Copyright and the Profitability of Authorship: Evidence from Payments to Writers in the Romantic Period

Economics of Digitization (Shane Greenstein, Avi Goldfarb, and Catherine Tucker, editors), from University of Chicago Press, Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2013 Last revised: 20 Feb 2015

See all articles by Megan MacGarvie

Megan MacGarvie

Boston University School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Petra Moser

NYU Stern Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 31, 2013

Abstract

Proponents of stronger copyright terms have argued that stronger copyright terms encourage creativity by increasing the profitability of authorship. Empirical evidence, however, is scarce, because data on the profitability of authorship is typically not available to the public. Moreover at current copyright lengths of 70 years after the author’s death, further extensions may not have any effects on the profitability of authorship. To investigate effects of copyright at lower pre-existing levels of protection, this chapter introduces a new data set of publishers’ payments to authors of British fiction between 1800 and 1830. These data indicate that payments to authors nearly doubled following an increase in the length of copyright in 1814. These findings suggest that – starting from low pre-existing levels of protection – policies that strengthen copyright terms may, in fact, increase the profitability of authorship.

Keywords: Copyright, creativity, property rights, ideas

Suggested Citation

MacGarvie, Megan and Moser, Petra, Copyright and the Profitability of Authorship: Evidence from Payments to Writers in the Romantic Period (July 31, 2013). Economics of Digitization (Shane Greenstein, Avi Goldfarb, and Catherine Tucker, editors), from University of Chicago Press, Forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2296095 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2296095

Megan MacGarvie

Boston University School of Management ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Petra Moser (Contact Author)

NYU Stern Department of Economics ( email )

44 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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