Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/315

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
301
PRESS LAWS

or reflections upon the conduct of judicial officers. (See Contempt of Court.) The last relic of the censorship before publication is to be found in the licensing of stage plays. By 6 & 7 Vict. c. 68 no new plays or additions to old plays can be acted for hire at any theatre in Great Britain until they have been submitted to the lord chamberlain, who may forbid any play or any part of a play. The penalty for acting a play before it has been allowed or after it has been disallowed is a sum not exceeding £50 for every offence and the forfeiture of the licence of the theatre in which the offence occurred. This jurisdiction is exercised by an official of the lord chamberlain's department called the “examiner of stage plays.” The last relic of the monopoly of printing formerly granted to licensees of the Crown is found in the exclusive right of the king's printer and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to print the Bible[1] and the Book of Common Prayer, and of the king's printer to print acts of parliament and other state documents. The privileges of the universities are confirmed by 13 Eliz. c. 29. The rights of the king's printer are protected by severe penalties. A maximum term of seven years' penal servitude is incurred by any person who prints any act of parliament or other government document, falsely purporting to be printed by the king's printer or under the authority of His Majesty's stationery office (8 & 9 Vict. c. 113; 45 Vict. c. 9). The rights of the printers of the journals of either house of parliament are protected by 8 & 9 Vict. c. 113. The publication of parliamentary debates in any form by any other persons than the printers of the journals of the two houses is still in theory a breach of privilege, but in practice they have been fully reported since 1771. The other restrictions upon the press are to a great extent those imposed for police purposes. By 32 & 33 Vict. c. 24 (confirming in part previous enactments applying to Great Britain) the printer of any paper or book for profit is required under penalties to print thereon his name and address or the name of a university press, and is to keep a copy of everything printed, with a few exceptions. Penalties must be sued for within three months, and no proceeding for penalties can be begun unless in the name of the attorney-general or solicitor general of England or the lord advocate of Scotland. By the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act 1881 (44 & 45 Vict. c. 60), which applies to England and Ireland, but not to Scotland, newspaper proprietors are, except in the case of joint-stock companies, to be registered and to make annual returns of the title of the newspaper and the names of all the proprietors, with their occupations, places of business and places of residence. By the Corrupt Practices Prevention Acts 1883 and 1884 (46 & 47 Vict. c. 51, § 18, and 47 & 48 Vict. c. 70, § 14), the name and address of the printer must be printed on all bills, placards, &c., referring to a parliamentary or municipal election. By 6 & 7 Vict. c. 68, § 7, the name and place of abode of a manager of a theatre are to be printed on every play-bill announcing a representation at such theatre. Offences against decency by the press are provided for by 20 & 21 Vict. c. 83; 25 & 26 Vict. c. 101, § 251 (for Scotland), and 2 & 3 Vict. c. 47, § 54 (for the metropolis). The importation of obscene literature into the United Kingdom is forbidden by 39 & 40 Vict. c. 36, § 42. By the Larceny Act 1861, any person who prints or publishes an advertisement offering a reward for the return of stolen goods without questions asked is subject to a penalty (24 & 25 Vict. c. 96, § 102). This penalty cannot, however, be sued for without the sanction of the attorney general or solicitor-general of England or Ireland (33 & 34 Vict. c. 65). The advertisement in the United Kingdom of foreign or illegal lotteries is prohibited by 6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 66, betting advertisements by 16 & 17 Vict. c. 119, § 7, and 37 Vict. c. 15.

The right of an author or publisher to the full profits of his undertaking was at one time restricted by the Copyright Act of Anne (8 Anne, c. 19, § 4), by which the archbishop of Canterbury and other authorities were empowered to lower the price of a book upon complaint that the price was unreasonable. The only restriction of the kind now existing is the obligation of delivering (without request) to the British Museum a copy of any work published within the United Kingdom, and of delivering (on request) copies for the use of the university libraries at Oxford and Cambridge, the library of the faculty of advocates at Edinburgh, and the library of Trinity College, Dublin (5 & 6 Vict. c. 45, §§ 6-10).

Scotland.—Printing became, as in England, a royal monopoly. The exclusive right of printing was granted by James IV. to Walter Chepman, who printed the first book in Scotland. The monopoly of printing acts of the Scottish parliament was granted by James V. to the printer chosen by the clerk register and specially licensed by the king (1540, c. 127). Printers are forbidden by 1551, c. 27, to print, whether in Latin or English, without licence from ordinaries deputed in that behalf by the Crown. No book treating of religion or of the kirk was to be printed without a licence from the general assembly (1646, c. 164), or of the kingdom without a licence from one of the judges or the secretary (c. 165). The council were empowered to prohibit presses at their discretion by the order of the 30th of March 1655. The importation of “famous” books and libels in defence of the pope was prohibited by 1581, c. 106. Press offences were treated with the utmost severity. By 1585, c. 1, the author of a libellous writing against the king was punishable with death. It is scarcely necessary to say that since the union the press of Scotland has enjoyed no less liberty than that of England. In the case of Bibles, Old and New Testaments, Psalm Books, the Book of Common Prayer, the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms a licence for printing is still required. The licensing authority is the lord advocate, but all proposed publications are submitted for approval to the body officially known as “His Majesty's sole and only Master Printers in Scotland,” consisting of the lord advocate, the solicitor-general, the moderator of the general assembly, and four other members. A licence is also required for printing acts of parliament; but a general licence granted in 1848 to a firm of printers in Edinburgh is still operative, and their publications are not submitted for approval. As its work is practically confined to Bibles and the other religious publications enumerated, the above-mentioned body commonly receives the name of the Bible Board.

Ireland.—By the Prevention of Crime Act 1882 (45 & 46 Vict. c. 25), the lord-lieutenant was empowered to order the seizure of any newspaper appearing to contain matter inciting to the commission of treason or of any act of violence or intimidation (§ 13). He may also by warrant direct the search for and seizure of any papers or documents suspected to be used or to be intended to be used for the purpose of or in connexion with any secret society existing for criminal purposes (§ 14).

The British Dominions.—In the British colonies the press is as free as it is in England. Each colony has its special legislation on the subject for police and revenue purposes. Where there is a government printer, his monopoly is protected by the Documentary Evidence Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c. 37), which imposes a maximum penalty of five years' penal servitude upon any person printing a copy of any proclamation, order, or regulation which falsely purports to have been printed b the government printer, or to be printed under the authority of, the legislature of any British colony or possession. The act is, however, subject to any law made by the colonial legislature.

India.—During the governor-generalship of Lord Lytton was passed the “Act for the better control of publications in Oriental languages,” Act ix. of 1878. (1) By this act copies of newspapers published out of British India were liable to forfeiture and seizure by warrant throughout the whole of British India if the papers contained any words, signs or visible representations likely to excite disaffection to the government established by law in British India, or antipathy between any persons of different races, castes, religions or sects in British India. The governor-general might by notification in the Gazette of India, exclude newspapers, books, &c., from British India. (2) In places to which the act was extended by order of the governor-general in council a magistrate might require the printer and publisher of a newspaper to enter into a bond, with a deposit, not to publish a newspaper containing “any words, signs,” &c. (as in 1), or to use or attempt to use it for the purpose of extortion or threat. The consequences of offending were forfeiture of the deposit, papers, press, &c. Books used for the illegal purposes above mentioned were subject to forfeiture, but no bond or deposit was required previous to publication of books, as in the case of newspapers.

This act, which remained in force until 1910, was found, owing principally to the restriction of its operation to newspapers published in the vernacular, to be ineffective in coping with the spread of news sheets exciting disaffection amongst the natives towards the government of India. It was consequently repealed and replaced by an act of February 1910, which applies to all newspapers published after the act. The deposit requiring to be made is now obligatory on all new printing-presses, whether issuing a newspaper or not, and independently of the deposit on the newspaper. The requirement of a formal bond has been abolished. There are provisions for forfeiture of the deposit and confiscation of the press on repetition of the offence. The 1910 act gives power to the authorities to open postal packets, other than letters, suspected of containing seditious matter, and requires the printer of a newspaper to deposit with the government two copies of each issue at the time of publication. It includes a long list of offences incitement to which is punishable under the act, and in giving power to stop a seditious newspaper after conviction, and in fixing responsibility on the actual printers of seditious matter, has considerably strengthened the power of the law.

Egypt.—The press is subject to a special law (The Press Law of 1881) and to certain articles of the penal code which define ress offences and prescribe penalties (both fine and imprisonment) for them. Owing to the capitulations, which are in force in Egypt as part of the Ottoman Empire, the penal code cannot be applied to foreign subjects, and its application had not (up to 1910) been found sufficient to repress abuses. The probable result of strengthening the law would be that conductors of native papers desirous of indulging in violent language or sedition would engage a foreign subject as nominal proprietor or editor and thereby escape local jurisdiction. The Press Law of 1881 is a more powerful instrument than the penal code, inasmuch as there are decisions of the mixed

  1. The monopoly of the king's printer does not extend to any translation other than the Authorized Version, and not to that if it be accompanied by new notes or marginal readings.