« ZurückWeiter »
With reference to the Kittredge bill and the Barchfeld bill, I want to say that those two bills, particularly the Barchfeld bill, embrace a principle which we believe to be infinitely more valuable to the dramatic producer and to the theater owner and to their vast investments all over America than everything else combined under discussion.
Repre-entative CURRIER. The provision in the Barchfeld bill does not apply to the production of the dramatic author. It is confined to musical compositions.
Mr. Johnson. In the Barchfeld bill there is a provision covering the dramatic author. The Kittredge bill makes special provision that there shall be no right of reproduction by mechanical means of a musical composition.
Representative CURRIER. It does not refer to dramatic compositions at all.
Mr. Johnson. In the beginning, I want to call your attention to the character of property involved. We have in America in excess of $200,000,000 directly invested in theaters. The very character of a theater prevents it from being used for any other purpose. A theater can not be converted into a store; it can not be converted into a warehouse, and it can not be converted into an office building, without being practically razed to the ground.
Any procedure or any state of affairs or conditions that will result in the nonuse of these theaters or amusement enterprises simply means, in fact, the forfeiture of that amount of property throughout the country.
There is not a city or a town of any importance in the United States which has not a theater. There are more than 100,000 people directly dependent on these enterprises for their means of livelihood.
I do not think the conditions are identical in all forms of repro. duction. It is my understanding that the mechanical reproducer's point of view was that he had gone into the open market and purchased something that was to be heard through the medium of his fingers, if I may use such an expression, and that the natural result was this production of sound; that inasmuch as he had purchased it and had taken possession of it, he had the right to play it, and anything resulting from its playing did not concern anyone else.
With the dramatic producer it is an entirely different proposition. In the first place, there can be no reproduction of a dramatic work without first, by unfair and surreptitious means, securing the lines. I will make a small exception there. There have been one or two dramatic plays published; but I am speaking now of practically all dramatic productions.
So that before there can be any reproduction or any representation through the medium of any machine, he must first secure some person to go to the theater and endeavor by one means or another to secure the lines of the play. Then the next step is to get a company of actors to make up as nearly as possible along the lines of those who represent the play in the first instance. The pictures are then taken and the lines dictated into a machine, into a camera phone or a photophone, or some other machine. In some instances pictures alone are taken and then somebody will stand back of the machine and imitate a phonograph, speaking the lines. These very acts, in themselves,
constitute a violation of the law in its present intent; but unfortunately there are no means by which we can get at them. When these acts are once copied, it means that the photophone and instruments may be scattered broadcast through the land, and the play will be absolutely ruined and become a thing without value.
To illustrate: In many instances we have had to pay our authors in excess of $1,000 a week. Suppose that a play was being produced in the city of Washington at the National Theater, on which the author was receiving a royalty of $1,000 a week. Next door to the theater is a moving picture machine, which is set up to reproduce this play at 5 cents, instead of the usual price charged at the theater. Let me say right here that I am not attacking the moving pictures as moving pictures. I am merely complaining about the unauthorized production of our plays.
Now, suppose you provide for a compulsory royalty, and say you would give the man io per cent. So far as the reproduction on the picture machine was concerned he would probably receive from it $25 a week, whereas he would lose $1,000 a week next door, and have a thing of great value converted into a thing that was utterly worthless.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that a play that will produce an author a royalty of $1,000 a week can be reproduced by one of these nickelodeon concerns to the detriment of the author?
Mr. Johnson. Unquestionably I do. I will be followed by Mr. Brady, who will tell you from personal experience how this matter is worked. This is not a matter of theory, but is a matter of fact. The dramatic producers of America are not a crowd of captious schoolboys, who send their representatives here to talk about things they do not care about. They are business men, and they are presenting these matters to the committee in the full belief that their property is absolutely jeopardized.
By way of illustration, Mr. Chairman, I want to hand to this committee a clipping from the New York Herald of February 16, 1908, to show how these things are done abroad. There they do reproduce plays by the cinematograph. and the photophone and the cameraphone; but they hire their dramatists. They do not undertake to steal the fruits of some other man's brain and put it on their machines, and thus make a valueless machine a thing of immense value without the payment of a cent to the man who makes the value. They employ their dramatist to write for these machines. I do not believe there are two dramatists in America who are not at full liberty to write for any machine that comes and makes them a proposition to prepare and produce a play for it. This article states that such dramatists as Edmond Rostand, Henri Lavedan, and Alfred Capus, three of France's leading writers, have been commissioned to compose pieces for moving pictures.
The article says:
The cinematograph has taken up so prominent a position among the popular amusements nowadays that the impresarii are obtaining scenes from the leading Parisian dramatists. M. Edmond Rostand has been commissioned to write three fairy plays, the first of which will be The Sleeping Beauty. M. Henri Lavedan is to write a historical piece entitled The Assassination of the Duc de Guise," and M. Alfred (apus has undertaken to compose Une Scene Parisienne, which will portray the financial life of Paris.
There is no objection in the world to that. It is eminently proper.
I do not want to class all of the-e mechanical reproducers in one category. I want to say that some of the mechanical reproducers are apparently trying to be perfectly fair, and they make no claim that a mechanical reproducer has the right to surreptitiously get hold of a play and reproduce it and thus utterly destroy the property. The others remind me very much of the vultures hovering over the commercial battle ground, feeding and growing fat on the efforts of others, if you will pardon me the simile.
They may procure all of the plays they desire for their mechanical machines after it has been produced for a certain length of time, because then the play is held by the author at a figure where it can be procured by any stock company upon the payment of a reasonable royalty; and under conditions of that kind there is no question but that a play might legitimately be secured for reproduction on these mechanical reproducing devices.
A very peculiar situation always develops in the evolution of one of these mechanical reproductions. Here is the author, the one person who offers an element of value to the combination, because a picture film and a phonograph film amounts to a gross cost of only a few cents, so that the only thing of value, the only thing giving life to this machine is the book of the play, furnished by the author. The author himself, under existing conditions, can not reproduce that play for himself on a picture machine. There were at one time a number of picture machine companies in America; but to-day there is only one, and it is an absolute trust, an absolute monopoly, a single monopoly allied against the authors of America.
I hand you a clipping with reference to its recent formation, and I will give you a further illustration. On February 15, 1908, the Moving Picture World published the advertisement of the Consolidated Film Company of New York, headed “We are at it in three places,” and offering films at specific prices. A moving-picture man in the city of Washington wrote to purchase these films at the prices advertised and received this reply
In reply to yours of the 11th instant answering ad. in Moving Picture World would say that we are unable to furnish film at a less price than that voted by the Film Service Association (of which we are members) at a convention held at Buffalo Saturday and Sunday, February 8 and 9. Our ad. was bona fide, but untimely, and as our representative voted to uphold the association we must, in deference to our obligation, beg to be excused on the fulfillment of the ad., and quote you instead a price of $6 per day per reel on contract of less than seven days, and one reel changed three times per week $25. At these rates we do not believe you will do business with us, but we are sure the action of our representative is for the betterment of the business throughout the country.
Thanking you for your valued inquiry and assuring you that a contract under the above prices would unquestionably in the end produce results for you, as the film at this price is new, we are, Very truly, yours,
CONSOLIDATED FILM COMPANY.
CHAS. V. BURTON, President. Representative CURRIER. If this law should be so amended as to prevent the reproduction by any means of an unpublished play, which was surreptitiously obtained, it would effect the purpose you have in mind?
Mr. Johnson. It would largely, Mr. Chairman; but there are some plays that have been published, and they would not be covered by such a provision, as, for instance, the librettos for the operas.
The CHAIRMAN. They are published for the purpose of vending them at a profit, are they not? Mr. Johnson. The play is not published for the purpose
reproduction, but is published for the purpose of being read, as you would purchase a book to read. The primary rights to the book are preserved under the copyright law and the performing rights of the play, are reserved in the same manner.
Representative CURRIER. I understood that when you appeared here on yesterday you confined your amendment solely to unpublished plays.
Mr. Johnson. That was strictly as to the dramatic end of it. I then stated that I was making no reference to any provision with relation to mechanical reproduction.
In other words, here is a single trust, with millions of dollars for machines, with millions of dollars, if necessary, to pay singers, with plenty of money to pay an actor who will surreptitiously produce a play of which they steal pictures without letting us know anything about it, and they then go and make a mechanical reproduction of our play, and wreck our property absolutely. That is what they are coming before this committee and claiming they have the right to do.
Representative CURRIER. Will you be satisfied with such an amendment as I have suggested ?
Mr. Johnson. As a matter of compromise we might accept less than we think we are entitled to, but we think we are entitled to it all.
Senator BRANDEGEE. You are representing the dramatic authors?
Mr. Johnson. The dramatic authors and reproducers. We produce both dramatic and musical compositions.
Senator BRANDEGEE. And that is all that you want?
Mr. Johnson. We simply want a denial of the right to reproduce, through the medium of a camera phone or a photophone, or whatever it may be called, our plays and our operas.
Senator BRANDEGEE. What is the name of this machine that you say is controlled by the trust?
Mr. Johnson. Before I answer that let me say I want you to understand that we are not fighting the moving pictures. We think it is a very fair and proper amusement. The only thing we are fighting, as a matter of fact, is the pirating of our plays for reproduction upon these machines. It is a condition which has only arisen within the past few months. The machines have been utilized abroad for quite a while; but they have never come into America, and it is only within a very recent date that they have sought to reproduce our plays. No doubt you gentlemen have all been into a moving picture establishment, and you will remember that the average scene is, for instance, a fire scene, where there is a bedroom and a mother and a child, and then all of a sudden there is a burst of flame. The fire engines come to their rescue. Or there is a scene representing a burglary, or a train robbery, or something of that kind. That is all they ever attempted to reproduce. They did not attempt to utilize the ideas of any dramatic author, so far as I have heard, until a very recent date, and as a consequence the dramatic author and producer did not consider the character of this bill until this matter was brought to their attention by their plays being publicly exploited on
these machines. He then instantly felt the loss. That is the reason we have not heretofore appeared before your committee.
In addition to that, the decision of the Supreme Court had not been rendered, nor had any intimation been given of the fact that the courts would construe the words of the bill to mean that where a right was not plainly given, after a condition existed which might affect the right, the Supreme Court would construe the bill to mean that it was a denial of that right.
Just here, Mr. Chairman, I desire to file several newspaper reports involving the different machines and different reproductions.
Senator BRANDEGEE. What people do you represent?
Mr. Johnson. I represent the dramatic authors, the dramatic producer, and the theater owner; but principally the dramatic producer.
Senator BRANDEGEE. Is that what is known as the theater trust?
Mr. Johnson. No; I am representing, among other things, the theaters of America in which the plays of the dramatic producers are given.
Senator BRANDEGEE. What is the name of that concern?
Mr. Johnson. There is no concern about it. It is simply an association of theaters.
Senator BRANDEGEE. What is the name of the association ?
Mr. Johnson. In the Southern States there is a direct organization called the Southern States Theater Owners; but they are in with no particular concern.
Senator BBANDEGEE. Are they incorporated ?
Mr. Johnson. Not at all. I want to disabuse your mind about the theater trust. The theaters represented here by me embrace every form of theater.
Senator BRANDEGEE. I am trying to get a definite idea of what the organization is.
Mr. Johnson. The primary incorporated organization is the National Association of Theater Producing Managers, embracing practically every producing manager of popular-price and high-price theaters in America.
Senator BRANDEGEE. Where is it located ?
Mr. Johnson. It is in New York; and to show you that it is absolutely separate from any particular interest I want to tell you that it embraces Messrs. Klaw & Erlanger; it embraces David Belasco; it embraces Schubert Bros.; it embraces Mr. William H. Brady, Daniel Frohman, and every other prominent producer.
Senator BRANDEGEE. Has it any capital stock!
Mr. JOHNSON. Not at all. It is merely an association under the laws of New York, in the form of a simple association, without stock.
Senator BRANDEGEE. Is it a voluntary association ? Mr. Johnson. It is a voluntary association. Senator BRANDEGEE. Incorporated under the laws of New York? Mr. Johnson. Incorporated under the laws of New York. Senator BRANDEGEE. What is the purpose of it! Mr. Johnson. The purpose of it is to take care simply of matters of this kind, to watch over and protect the interest of the dramatic producer throughout the country. This is a very good illustration of