Minister Buck to the Secretary of State .

No. 589.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that in an interview on the 10th instant with Mr. Komura, the Japanese minister for foreign affairs, upon the subject of a copyright convention between the two countries, concerning which several notes were passed between this legation and the Japanese foreign office during the early part of this year, copies of which accompanied the dispatch of Mr. Wilson, then in charge of the legation, No. 563 of date of May 20 last, the minister stated some reasons why a convention had not been agreed upon by his Government. He also remarked that the last note of his predecessor on the [Page 979] subject—date of May last (copy of Mr. Wilson’s dispatch above mentioned)—was based on technical grounds. I suggested that he put in writing the substance of what he had said to me as sufficient ground upon which Japan, in his opinion, would be justified in not agreeing to a convention. He consented to do so and on the 12th instant I received a personal letter from him covering substantially the points he had made. Understanding that the mark “Private” upon the letter only meant that it should be considered wholly unofficial, I take the liberty to inclose a copy herewith.

In several interviews with Mr. Sone, the last minister of foreign affairs, temporarily in office, I was unable to get any definite expression in respect of a copyright convention. Having received this unofficial expression of Minister Komura, I presume no official reply to Mr. Wilson’s note of May 20 may be expected until it is known here how the State Department views the position taken by the minister. In fact it seems that he implies as much in the closing paragraph of his letter.

I have the honor, etc.,

A. E. Buck.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Buck .


My Dear Colonel Buck: Referring to the conversation we had on Thursday the 10th instant, in regard to the proposal of the United States to conclude a copyright convention with Japan, I have to inform you that this department, upon receipt of Mr. Wilson’s note dated May 20, 1901, has not deemed it necessary to give immediate reply to the observations therein contained. It is true, Mr. Wilson expressed his belief that Mr. Kato’s reply of the 17th of May could not possibly be acceptable to the United States Government and fully explained the reasons upon which that belief was founded—at the same time, however, he stated that he will not fail to forward a copy of Mr. Kato’s reply to the Secretary of State, so that it was naturally thought at this department that the discussion of this subject might appropriately be postponed until the receipt of a further expression of views of your Government.

While the correspondence on this important question rests at this stage I am inclined to believe that a frank explanation of the higher interests involved on the part of Japan would be conducive to a clearer understanding of the attitude taken by the Imperial Government. In the first place, I may state that Japan’s adhesion to the convention of Berne as a condition of treaty revision has been received with great dissatisfaction by the Japanese public. It is therefore not unnatural that Japan should, for the present at least, be averse to the conclusion of any further convention for the protection of literary and artistic property. Turning, then, to the educational system of Japan you will find that books published in the English language are extensively used in the ordinary middle schools, in the education of young men preparing for admission to the universities, and in all the technical schools and commercial colleges. You will realize the importance of the question from an educational point of view when I state that even in primary schools, where children of both sexes receive their elementary education, some lesson in the English language forms part of the regular curriculum, at least in the higher classes. It will be seen that the interest involved, as far as Japan is concerned, is not merely a commercial one, but one closely connected with the vital question of the education of boys and girls and young men and women.

I therefore venture to hope that you will be good enough to present to your Government in an appropriate manner this aspect of the question, to which I have briefly referred in the course of our conversation on Thursday.

Believe me, yours, very sincerely,

Jutaro Komura,