Thursday, September 03, 2009

Stolen Bodily by the Phonograph Trust and Piano-Player Combination

Here's a great cultural artifact, some verbiage from an example letter created for composers to send to their congressmen circa 1908, as copyright bills we appearing in the Senate. ("Kindly use this matter and write a similar letter in your own style to the Members of Congress in your State. If you are not an author or composer, write as a sympathizer to the cause. Do it now.") Compare and contrast to copyright-related verbiage spun off from the music industry in the present day. (Now and then I do learn something fun at work.)
As one of your constituents and a resident of your State, I beg to trespass your time to explain my interest in the bill and the crying necessity for such legislation.

Under the present copyright law, made and passed before phonographs, graphophones, talking machines, automatic piano players, etc., were thought of or invented, an author or composer is protected in his publishing and dramatic rights, but absolutely no provision is made at protecting him from having his works, his creations, the result of his talent and ability, absolutely and literally stolen from him without his permission, consent, or even knowledge, and without one penny remuneration, by manufacturers of mechanical devices.
. . .
As matters now stand, what is the result? I see my compositions--as does each and every other author and composer in America--stolen bodily by the phonograph trust and piano-player combination, and ground out daily from thousands of cylinders, disks, and rolls, without paying me or any of us one single, solitary penny, and in addition daily reducing the sales of sheet music, and therefore constantly reducing royalties on the sales of my publications.
Obviously we've got an opposite situation now, with copyright protection that's too strong. But at least it's keeping college freshman from staying up nights in their dorm rooms, punching pirated copies of Metallica piano rolls.


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