Monday, November 16, 2009

Longer Copyright Term and Disincentives

Here's an economics paper by Francisco Alcalá (Universidad de Murcia) and Miguel González-Maestre (Universidad de Murcia) that is getting much attention and that concludes that longer copyright terms may actually be a disincentive to new production by emerging artists.

Here's the abstract:

Abstract Promoting high-quality artistic creation requires sorting the most talented people of each generation and developing their skills. This paper takes a professional-career perspective in analyzing the determinants of artistic creation. The paper builds an overlappinggenerations model of artists with three features: (i) the number of highly talented artists in a given period is positively linked to the number of young artists starting the career in the previous period; (ii) artistic markets are superstar markets; iii) promotion expenditures play an important role in determining market shares. In this framework, the paper analyzes the consequences for high-quality artistic creation of changes in the length of the copyright term, increases in market size, and progress in some communication technologies. It is shown that increasing superstars’ returns do not always increase the expected return to starting an artistic career. As a result, in the long run, longer copyrights do not always stimulate artistic creation.

For those who actually would like to see some logic rather than lobbying on the issue of copyright as an incentive to creativity, there's also a wonderful book published in 2003 by a brilliant elder statesman of industrial economics and the economics of technological change and IP named F.M. Scherer entitled Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries about the rise of copyright in the how copyright protection may have actually discouraged production - and apparently did in the case of Verdi, which he looks at very closely. Not that Verdi was unproductive - he just slacked off a lot as he got quite rich due to the ever increasing power of copyright.

I leave it to her fans to decide if the artistic legacy of Britney Spears, another example of a superstar who benefits from copyright , is in decline or whether the incentive theory works for her... and if there's any correlation with her royalties.



  1. Thank you for the link to the Scherer book. It sounds like a fascinating read!

    Martin Gladu

  2. I am a visual artist excess copyright is harmful to the new.
    It dos tend to further increase the natural dominance of whatever was new years ago over the new.
    It prevents the most common form of new,- variations on a theme.

    The seduction of living off the capital of previous generations is powerful , very attractive. Obviously to do this you need to control/prevent others using the past to make new things. More than a disincentive, it must actively prevent.