the British Library (London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1929), 58.

[58] McKitterick, 412.

[59] The members of the Select Committee are listed as follows: "Mr. Davies Giddy, Sir William Scott, Sir John Nichol, Lord Viscount Palmerston, Mr. Smyth, Mr. William Dundas, Mr. Plunkett, Mr. Finlay, Mr. Rose, Mr. Long, Mr. Marsh, Mr. John William Ward, Lord Archibald Hamilton, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, Mr. Bathurst, Sir Egerton Bridges, Mr. Rashleigh, Sir Charles Edmunstone, Sir John Newport, Mr. Williams Wynn, Mr. Strahan"; CJ, 68: 301.

[60] Hansard, 2nd Ser., 27 (1814): 811; on the progress of the Bill through the Commons see CJ, 69: 254, 261, 274, 284, 299, 320, 329, 333, 344, 355, 363, 365, 381, 396, 397, 419, 438, 455, 470, 471, 476, 482, 513, 514, 517.

[61] The preamble to the Bill provided as follows: "[W]hereas Claims have been made, on behalf of one or more of the Libraries ... that Copies of all Books whatever which shall be printed or published, should be delivered for the use of the Libraries, upon the best Paper, although the Copyright of such Books should not be entered in the Register Book of the said Company of Stationers, and although the number of Copies printed on the best Paper may be much smaller than the number printed for general Sale; which would be, in many cases, a very heavy expense to the Authors or Proprietors of such Books, and a discouragement to Literature".

[62] Draft Bill, 18 May, clauses 1, 2; this was subject to the proviso that the copy delivered to the British Museum was to be printed "on the best paper", clause 3.

[63] Ibid., clause 3.

[64] Ibid., clause 4.

[65] Ibid., clause 5; this provision was dropped in all successive versions of the Bill.

[66] Failure to register the work however would not "affect any Copyright, but shall only subject the Person making default to the [40 shilling] Penalty"; Draft Bill, 18 May, clause A.

[67] Ibid., clause B.

[68] Ibid., clause C.

[69] Ibid., clause D.

[70] Giddy's eldest son died in May 1813, and his father died the following spring; A. Todd, Beyond the Blaze: A Biography of Davies Gilbert (Truro: Bradford Barton, 1967), 161.

[71] Ibid., 162.

[72] CJ, 69: 329 (6 June). Kinane points out that Trinity had been in contact with Edward Christian "seeking his advice on how best to defend its position", before they submitted their petition to the Commons; Kinane, 122.

[73] CJ, 69: 344 (13 June); they wished to be heard "against" the Bill.

[74] CJ, 69: 355 (15 June); they wished to be heard "against certain parts" of the Bill.

[75] CJ, 69: 365 (20 June); they wished to be heard "against certain parts" of the Bill.

[76] CJ, 69: 381 (24 June); they wished to be heard "against certain parts" of the Bill.

[77] CJ, 69: 419 (4 July).

[78] CJ, 69: 363 (17 June).

[79] CJ, 69: 396 (28 June).

[80] In general see V. Bonham-Carter, Authors by Profession, 2 vols. (Los Altos, CA: William Kaufmann, 1978), Vol. 1.

[81] For details see CJ, 73: 125, 183, 231, 258, 288, 310.

[82] R. Ruding, Annals of the Coinage of Britain and its Dependencies :from The Earliest Period of Authentick History to The End of the Fiftieth Year of his Present Majesty King George III (London: Nichols, 1817).

[83] Letter from John Nichols to Rogers Ruding, 12 March 1818, BL 515.l.20(4).

[84] BL 515.l.20(4).

[85] BL 515.l.20(5); Turner, in addition to carrying on his legal practice, was a historian and an author whose most notable work was The History of the Anglo-Saxons, 4 vols. (London: Cadell and Davies, 1799-1805).

[86] He continued: "Why should not an author be entitled to his Copyright as free and as permanently as the humblest individual is to his freehold, his furniture, or his money? What right, in reason, distinct from verbal subtleties, can we allege for the one, which is not applicable to the other?"; Turner, Reasons for a Modification, 24, 26.

[87] Universities Act, 1775, 15 Geo.III, c.53.

[88] Turner, Reasons for a Modification, 31, 35.

[89] CJ, 69: 261; see Draft Bill, 18 May.

[90] On the emergence of the various professional organisations and societies established by and on behalf of authors throughout the mid- to late nineteenth century, see in general Bonham-Carter.

[91] CJ, 69: 333.

[92] Draft Bill, 7 June, clause 2.

[93] Ibid., clause 3.

[94] Ibid., clause A.

[95] Ibid., clause No.1.

[96] Ibid., clause B.

[97] Ibid., clause D.

[98] Ibid., clause No.2.

[99] Draft Bill, 18 May, clause 5.

[100] CJ, 69: 455.

[101] Draft Bill, 18 May, preamble.

[102] Draft Bill, 7 June, preamble.

[103] Draft Bill, 12 July, preamble.

[104] Draft Bill, 12 July, clause 2.

[105] Ibid., clause 3.

[106] Ibid., clause No.2. In addition, changes were made in relation to the enforcement procedure as well as the statutory penalties; see clauses 2, 4, and clause A.

[107] CJ, 69: 471, 476.

[108] Copyright Act, 1814, s.7.

[109] See for example the evidence of Thomas Longman before the Select Committee in 1813; Minutes of the Select Committee, 1813, 11-12.

[110] See also McKitterick who writes that the library at Cambridge expected "to receive everything" registered with the Company, out of which "it could then make its choice in Cambridge"; McKitterick, 414.

[111] Hansard, 2nd ser., 25 (1813): 14.

[112] Hansard, 2nd ser., 28 (1814): 684-85.

[113] Ibid., 685.

[114] Ibid., 751.

[115] Ibid., 752.

[116] Ibid.

[117] Hansard, 2nd ser., 25 (1813): 13.

[118] Hansard, 2nd ser., 28 (1814): 752.

[119] Ibid., 754.

[120] Ibid., 755.

[121] CJ, 69: 482 (19 July 1814).

[122] Draft Bill, 15th July 1814, clause 4.

[123] Draft Bill, House of Lords Main Papers, HL/PO/JO/10/8/337.

[124] Hansard, 2nd ser., 28 (1814): 751.

[125] CJ, 69: 482.

[126] Journal of the House of Lords (LJ), 49: 1098.

[127] Ibid., 1114, 1128.

[128] Ibid., 1129.

[129] CJ, 69: 514; Copyright Act, 1814, s.8.

[130] CJ 69: 514; Copyright Act, 1814, s.9; again, this was not deemed to interfere with any existing contractual terms between an author and his assignee. This particular provision gave rise to the case of Brooke v. Clarke (1818) 1 B. & Ald. 396, which was coincidentally also presided over by Lord Ellenborough. Francis Hargrave, who had been third counsel for the London booksellers in Donaldson and, not given the opportunity to present his arguments before the Lords, published them as An Argument in Defence of Literary Property (London: Otridge, 1774), had first published his edition of the Institutes of the Laws of England in 1783, and had executed an assignment to the defendant the following year. In accordance with the provisions in the Statute of Anne (ss.1 and 11) the copyright in the work subsisted for the next 28 years, expiring in 1811. On 12 February 1817, however, Hargrave executed a further assignment of the same work, this time to the plaintiff. When the defendant continued to publish the work, the plaintiff sought an injunction to prevent him from so doing, and the matter was referred by the Lord Chancellor to Ellenborough CJ's court. The plaintiff argued that the new lifetime term extended equally well to those works by living authors in which the copyright had previously expired, as to those works by living authors that were still within their copyright term at the time the 1814 Act was passed. In a unanimous decision Ellenborough CJ and the rest of the court held for the defendant - the act did not operate retrospectively - those copyrights which had previously expired were not to be revived. Hargrave, who in Donaldson had sought to establish the existence of a perpetual common law copyright, and had argued so eloquently for the same in his pamphlet of that year, was denied a lifetime interest in his works a second time.

[131] CJ, 69: 517.

[132] CJ, 69: 521.

[133] Models and Busts Act, 1798, 38 Geo.III, c.71; Sculpture Copyright Act, 1814, 54 Geo.III, c.56.

[134] Designers and Printers Act, 1794, 34 Geo.III c.23.

[135] Thomas Longman, Feather writes, was "[b]y far the most important of the trade's witnesses"; Feather, 55.

[136] "[Davies Giddy]: Were you concerned in some meetings which were held between the booksellers some years ago, in reference to a Bill which Mr. Villiers brought into Parliament upon this subject? - [Thomas Longman]: I was present at those meetings. [DG]: As a principal bookseller, and a great purchaser of copy right, did you not consider an extension in the term of copy right, quite equivalent for the loss which they would sustain by the delivery of the eleven copies? - [TL]: I did not consider that. [DG]: Was that generally thought? - [TL]: I do not think it was; there were some persons of that opinion"; Minutes of Evidence, 1812-13, 11-12.

Longman's position was, no doubt, influenced by the fact that it was usual for booksellers to buy an author's copyright in a work outright, including the contingent fourteen year term set out in the Statute of Anne (s.11), which practice had been validated by the courts in Carnan v. Bowles (1786) 1 Cox 283. In lamenting the nature of the relationship between booksellers and authors, Isaac D'Israeli touched upon this very point in 1812: "Booksellers are not agents for Authors, but proprietors of their works; so that the perpetual revenues of literature are solely in the possession of the trade ... On the present principle of Literary Property, it results that an Author disposes of a leasehold property of twenty-eight years, often for less than the price of one year's purchase! How many Authors are the sad witnesses of this fact, who, like Esaus, have sold their inheritance for a meal!"; D'Israeli, 25, 38-39.

[137] S.E. Brydges, The Autobiography, Times, Opinions, and Contemporaries of Sir Egerton Brydges, 2 vols. (London: Cochrane and McCrone, 1834), 1: 105.


Our Partners


Copyright statement

You may copy and distribute the translations and commentaries in this resource, or parts of such translations and commentaries, in any medium, for non-commercial purposes as long as the authorship of the commentaries and translations is acknowledged, and you indicate the source as Bently & Kretschmer (eds), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) (www.copyrighthistory.org).

You may not publish these documents for any commercial purposes, including charging a fee for providing access to these documents via a network. This licence does not affect your statutory rights of fair dealing.

Although the original documents in this database are in the public domain, we are unable to grant you the right to reproduce or duplicate some of these documents in so far as the images or scans are protected by copyright or we have only been able to reproduce them here by giving contractual undertakings. For the status of any particular images, please consult the information relating to copyright in the bibliographic records.


Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK