Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/721

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

case, and dishonesty is the common policy, the right of the individual may be properly denied. But what is the limit to this principle? How does existing dishonesty make an excuse for still further dishonesty? If, because the nations are governed by selfishness, we may take an Englishman's literary property without paying him for it, is there not sufficient rascality, jobbery, fraud, corruption, plunder, and general selfishness in the operation of the American Government to justify the consistent fleecing of an American author also? Again, Mr. Scott maintains that because we send experts abroad to collect information about manufacturing processes, institutions, etc., and do not pay for it, therefore he sees no "moral wrong" in taking larger amounts of information in the shape of books without paying for them. But do not Western capitalists send on their experts to the East to pick up information for Western use in the construction and operation of manufacturing establishments for which appropriated knowledge they never think of paying? Would there, therefore, be no moral wrong in taking an American author's book on manufactures without compensation? If the! logic is good for anything, it cuts up all copyright, root and branch.

Mr. Scott furthermore says, "The whole system of laying duties upon foreign merchandise is one of pure selfishness, and as much a robbery or piracy of the natural rights of the foreigner as anything yet done by an American republisher." But because we shackle our trade, and thus injure the foreign manufacturer, certainly affords no good reason for robbing a foreign author of his property.

But Mr. Scott is most eminently American in the following statement: "The withholding of an international copyright law does not take away from them [foreign authors] what they never possessed or had any right to claim. The American republisher, therefore, in the absence of such a law, buys the English book at the English price, and thinks that he has done all that is required of him to become its absolute owner, to do with it whatever the laws of his country do not forbid. Who shall say that among these rights is not the right to reprint it? "

Must we not conclude that this paragraph betrays some perversion of the moral sense? The author who creates the book by his labor, and makes it valuable property, is denied even the poor "right to claim" the ownership of that property; while the publisher, who simply buys a single copy, becomes its "absolute owner," with "the right to reprint it" and to go on multiplying it as long as he can make money out of its market value. This is pretty rank doctrine, and we do not see how those who hold it need have much squeamishness about the terms in which it is characterized. Yet Mr. Scott's article is a protest against the calling of American republishes pirates, as he alleges is done by their foreign "calumniators."

Now, there are two questions here: (1.) Is the term "piracy" properly applicable to any form of republication in this country? And (2), if so, who is chargeable with it? The taking by one person of another person's property without consent or payment is held as a crime, is called stealing, and he who takes it is known as a thief. If such appropriation is accompanied by violence, it is commonly called robbery. If the property has that peculiar form which is termed literary, and is appropriated by indirection, as where the embodiment of it is indefinitely copied, the taking of it, without permission and without remuneration, has in it the peculiar meanness which has led to its being metaphorically branded as "piracy." It is the flagrant wrong of the transaction that is marked by the term of reprobation, and those are pirates who are guilty of perpetrating it.