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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910|
CCLXXIX. An Extension of Copyright
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|One of the pleasant things that came to Mark Twain that year was the
passage of a copyright bill, which added to the royalty period an
extension of fourteen years. Champ Clark had been largely instrumental
in the success of this measure, and had been fighting for it steadily
since Mark Twain's visit to Washington in 1906. Following that visit,
. . . It [the original bill] would never pass because the bill
had literature and music all mixed together. Being a Missourian of
course it would give me great pleasure to be of service to you.
What I want to say is this: you have prepared a simple bill relating
only to the copyright of books; send it to me and I will try to have
Clemens replied that he might have something more to say on the copyright
question by and by--that he had in hand a dialogue--[Similar to the "Open
Letter to the Register of Copyrights," North American Review, January,
1905.]--which would instruct Congress, but this he did not complete.
Meantime a simple bill was proposed and early in 1909 it became a law.
In June Clark wrote:
DR. SAMUEL L. CLEMENS,
Stormfield, Redding, Conn.
MY DEAR DOCTOR,--I am gradually becoming myself again, after a
period of exhaustion that almost approximated prostration. After a
long lecture tour last summer I went immediately into a hard
campaign; as soon as the election was over, and I had recovered my
disposition, I came here and went into those tariff hearings, which
began shortly after breakfast each day, and sometimes lasted until
midnight. Listening patiently and meekly, withal, to the lying of
tariff barons for many days and nights was followed by the work of
the long session; that was followed by a hot campaign to take Uncle
Joe's rules away from him; on the heels of that "Campaign that
Failed" came the tariff fight in the House. I am now getting time
to breathe regularly and I am writing to ask you if the copyright
law is acceptable to you. If it is not acceptable to you I want to
ask you to write and tell me how it should be changed and I will
give my best endeavors to the work. I believe that your ideas and
wishes in the matter constitute the best guide we have as to what
should be done in the case.
To this Clemens replied:
STORMFIELD, REDDING, CONN, June 5, 1909.
DEAR CHAMP CLARK,--Is the new copyright law acceptable to me?
Emphatically yes! Clark, it is the only sane & clearly defined &
just & righteous copyright law that has ever existed in the United
States. Whosoever will compare it with its predecessors will have
no trouble in arriving at that decision.
The bill which was before the committee two years ago when I was
down there was the most stupefying jumble of conflicting &
apparently irreconcilable interests that was ever seen; and we all
said "the case is hopeless, absolutely hopeless--out of this chaos
nothing can be built." But we were in error; out of that chaotic
mass this excellent bill has been constructed, the warring interests
have been reconciled, and the result is as comely and substantial a
legislative edifice as lifts its domes and towers and protective
lightning-rods out of the statute book I think. When I think of
that other bill, which even the Deity couldn't understand, and of
this one, which even I can understand, I take off my hat to the man
or men who devised this one. Was it R. U. Johnson? Was it the
Authors' League? Was it both together? I don't know, but I take
off my hat, anyway. Johnson has written a valuable article about
the new law--I inclose it.
At last--at last and for the first time in copyright history--we are
ahead of England! Ahead of her in two ways: by length of time and
by fairness to all interests concerned. Does this sound like
shouting? Then I must modify it: all we possessed of copyright
justice before the 4th of last March we owed to England's
S. L. CLEMENS.
Clemens had prepared what was the final word an the subject of copyright
just before this bill was passed--a petition for a law which he believed
would regulate the whole matter. It was a generous, even if a somewhat
Utopian, plan, eminently characteristic of its author. The new fourteen-
year extension, with the prospect of more, made this or any other
compromise seem inadvisable.--[The reader may consider this last
copyright document by Mark Twain under Appendix N, at the end of this