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I’m not really a copyright person, but I thought that this recent Harvard working paper by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf (which I noticed via Michael Geist) had some very interesting analysis — gathering and examining quantitative evidence which suggests that weaker copyright protection leads to greater creative output. As the authors note:

Overall production figures for the creative industries appear to be consistent with this view that file sharing has not discouraged artists and publishers. While album sales have generally fallen since 2000, the number of albums being created has exploded. In 2000, 35,516 albums were released. Seven years later, 79,695 albums (including 25,159 digital albums) were published (Nielsen SoundScan, 2008). Even if file sharing were the reason that sales have fallen, the new technology does not appear to have exacted a toll on the quantity of music produced. . . .

Similar trends can be seen in other creative industries. For example, the worldwide number of feature films produced each year has increased from 3,807 in 2003 to 4,989 in 2007 (Screen Digest, 2004 and 2008). Countries where film piracy is rampant have typically increased production. This is true in South Korea (80 to 124), India (877 to 1164), and China (140 to 402). During this period, U.S. feature film production has increased from 459 feature films in 2003 to 590 in 2007 (MPAA, 2007).

And, as Geist notes in his post about the paper, the combination of greater output plus greater public access is a pretty good argument that weaker copyright protections create a net benefit for society.

(hat tip: Marc B)

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1 Response

  1. Numbers don’t lie!
    What an interesting article on such a relevant and debated issue.
    There is this great tension between the need for protection and the need for creativity and depending on what end of the trademark issue an individual is on, the two are hard to reconcile! On the one hand, an individual has a right and a desire to protect his work and control its distribution. When such protections become so limiting, however, that others working in similar subject matter stop producing, there is a major problem.