Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/636

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THE report of the English commission on the general subject of copyright is now complete and before the public. It shows that there has been a searching investigation into the existing condition and working of copyright-laws in that country, with an honest view to such amendments as are necessary to more thorough protection of the right to literary property. The report is able and exhaustive, and recommends parliamentary measures which, if carried out, will be of great advantage to authors, and will be an honor to England. The commissioners found the subject encompassed with serious and perplexing difficulties, but they did not make these the occasion of shrinking from the duty that had been assigned to them. If any American wishes to preserve a decent self-respect, we advise him not to pass from the reading of the English copyright report to the report of the United States Senate upon the same subject, made in 1873, by Mr. Morrill, of Maine. The contrast between the two documents is remarkable. The English report is grave and formidable, and shows that there has been long and earnest work over a question that is felt to be of great national importance; the American report is a miserable tract of half a dozen pages, evincing by its meagreness the utter indifference of those who drew it up to the subject which they had been appointed to consider. The English report recognizes extensive defects in the legislation of that country upon the question, and recommends bold changes in it to secure a better state of things; the American report sees nothing wrong that it is desirable to amend, and recommends Congress to take no action in the matter. It treats the subject from the low and selfish point of view of the American political demagogue, enters with a relish into the sordid squabbles of book-manufacturers, and pays not the slightest attention to the important principles that should be recognized as at the basis of a just and enlightened policy of international copyright. The English report, on the contrary, treats the subject with dignity and seriousness, bringing out clearly the great principles that should control it, and taking high and impregnable moral ground in regard to the duty of the English Parliament in legislating with reference to it. It is a question of international ethics, and England has shot a long way forward by adopting the Christian standard of conduct in this relation, and saying we are prepared to do as we would be done by. The high-water mark of international morality hitherto reached has been to do as you are done by, to reciprocate, to concede benefits if benefits are granted, and to deny them if they are denied. England takes the lead in affirming that the thing which is right, just, and equitable, must be done, whether other nations reciprocate or not. She took an important step in this direction in entering upon the policy of free trade, and now proposes to carry it out in her international treatment of literary property and the rights of authors. The commission recommends to Parliament to grant copyrights to American authors whether the United States will do the same thing for English authors or not. They say: "It has been suggested to us that this country would be justified in taking steps of a retaliatory character, with