The humble petition of the undersigned Thomas Hood, Sheweth,
That your petitioner is the proprietor of certain copyrights which the law treats as copyhold, but which, in justice and equity, should be his freeholds. He cannot conceive how " Hood's Own," without a change in the title deeds as well as the title, can become " Everybody's Own" hereafter.
That your petitioner may burn or publish his manuscripts at his own option,—and enjoys a right in and control over his own productions which no press, now or hereafter, can justly press out of him.
That as a landed proprietor does not lose his right to his estate in perpetuity by throwing open his grounds for the convenience or gratification of the public, neither ought the property of an author in his works to be taken from him —unless all parks become commons.
That your petitioner, having sundry snug little estates in view, would not object, after a term, to contribute his
• This petition was thought too richly studded with jests to bo presented to the House of Commons ; but its wit embodies too much wisdom to allow of its exclusion from this place. It is therefore inserted, by permission of its excellent author.
private share to a general scramble, provided the landed and monied interests, as well as the literary interest, were thrown into the heap ; but that, in the mean time, the fruits of his brain ought no more to be cast amongst the public than a Christian woman's apples or a Jewess's o ranges.
That cheap bread is as desirable and necessary as cheap books, but it hath not yet been thought just or expedient to ordain that, after a certain number of crops, all cornfields shall become public property.
That whereas in other cases long possession is held to affirm a right to property it is inconsistent and unjust that a mere lapse of twenty-eight, or any other term of years, should deprive an author at once of principal and interest in his own literary fund. To be robbed by Time is a sorry encouragement to write for Futurity !
That a work which endures for many years must be of a sterling character, and ought to become national property —but at the expense of the public, or at any expense save that of the author or his descendants. It must be an ungrateful generation that in its love of cheap copies can lose all regard for " the dear originals."
That whereas your petitioner has sold sundry of his copyrights to certain publishers for a sum of money, he does not see how the public, which is only a larger firm, can justly acquire even a share in copyright except by similar means, namely, by purchase or assignment. That the public having constituted itself by law the executor and legatee of the author, ought, in justice and according to practice in other cases, to take to his debts as well as his literary assets.
That when your petitioner shall be dead and buried, he might with as much propriety and decency have his body snatched as his literary remains.
That by the present law, the wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best of authors is tardily rewarded, precisely as a vicious, seditious, or blasphemous writer is summarily punished—namely, by the forfeiture of his copyright.
That in case of any infringement on his copyright your petitioner canuot conscientiously or comfortably apply for redress to the law whilst it sanctions universal piracy hereafter.
That your petitioner hath two children who look up to him, not only as the author of the " Comic Annual," but as the author of their being. That the effect of the law as regards an author, is virtually to disinherit his next of kin, and cut him off with a book instead of a shilling.
That your petitioner is very willing to write for posterity on the lowest terms, and would not object to the long credit, but that when his heir shall apply for payment to posterity, he will be referred back to antiquity.
That as a man's hairs belong to his head, so his head should belong to his heirs—whereas, on the contrary, your petitioner hath ascertained, by a nice calculation, that one of his principal copyrights will expire on the same day that his only son should come of age. The very law of nature protests against an unnatural law which compels an author to write for anybody's posterity except his own.
Finally, whereas it has been urged, " if an author writes for posterity, let him look to posterity for his reward"— your petitioner adopts that very argument, and on its very principle, prays for the adoption of the bill introduced by Mr. Serjeant Talfourd, seeing that by the present arrangement posterity is bound to pay everybody or anybody but the true creditor.