Copyrights and Creativity: Evidence from Italian Opera in the Napoleonic Age
95 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2014 Last revised: 17 Mar 2020
Date Written: May 16, 2019
Copyrights establish intellectual property rights in creative goods ranging from literature and science to images, film, and music. Although their primary purpose is to encourage creativity, systematic evidence on the causal effects of copyrights continues to be scarce, primarily due to a lack of exogenous variation in modern copyright laws. To address this issue, this paper exploits exogenous variation in the adoption of copyrights within Italy – as a result of the timing of Napoléon’s military victories – to examine the effects of copyrights on the creation of new operas. Because opera is a public art form, new works are exceptionally well-documented, offering unique opportunities to observe changes in creativity. Difference-in-differences analyses show that basic copyrights increased both the number and the quality of operas, measured by their immediate success and durability. Notably, there is no evidence of comparable benefits for extensions in copyright lengths beyond the life of the composer. Complementary analyses for other types of musical compositions confirm the main results.
Keywords: Intellectual Property, Copyright, Creativity, Institutions, Media
JEL Classification: K11, O3, O33, O34, N3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation