The Secretary of State to Minister Buck .

No. 335.]

Sir: Referring to previous correspondence on the subject of negotiating a copyright agreement between the United States and Japan, I inclose herewith for your information copiesa of letters from the American Copyright League and others, urging the early conclusion of such an agreement.

You will study the matter in the light of the reported copyright agreement between Japan and Germany, and see if the way may not be open for a conventional understanding between the United States and Japan which shall equally protect American copyright in the Empire.

No reason is seen why a reciprocal declaration, in the shape of a protocol, if preferred, conforming to the existing copyright law of the United States, and substantially on the lines of the understandings reached with other nations, should not meet the case, by giving to the declaration such form and scope as may harmonize with the Japanese law on the subject.

Your full report on the subject will be awaited with interest, in the hope that means may be found to terminate a condition as inequitable as it is injurious.

Two copies each of the department’s circular of July 25, 1899, and of the President’s proclamations of the conclusion or copyright conventions with Belgium, France, Great Britain, Switzerland,b Germany, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, and the Netherlands are herewith inclosed for your information.

I am, sir, etc.,

John Hay.


Sir: On May 7, 1891, by a circular instruction, your predecessor was directed to communicate to the government to which he was accredited a copy of the act of Congress approved March 3, 1891, entitled “An act to amend title 60, chapter 3, of the Revised Statutes of the United States, relating to copyrights,” and to call attention to the fact that the benefits of the statute are extended to the citizens of foreign states only after a proclamation of the President, to be issued under the conditions specified in section 13.

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A similar notification was made to the other governments with which the United States maintained relations. As the result of correspondence and negotiations on the subject, the President has from time to time issued proclamations, extending the provisions of the act of March 3, 1891, to the citizens or subjects of those foreign states or nations which permit to citizens of the United States of America the benefit of copyright on substantially the same basis as their own citizens, in accordance with the ascertainment of the existence of this, the first, condition specified in the statute.

No proclamation has issued under the second condition expressed in the statute, to wit, that the foreign state or nation be a party to an international agreement which provides for reciprocity in the granting of copyright, by the terms of which agreement the United States of America may at its pleasure become a party to such agreement, and, indeed, the greater convenience and simplicity of the first condition seems to make its ascertainment preferable as the basis of an international understanding.

The proclamations so far issued under the first condition are as follows:

  • Belgium, July 1, 1891.
  • France, July 1, 1891.
  • Great Britain and the British possessions, July 1, 1891.
  • Switzerland, July 1, 1891.
  • German Empire, April 15, 1892.
  • Italy, October 31, 1892.
  • Denmark, May 8, 1893.
  • Portugal, July 20, 1893.
  • Spain, July 10, 1895.
  • Mexico, February 27, 1896.
  • Chile, May 25, 1896.

No similar agreement has been reached with the government to which you are accredited, although the matter was recalled to attention by the department’s circulars of May 23, 1893, and February 21, 1896. It is possible that the subject may have been considered without a definite result, and that an understanding in this regard remains in abeyance. It may also be that the Government to which you are accredited had regarded the matter unfavorably, owing to some misapprehension of the intent of the United States statute and the scope and operation of the arrangement proposed. In some instances, as in the case of the Spanish negotiation, an agreement was only reached by removing the impression which existed that the statute contemplated a reciprocal identity of the provisions of copyright legislation in the two countries, and by showing that the first of the alternative conditions prescribed by the act of Congress merely required the ascertainment of the fact that citizens of the United States stand in the foreign state on substantially the same footing in regard to the privileges of copyright registration as the citizens or subjects of such state. This being determined to the President’s satisfaction, his proclamation issues, giving to the citizen or subject of such foreign state the same privileges of copyright in the United States as are enjoyed by citizens of the United States.

The arrangement provided by the act of March 3, 1891, having been found to work satisfactorily with the several states above scheduled, it seems desirable to extend its beneficent operation to embrace, as far as may be possible, the remaining countries which have not yet come to an understanding with the United States in this regard.

You are therefore directed to bring anew the provisions of the act of March 3, 1891, to the attention of the Government to which you are accredited and invite a fresh consideration of the offer of the United States.

To enable you to explain the matter fully to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs, I inclose for your convenient use a copy of the act of March 3, 1891,a and a copy of each of the subsequent acts of March 2, 1895,a and January 6, 1897;a the full text of title 60, chapter 3, of the Revised Statutes, as amended and supplemented by these three acts,b thus showing the existing legislation of the United States in regard to copyrights; a report made to the President by the Third Assistant Secretary of State June 27, 1891,a showing the intendment and scope of the offered arrangement, and the text of the President’s proclamation of July 1, 1891,a whereby the general form of promulgation will be seen.

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In executing this instrument you will express the hope that the Government to which you are accredited will give the proposal that early and, if possible, favorable consideration which is due to the friendly spirit which prompts it, and to the benefits which may naturally be expected to spring from the mutual enjoyment of the privileges of copyright by the citizens and subjects of either country in the territory of the other.

I am, sir, etc.,

John Hay.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Printed in Foreign Relations for 1892, p. 265.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Printed in volume of Foreign Relations for 1892, p. 261 et seq.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Not printed.