May 25, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)



I am glad to realize that this time inability to hear what I am saying is not attributable to the weakness of my voice, because I have been striving to make myself heard. As I was saying the Bill as originally introduced provided, as a remuneration to the author whose work was used for the purposes of reproduction upon these discs, a royalty of two cents per disc. In Great Britain the remuneration consists of a percentage on the selling price of the disc. In the United States it. consists of a fixed rate which rate is the same amount that this Bill proposes, namely two cents. I do not recall that we have had any remonstrance on

the part of the authors as regards the amount. The manufacturer however, has claimed very strenously that this two cents a copy is too high. On the other hand it is to be pointed out that when the Bill was originally drafted the draftsman proceeded by adopting the English system of a commission upon the selling price. The manufactureres themselves urged a fixed rate rather than a percentage rate, and the Bill as originally drawn accepted their contention in that regard. It would seem to one that perhaps it would be a more reasonable system to proceed by a percentage rate. However, it is to be realized that perhaps it is difficult, with regard to reproductions of the kind in question, to arrive at a very satisfactory conclusion as to what the percentage rate ought to be; and indeed it is difficult even in the case of a fixed amount to give any very definite and logical reason why you select a particular amount rather than another. It must be borne in mind when it is a question of reproduction of copies by means of these mechanical contrivances that you reproduce also the work of somebody else than the author. For instance, suppose it is a song, before the disc can be made the song has to be sung by somebody, and in a large number of cases, if not indeed in the majority of cases, it is pointed out, as I think must be readily conceded, that the great value of the disc consists not so much in the fact that it reproduces the particu* lar song as that it reproduces the execution of that song by a particular artist. A song sung by other good singers and reproduced upon a disc will never command the sale that the same song sung, for example, by John McCormack or some other great operatic singer would command. So it is difficult to find any logical basis for the determination of the particular amount that ought to be paid. Having met the view of the manufacturers as to the manner in which this should be imposed, and having in mind the fact that in the United States this rate of two cents has been fixed and, so far as we could ascertain, has given rise to no serious complaint, the committee, after very fully hearing argument in support of the contention of the manufacturers that it should be reduced, thought that the course of wisdom was to adhere to the two-cent rate. There is an additional reason for our adopting that course in the fact that we have always to keep before our minds the necessity of not so legislating as to deprive our authors of the advantage of copyright in the other

countries concerned, and more especially in the United States. Under the United States system, in order that the copyright of authors of other countries should be recognized within that country-which recognition is effected by means of a proclamation of the President-it is essential that the officers there should be in a position to certify that an American author has under the law of the other country as large a protection as the law of the United States extends in like cases. It will be necessary to come to some arrangement with the United States, and I will have a word to say about that when we deal with the final clause of the Bill which provides that it comes into force only upon proclamation. Naturally we can foresee that if we give a less degree of protection as regards reproduction of copies by these mechanical contrivances, applications by our authors for copyright in the United States might be open to objection there.
I think I have covered what were really matters of contention before the committee and with regard to which the substantial amendments made by the committee have a bearing.
I should like to impress upon the committee the importance of our adopting a copyright act, even if it should not appear to us that this attempt has resulted in perfect success. It will be much more easy to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion concerning most of the matters upon which there is a difference of opinion when some system has been tried and we have experience of how it works. The argument before us in regard to these matters turns upon what was apprehended would be the consequences of one disposition or another. From that point of view I think it important that we should make a start.
I should like also to call attention to the very unsatisfactory condition in which our legislation upon this subject stands at the present time. Copyright in this country is now governed partly by Imperial Acts of 1842 and 1886 and by a Canadian Act of 1889. As I understand it, any one who obtains copyright under the Imperial legislation holds it without regard to the provisions of our law, and it certainly is not desirable that our legislation should be in that condition, for it gives rise to confusion. In 1911 Great Britain passed a Copyright Act-and I may say in parenthesis that a large part of the present Bill is a reproduction of that Act-and in the other Dominions legislation has been enacted following the example of Great Britain.
In that Act of 1911 it was especially provided that it should extend only to the selfgoverning Dominions whose Parliaments declared it to be in force, and power was expressly given to repeal the British legislation to which I have referred so far as it was in operation in any Dominion.

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