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
Date Written: July 31, 2013
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
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