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works should not be admitted without the consent of the copyright owners!" This is sufficient; no author will consent to his own destruction.
If the Board of Trade can legislate profitably for such a public, it should certainly take under its protecting wing the entire production of the works of British authors, and extinguish publishers altogether. Authors would then write their books to order, and on the royalty system (to which reference is made further on), and the intellectually starving public would doubtless be abundantly supplied with Board of Trade literature.
Until, however, that improbable period arrives, the less the Legislature interferes with the business enterprise of publishers, and the more strictly it confines itself to the due and proper protection of literary property, the better it will be for all concerned.
THE ROYALTY SYSTEM.
Sir T. H. Farrer and Sir Louis Mallet are smitten with the idea that the present system of publishing is a bad one. They, though grudgingly, throw a sop to authors, but the "parasitic growth of the publishing interest" with which authors are "so inextricably intertwined" is strongly denounced, under the cry of "monopoly."
The Royalty System,† we are told, is
"The only method by which the interest of the author can be
* This is one of the "dreams of the future" indulged in by the INCORPORATED SOCIETY OF AUTHORS, 1887.
† By this "Royalty System" is meant that authors shall be paid a royalty on all copies sold, and that when the book has been once published, it shall be open for all publishers to take it and print it, subject always to payment of a fixed royalty. Thus, if publisher No. 1 publishes at 10s., and the royalty is 10 per cent., the author will get 1s. for every copy sold; No. 2 may publish at 5s., and the author would get 6d.; No. 3, at 2s. 6d., which would give 3d. to the author. No. 1 may have expended a large sum in advertisements, corrections, and arrangements generally; he may even spend a large amount in illustrations, all of which expenses No. 2 and No. 3 would save, and thus No. 1's edition would be ruined-truly "an effectual way of disengaging him from the author." The author's chief difficulty would be to find publisher No. 1.
effectually disengaged from that of the publisher, and it is contended that under the operation of free competition between publishers the author and the public would be alike benefited— the first by an extended circulation of his works, and the second by a reduction in their cost."
A "royalty system " as between an author and his publisher is a very common and convenient arrangement; but the royalty system proposed above is a different matter. It is one which binds authors hand and foot, and reduces enterprise to one dead level; it places all authors, big and little, celebrated and unknown, on the same footing; and instead of "leaving publishers to their own devices" and their profits to be "regulated and controlled by the ordinary laws of trade," it leaves them without a motive to compete for the works of good authors; it expects them under all circumstances to comply with one general rule, to invest their capital in all cases alike in paper, print, and author's royalty, quite irrespective of profit or loss to themselves on the venture. To this risk is to be added the additional one, that should their venture be successful their first efforts and outlay are to be paralysed by being immediately reprinted upon by their neighbours. If the book should prove a failure, the first publisher will have the honour and glory and loss all to himself. Not till his venture has given unmistakable signs of success will parasites Nos. 1 and 2, and so on, interfere with him.
So naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to hite 'em,
This indeed is "monopoly " in disguise-monopoly on the part of the great unconscious public, which would thus commence its attack upon "the ordinary laws of trade" by which publishers are at present governed. When the Legislature is able to regulate the supply of coals to the starving, bread to the hungry, and clothing to the naked, then it may think about controlling the supply of food for the mind.
The celebrated cheque of £20,000 which Messrs. Longman once paid to Lord Macaulay is a favourite illustration of the
theorists as to the way in which an innocent public is pillaged by monopolising publishers and authors. This being an event occurring perhaps once in a century is quoted as though it were a good instance of a common occurrence; and again, Macaulay's Life' * is usually brought forward as an illustration of the dearness which monopoly creates, compared with the cheapness which would exist if publishers were compelled by law to convert their respectable quarters into bear gardens for their own destruction, and the amusement and instruction of the hungry British public.
. One cannot but admire the zeal, the energy, and the very great ability which Sir T. H. Farrer has brought to bear upon his hobby. His array of facts and statistics is overwhelming, and his theory most ingenious. It must also be admitted that the Essay appended by Sir Louis Mallet to the Commissioners' Report shows a masterly grasp of the subject; but most assuredly there must be this fallacy underlying and making unstable their whole structure, viz., forgetfulness of the fact that all authors are not Macaulays, and that many a good book worthy of a better fate has never paid its expenses.
The only conclusion one can come to with reference to the theory which would by law compel publishers to adopt the royalty system, or not publish at all, would be that the same law should at least protect them from loss by competition on any venture, but this would be a reductio ad absurdum. If you take a book and print it, the risk is yours—
"Guvment ain't to answer for it,
On the other hand, publishers are perfectly willing to take reasonable risks on the chance of making reasonable profits; and but for their enterprise it may safely be averred that
* A notable instance to the contrary may be mentioned in Lord Beaconsfield's Novels. Some years ago these were published in the cheapest possible form at one shilling each, but the public did not care about them. After helping to ruin their publisher, they died out, whereas the handsome edition which Messrs. Longmans are now publishing at 6s. a volume is an immense success! This is only another proof that publishers may be safely trusted to supply public wants.
thousands of good books, which have interested, instructed, and amused the public, might never have seen the light.
There is no existing law to prevent authors adopting this royalty system-why have they never tried it?!!
The International Series, which is the direct result of the present system of so-called "monopoly," is quoted by Sír T. H. Farrer and Sir Louis Mallet as a marvellous instance of what publishers could do "an' they would" to meet the wants of the public, and as an example also of what they would be compelled to do if the royalty system were in vogue.
Nothing can be more disingenuous than the way in which the argument is used, both by Sir T. H. Farrer and Sir Louis Mallet, in opposition to those who object to the royalty system. Sir T. H. Farrer says with reference to this series:
"The price is moderate, and the remuneration to authors, viz., 20 per cent. of the retail price, is said to be liberal, as compared with the ordinary custom of the trade, and these books are published from the same stereotype plates both in England and America. Some of them, I presume, have copyrights in America, being written by American authors, most of them by European authors have not. None of these books ever come back from America to this country, at least, I believe not, and what is the reason? Not simply the law which prevents them, but the fact that they actually cost more in America than they do in England."
The inference drawn by Sir T. H. Farrer is that cheapness of price is sufficient, without any law to keep out foreign reprints. Now there is absolutely nothing in the International Series, excepting the fact that it is international, to distinguish it from scores of other series produced by English publishers at equally low or even lower prices for which authors are equally well paid. The difference betwixt this series and others, is that it enjoys, by an ingenious operation of the publishers, copyright in both countries! For there is little doubt, notwithstanding Sir T. H. Farrer's inference to the contrary, that European authors do get for these particular books a protective copyright in America, by the device of getting an American author to write some insignificant, but mysterious portion of the work. If this is so, then the very fact that these books have the entire
run of Great Britain and America, protected by law, is not merely a reason why the price should be low, and authors' profits high, but also an admirable argument for the desirability of a straightforward international copyright law between the two countries, but is no support whatever of the argument used by Sir Louis Mallet that
"It is difficult to admit that a publisher who can afford to give 20 per cent, to an author without fear of being undersold by a rival publisher, who is not obliged to pay anything, could be deterred from this undertaking by a system which compelled his rival equally to pay 20 per cent. to the author."
In this case it appears 20 per cent. goes to the author from both European and American publishers because they have no rivals.
be difficult for Sir Louis Mallet to admit this; but it
presents no difficulty to a publisher. When a publisher projects an important series of books, he gives hours of his best time, all his long-bought experience, and hundreds of pounds for advertising, before the first volume is issued. When this is done under "the royalty system" a rival is to step in and appropriate the benefit.
If, however, this International Series, of which such a strong point has been made, had been unprotected by copyright on either side, or had it been subject to the rivalry of all other publishers under the royalty system, it is a fair question to ask Sir T. H. Farrer and Sir Louis Mallet: Would Messrs. Henry S. King & Co. ever have dreamt of producing such a series at all?
Here is another notable instance. The late Mr. Weale expended over £100,000 in the production of the admirable cheap scientific series known as Weale's Series. Would he have expended a penny of it under the royalty system-knowing that I and a dozen other publishers might have pounced upon the best of the volumes at once?
After all, it is difficult to understand why so much should be said about "the wants of the public "! "Why," as Dr. Chalmers once said, "the public's nothing better than a great baby!" It does not create literary wants. These wants are created for it-first by authors, then by publishers, who now