Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/722

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704
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Where American republishes negotiate with the foreign owners of books, and pay them for the liberty of reprinting, there is of course no piracy, and there has been an increasing tendency in recent years on the part of American re-publishers to recognize the foreign author s ownership of his book, and to pay him for it. But, while this practice has been growing on the part of reputable publishers, so as to have become a rule with many of them, another class has come into the field who scout all notions of authors' rights, and re-print everything they can get hold of and make a profit on. These are not shop-lifters, or burglars, or highway-robbers, or horse-thieves, but they are book-thieves: they steal literary property by pirating the works which they have not paid for and which do not belong to them.

But an objection will be raised here—an American objection—and, if an American dictionary is consulted, it will be found that piracy is defined as an "infringement of the law of copyright by publishing the writings of other men without permission." Therefore, it will be said, American republishes break no law, and are, therefore, not pirates. The escape is but technical; the moral quality of the transaction remains, and only where the moral sense has been bedeviled, so that men are insensible to the intrinsic nature of the act, will any such pretext be urged. The foreign author has a copyright by law, and we recognize that copyright by law is in itself a righteous thing. If he can not extend the law as far as his books are demanded, it is no fault of his; he has done everything in his power to protect his own rights. His books are stolen by our publishers, and they quibble that they are not pirates because there is no American law against such literary theft. But this changes nothing in the essential nature of the transaction; it only shifts the responsibility. If our thieving publishers are not piratical, it is because the Government gives them a technical relief from the charge by itself assuming the odium. If the publishers sneak behind their Government to shelter themselves from an opprobrium, then the opprobrium must be fastened upon the Government. The wrong is committed in its most deliberate and aggravated form, and if we have not "Piratical Publishers" then we have a piratical Government. There is no blinking the scandalous fact; and the responsibility of it must rest somewhere. When a whole class of men are engaged in open, systematic, and extensive stealing—appropriation to themselves, without payment or consent, of property not their own—if the state abets them in the practice by refusing to forbid it, the state is entitled to all the execration demanded by the crime. The attitude of the American Government on this question is a reflection upon the national character in the eyes of the civilized world. We may meet this with brazen-faced assurance, and twaddle about the dissemination of cheap information among the people, but we can not divorce cause from effect in the political any more than in the physical world, and the consequences of perpetuating a great national injustice will tell with infallible certainty in the degeneration and degradation of the national character.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Facts and Phases of Animal Life, interspersed with Amusing and Original Anecdotes. By Vernon S. Morwood, Lecturer to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 286. With Engravings. Price, $1.50.

The author has endeavored to describe, especially for the young, in simple language, the marvelous organization, the instinct, memory, sagacity, and inventive faculties of some of the more common animals and insects. He has also made a prominent presentation of the fidelity, love, affection,