Copyrights and Creativity: Evidence from Italian Operas

72 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2014 Last revised: 3 Aug 2017

See all articles by Michela Giorcelli

Michela Giorcelli

University of California - Los Angeles

Petra Moser

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

Date Written: December 28, 2016


This paper exploits variation in the adoption of copyright laws – due to idiosyncratic variation in the timing of Napoléon’s military victories – to investigate the causal effects of copyright laws on creativity. To measure variation creative output, we use new data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900. This analysis indicates that the adoption of basic levels of copyright laws raised both the level and the quality of creative output in states with copyrights. The benefits of additional years of copyright, however, decline with the existing length of copyrights. Composer-level analyses indicate that much of the observed increase in creativity was driven by immigrants, who were attracted to states with favorable copyright terms. Consistent with agglomeration externalities, we also find that cities with a better pre-existing infrastructure of performance spaces benefitted more copyright laws.

Keywords: Copyright, intellectual property, creativity, innovation, economic history

JEL Classification: O3, O33, O34, K11, N3

Suggested Citation

Giorcelli, Michela and Moser, Petra, Copyrights and Creativity: Evidence from Italian Operas (December 28, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Michela Giorcelli

University of California - Los Angeles ( email )

9262 Bunche Hall
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Los Angeles, CA CA 90024
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650-630-9648 (Phone)


Petra Moser (Contact Author)

NYU Stern Department of Economics ( email )

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New York, NY 10003
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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