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The New York Times, December 25, 1881



To the Editor of the Springfield (Mass ) Republican:

If you will glance at the first article in your second editorial column of today's issue you may find two things forcibly illustrated there: that the less a man knows about his subject the more glibly he can reel off his paragraph, and that the difference between the ordinary court and the high court of journalism is, that the former requires facts upon which to base an injurious judgment against a man, the other requires suspicions only. You have not caught me in any divergence from the truth, nor in any incompatibility. But a truce to that; under pretext of rising to defend myself, I have really risen for a more respectable purpose. Your remarks have, of course, disseminated the impression that in my humble person a greater was defeated in Canada and got its quietus, viz, Copyright; now, I think the fact is of public and general importance - and, therefore, worth printing - that the exact opposite was the case.

I applied formally for Canadian copyright and failed to get it. But that did not cripple my case, because by being in Canada (and submitting to certain legal forms) when my book issued in London I acquired both imperial and Canadian copyright. I did know several hours before I left Montreal - as heretofore stated in my name - that my application for legal copyright had been refused, but I also knew that my Canadian copyright was perfect without it and that it would not have been (absolutely) perfect if I had not sojourned in Canada while the book was published in England and printed and published in Canada. Curious as it seems to seem to you, I did leave in Canada perfected arrangements for the prosecution of any who might pirate the book, although I had hardly the ghost of a fear that any attempt would be made to pirate it. Please do not laugh at me any more for this, for the act was not ridiculous. I was not protecting myself against an expectation, but only against a possibility. Perhaps you do not catch the idea. I will put it in another form; if you were going to stop over night with me I should not expect you to set fire to the place; still, I would step down and get the house insured just the same.

Have you ever read the Dominion copyright laws? And if so, do you think you understand them? Undeceive yourself; it is ten thousand to one that you are mistaken. I went to Canada armed to the teeth with both Canadian and Ameri can legal opinions. They were the result of a couple of months of industry and correspondence between trained Canadian and American lawyers. These men agreed upon but one thing -that a perfect imperial and provincial copyright was obtainable through a brief sojourn in Canada and the observance of certain specified forms.

They were pretty uncertain (under one form of procedure) as to the possibility of acquiring a copyright from the Dominion Government itself; well, as before remarked, I tried that form; it failed, but no harm was done. Some little good was done, however; the experiment established the fact, as far as it can be established without the decision of a court, that "elective domicile" is not sufficient in a copy right matter. There was one other mode of procedure which promised considerably better -in fact, I was told that it had been tried already by a couple of American clergymen, and with success. This is, to kind of sort of let on, in a general way, in your written declaration to the Dominion Government, that you haven't come to Canada merely to sojourn, but to stay. My friend, there are reputations that can stand a strain like that; but you know, yourself, that it would not answer for you or me to take any such risk. I declined to try that mode.

Mark Twain
HARTFORD, Conn., Sunday, Dec. 18, 1881.

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