Mr. Hay to Mr. Sherman.

No. 354.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a note received to-day from the foreign office in answer to a note of the 9th of last June on the subject of Canadian copyright. This long delay has been occasioned as stated in the note by the necessity of consulting with the Dominion Government in regard to the matters under discussion.

The present position of the British and Dominion governments as to copyright is so clearly stated in the note that I need not repeat the statement. The essential point is that the Canadian government are not disposed to entertain our proposal for a convention, but they are considering the whole question of copyright, and hope to submit to Parliament amended legislation on the subject.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.
[Inclosure in No. 354.]

Mr. Villiers to Mr. Hay.

Your Excellency: I have carefully considered, in consultation with the secretary of state for the colonies, your excellency’s note of the 9th of June last, pointing out the difficulty experienced by United States authors in obtaining copyright in Canada, and inquiring whether the draft convention submitted by the United States Government on the 4th of February, 1896, would, in the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, have the effect of putting the question upon a more satisfactory basis.

The somewhat complicated nature of the question and the necessity of consulting with the Dominion government have occasioned, I regret to say, considerable delay in replying to your excellency’s note, but I am now in a position to state to your excellency the views of Her Majesty’s Government on the subject.

It may be of advantage briefly to resume the facts of the case.

Under the English copyright law any person, whether a native or an alien, can obtain copyright throughout Her Majesty’s dominions (Canada, of course, included) by the mere fact of first publication in any part of those dominions; but first publication in some part of Her Majesty’s dominions, even by a native author, is a necessary condition for acquiring copyright. It is not, however, necessary that a book should be printed as well as first published within Her Majesty’s dominions.

By virtue of the President’s proclamation under the United States copyright act of 1891, British authors can get copyright in the United States on the condition, so far as regards literary works, of republishing and reprinting from the type set in the United States.

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The balance of advantage would therefore seem to be on the side of the United States.

There is, however, a Canadian copyright act in force which conflicts to some extent with the imperial law.

The fourth section of this act provides that any person domiciled in Canada or in any part of the British possessions, or being a citizen of any country having an international copyright treaty with the United Kingdom, who is the author of any book, map, chart, etc., shall have the sole right of printing, publishing, etc., for a certain term of years, on the conditions laid down in subsection (2).

It is contended that the United States enactment of March 3, 1891, and the President’s proclamation of July 1, 1891, does not constitute an international agreement within the meaning of the act, and United States authors are therefore debarred from benefiting under it.

This is it which gives rise to remonstrance on the part of your excellency’s Government and to their present proposals.

Before discussing the latter, I may be permitted to reiterate on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government the assurances already given to Mr. Lincoln and Mr. White on the 16th of June, 1891, and on the 12th of November, 1892, respectively, and to point out again that the English copyright law runs in Canada as in every part of Her Majesty’s dominions, and that it is therefore open to United States authors to protect their rights in Canada by registering at Stationers’ Hall in London.

Her Majesty’s Government are, however, most anxious—as a matter of good feeling—to do all in their power to facilitate registration by United States authors under the Canadian copyright act, also if this privilege should appear to your Government to present any additional advantages to that of registration at Stationers’ Hall. The Dominion government has therefore been consulted as to their willingness to agree to the conclusion by Her Majesty’s Government of the convention proposed by your Government.

A reply has now been received that the Dominion government are not disposed in present circumstances to entertain the proposal. The whole question of copyright is at present under their consideration, and they hope to submit to Parliament amended legislation on the subject.

They will be prepared to accord to the United States authors under the Canadian, as distinct from the Imperial English law, the privilege of copyright in Canada on publishing only, if a similar favor were conceded to Canadian authors who desire copyright in the United States.

I trust that the above explanations will convince your Government, not only that citizens of the United States do now enjoy in Canada, under the English law, the same measure of protection as British subjects, but that the Canadian government is prepared to amend the Canadian law upon the subject in a spirit of the most complete reciprocity.

I have, etc.,

F. H. Villiers.