Note on Copyright

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Note on Copyright  (1840) 
by David Brewster

The humble petition of Sir David Brewster, of Allerby, in the county of Roxburgh, and principal of the united college of Saint Salvator, Saint Leonard's, and Saint Andrew's, Sheweth,

That your petitioner is the author of various works the copyright of which is unassigned ; and that he is engaged in the preparation of others, requiring great labour and research ; and which it may not be in his power to publish till he and his family cannot derive any advantage from that part of the privilege which depends upon his own life.

Your petitioner being, therefore, deeply interested in the extension of the term of copyright, implores your honourable house to make such an addition to this term as may afford some chance of remuneration for works which come slowly into public notice, and which frequently are only beginning to be productive when they become the property of the public.

That if your honourable house should not recognise that inherent right which every author has in his intellectual productions, your petitioner humbly begs that the law, as at present constituted, may be stripped of that unjust and partial character, by which young authors receive a higher boon than those who are aged and infirm, and by which works of easy and rapid composition receive a more enduring privilege than those of great research and erudition.

That in a country like Britain, where the great interests of education and knowledge are overlooked amid the neverending struggles for political power,—where the most ancient institutions for advancing science and literature are suffered to fall into ruin and decay,—where no protection, save one, which is ruinous and illusive, is extended to the highest inventions in the mechanical and chemical arts,—and where genius and talent are not fostered as in other countries by exalted patronage and national endowments,—it becomes a more urgent and solemn duty, on the part of your honourable house, to preserve to the intellectual benefactors of their country that property which is their natural right, and which could have been withheld from them only by legislators who wanted the knowledge to appreciate, and the liberality to develope, the intellectual resources of the nation.

Your petitioner, therefore, implores your honourable house to pass into a law the bill now before it for extending the term of copyright.