Minister Griscom to the Secretary of State .

[Extracts.]
No. 267.]

Sir: On the subject of the desire of the United States Government to enter into an agreement with the Government of Japan in regard to copyright, I have the honor to report that after repeated interviews with Baron Komura, the minister for foreign affairs, he finally on February 16th, gave me an assurance that his Government would be willing to enter into a copyright agreement with the United States on two conditions: First, that it would not apply to translations, and second, that it would apply only to books published after the date of ratification of the convention. He also stated that his Government would prefer a convention of a nature requiring ratification.

Immediately upon receipt of this information I sent you a telegram, which I now have the honor to confirm, reading as follows. [Supra.]

On the 24th of March I received your telegram reading as follows:

Endeavor to have provision made in copyright convention for protection of all books from the day of its going into effect, and stipulating, on behalf of the Japanese publishers, that stock on hand at such date shall be allowed to be disposed of, with the understanding that no further reproductions shall be printed.

On March 28th, in the absence of Baron Komura, I called upon Mr. Chinda, the vice-minister for foreign affairs, and informed him that our Government was willing to accept the condition that the copyright should not apply to translations, but that we desired a provision made in the convention for the protection of all books from the day of its going into effect, and stipulating on behalf of the Japanese publishers that stock on hand at such date should be allowed to be disposed of, with the understanding that no further reproductions should be printed. I supported this proposition with all the available arguments and rehearsed the history of our efforts to bring about a copyright agreement and recounted anew the hardships which had been inflicted upon American publishers. Mr. Chinda argued the matter at considerable length and seemed to be convinced that his Government would be unable to accede to such a modification of the second condition proposed by them. He stated, however, that the matter would be taken under advisement and an answer given me as quickly as possible.

The Japanese Government held the matter under advisement for a period of one month, and on April 27 Baron Komura informed me [Page 981] that his Government had carefully considered the suggestion that the second condition be modified as explained by me to Mr. Chinda, but that it was impossible for them to consent to such modification, and that if any copyright agreement be entered into between Japan and the United States it must be subject to the conditions explained to me on February 16, namely, that the copyright must not apply to translations or to books published before the ratification of the convention.

On the 11th instant I called upon Baron Komura and asked him to give me in writing the articles which the Japanese Government desired inserted in a copyright convention to cover the two conditions upon which they insisted with regard to translations and books published before the ratification of the treaty. Baron Komura expressed his readiness to put the articles in writing, and promised that he would send them to me as soon as possible.

On the same occasion I also informed Baron Komura that there had been many complaints that the Japanese reproductions of American copyrighted books had been exported from Japan and sold in China, Korea, and even in Hawaii and California. I asked him if, in the event that our Government agreed to a convention on the lines proposed by Japan, the Japanese Government would on their part agree to prohibit hereafter the export from Japan of reproductions of American works which, by reason of previous publication, would not come under the proposed convention. He replied that he felt sure the Japanese Government would consider favorably such a prohibition, but that it would be necessary to change the tariff law of Japan, and for this purpose a law would have to be passed by the Diet, but he assured me that the Japanese Government would be disposed upon the signing of the convention to take the matter up with a view to bring about the enactment of such a prohibition.

On May 15 I received from the minister for foreign affairs a typewritten memorandum, copy of which I transmit to you herewith inclosed, containing three articles proposed by the Japanese Government to be inserted in a copyright convention. It will be seen that the proposed articles provide for the exchange of national treatment on the subject of copyright, subject to the condition that subjects or citizens of one of the two high contracting parties may, without authorization, translate books, pamphlets, or any other writings, dramatic works, and musical compositions published in the dominions of the other by the subjects or citizens of the latter, and print and publish such translations.

Article 3 provides for the ratification and taking effect of the convention, and states that it shall be applicable only to such works as shall be published after it shall have come into operation.

I may suggest to the department that article 2 as proposed fails to specify that it refers only to translations from the Japanese into the English language and from the English into the Japanese language. Also, it is difficult to see why the convention should not go into operation immediately upon the exchange of ratifications rather than at the expiration of six months, as suggested.

A convention such as proposed by Japan would seem to grant copyright in the United States to Japanese subjects irrespective of section 13 of the act of Congress, March 3, 1891.

[Page 982]

Owing to the slight error in transmission which crept into my telegram to you of February 16, as reported above, I have refrained from definitely accepting the Japanese proposals until in receipt of your further instructions.

I have the honor, etc.,

Lloyd C. Griscom.
[Inclosure.]

proposed articles of the convention.

  • Article I. The subjects or citizens of one of the high contracting parties shall enjoy in the dominion of the other the protection of copyright for their works of literature and art, as well as photographs, against illegal reproduction, on the same basis on which protection is granted to the subjects or citizens of the other, subject, however, to the provisions of Article II of the present convention.
  • Art. II. The subjects or citizens of one of the two high contracting parties may without authorization translate books, pamphlets, or any other writings, dramatic works, and musical compositions published in the dominions of the other by the subjects or citizens of the latter, and print and publish such translations.
  • Art. III. The present convention shall be ratified, and the ratifications thereof shall be exchanged at Tokyo as soon as possible. It shall come into operation at the expiration of six months from the date of the exchange of its ratifications, and shall be applicable to such works only as shall be published after it shall have come into operation. Either of the contracting parties shall have the right at any time to give notice to the other of its intention to terminate the present convention, and at the expiration of three months after such notice is given this convention shall wholly cease and determine.