The subject of copyright, or the protection of literary property is one of great importance to the whole world. Every human being, great and small, high and low, gentle and simple, male and female, is interested in this matter. Legislators have treated it as a question of conflicting interest between authors and publishers on the one hand, and the public or the consumers of books on the other; authors, particularly when young, too frequently look upon it as a question of conflicting interest between themselves and the publishers; and consumers through their representative legislators, have endeavoured to secure to themselves the blessing of cheapness, by injurious enactments.

How times have changed!

… One other word to those who fear to do justice, lest monopoly should ensue: it is admitted that a person shall have a perpetual property in the work of his hands, a labour which gives him healthy days, cheerful evenings, and quiet nights; he builds a house for his own benefit; he lives and dies in it, and transmits it to his heirs or assigns forever; and you do not call this monopoly, and you are right: another person devotes himself to literature, and writes books for the benefit of his fellow mortals, (for if they give neither pleasure nor profit, they will not sell;) he labours day and night with his head and pen, a work that gives neither healthy days, nor cheerful evenings, nor quiet nights; his spirit is forced to grapple daily in desperate struggle with the inertia of its earthy tabernacle, in order to gain the mountain height of severe thought; and thus with wear and tear of mind and body, he produces, not a house useful only to himself, but a moral, or religious, or imaginative, or scientific book, that may increase the happiness of thousands yet unborn; and yet this honest labourer is not to have a complete property in his labour’s product, for fear of monopoly!

His case is precisely the same as that of the maker of houses, who cannot get a monopoly rent, because other men make more houses, as soon as he demands too much. So, when an author who has produced a book for which the demand is great, is unwise enough to ask too high a price, another author, (perhaps greater than he,) will write another book on the same subject, and thus demolish his ideal monopoly.

Philip H. Nicklin, Remarks on Literary Property (Phila. 1838).

1 Comment

  1. Great post.