Authors and Publishers on the Offensive: The Canadian Copyright Act of 1921 and the Publishing Industry 1920-1930

By Parker, George L. | Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview
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Authors and Publishers on the Offensive: The Canadian Copyright Act of 1921 and the Publishing Industry 1920-1930

Parker, George L., Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada

What the 1925 Special Committee Discovered about the Book Industry

For printers, licensing was a weapon in their fight with American publishers and printers. So argued the elderly bete noire of the authors, Dan A. Rose of Hunter, Rose, who had helped organize the Canadian Copyright Association in 1888 to oppose Canada's adherence to the Berne Convention and to champion the manufacturing clause. Ever faithful to John A. Macdonald's National Policy, Rose told the special committee, "The fight today is between the Canadian publisher--not the Canadian book jobber--but the Canadian publisher and the United States publisher. The United States publisher has this market and is fighting every day to stop the printing of books in Canada. The jobbers [Rose meant publishers like McClelland and Stewart] went so far as to threaten at a meeting to blacklist any printer who dared apply for a license." (77)

J.A.P. Haydon used this argument to criticize Leacock's "very serious threat against the industry," because this was a fight between foreign publishers and printers, and Canadian printers and the Canadian printing industry. (78) The printers had not forgotten the recent depression in the industry and the general strike of 1921, which created unemployment and left the industry without skilled persons. For Rose, authors' rights were a secondary consideration, and at the committee hearings he was pressed by Edgar Chevrier into admitting that no authors belonged to his Canadian Copyright Association, which was "a combination of printers and publishers:"

Chevrier: You mean this Copyright Association has no authors in it?

Rose: Quite possible.

Chevrier: What is the purpose of the Copyright Association?

Rose: To prepare a fair act for the protection of authors.

Chevrier: But you have no authors in your association?

Rose: None.

Fernand Rinfret: This whole thing is a farce.

Chevrier: When you discuss the legislation with your government, where do you get the authors' viewpoint from?

Rose: Our first connection starts away back in the days of Sir John Thompson---

Chevrier: There is no necessity to go back before the flood. (79)

Licensing also divided the Publishers' Section and provoked internal conflicts in at least two publishing houses. The special committee pointed out that two publishers, Dan A. Rose and the Musson Book Company, supported licensing, and demanded to know the official view. As chairman of the twelve-member Book Publishers' Section and also as spokesman for Musson, Frank Appleton admitted that he was speaking for a minority of three firms that supported retention of the clauses. (80) These were Hunter, Rose; Musson; and Ryerson Press; and a fourth house that did not belong to the Book Publishers' Section, Copp Clark. All four houses belonged to Rose's Canadian Copyright Association. Copp Clark; Hunter, Rose; and Ryerson Press maintained large printing plants. Because Musson did not have a printing plant, Appleton's support for licensing looked as if he were supporting both sides. Several days later, however, after discussions at Musson, Appleton sent a telegram (which he followed up with a letter) to the special committee. He had concluded that the licensing clauses would not operate like a manufacturing clause, and now stated that:

   these clauses may be injurious to the interests of authors and
   publishers. While publishers should print in Canada whenever it is
   practicable to do so, it is possible that if the book licensing
   clauses come into actual operation, of which we have had no
   experience yet, they may demoralize the book publishing trade to
   authors [sic] detriment. Magazine serial licenses are on a
   different footing and do not affect book publishers. Stricter
   importation regulations would do much to make printing of Canadian
   editions feasible. (81)

Appleton then withdrew his previous evidence.

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Authors and Publishers on the Offensive: The Canadian Copyright Act of 1921 and the Publishing Industry 1920-1930


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