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Mark Twain Before the House Judiciary Committee

13 August 2019

From Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean, March 24, 1888, p. 1 [additional paragraph breaks inserted by PG]


Mark Twain Before the House Judiciary Committee.

WASHINGTON, March 23. – A hearing on the subject of the proposed international copyright law took place this morning before the House Committee on Judiciary. Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain) said it seemed to him that the question as it had taken form in the last year or two, had become at last a sort of question which the authors themselves ought to have attended to long ago, but they had not done so.

So far as he knew, the international copyright law had, in the past, taken but one form, in respect of the attempts of authors about it, and that had been that there was no party concerned in it or affect by it but “his majesty, the author;” and that the author was first, last, and all the time the only important factor, the one chiefly affected and to be affected by any change in that direction.

But, as the matter stood now, all parties concerned had learned to see the matter had not stood in that way at all; that there had been a mistake down from Mr. Clay’s time to the present, that the parties concerned in it and whose rights were at stake were not chiefly the authors; in fact the authors were the persons least concerned in international copyright, either in regard of pocket or of reputation.

There were many other people to be considered — the printer, the binder, and publisher — and all these, he understood, were in favor of the Chace-Breckinridge bill.

He was glad to see the matter take that shape and to see the author brought down from his Alpine altitude of being the only person concerned in it, and made to take his place among the foot hills where he properly belonged. [Laughter.]

The case, he said, had been properly set before the committees of Congress, and the committee, he thought, would report the bill.

He knew that the committee had a good deal of work to do; and he was reminded of the Irishman’s suggestion to the other party in the quarrel. “Now, all that I want of you is silence, and mightly little of that.” [Laughter.]