Effects of Copyrights on Science

76 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2014 Last revised: 26 Dec 2018

See all articles by Barbara Biasi

Barbara Biasi

Yale School of Management

Petra Moser

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

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Date Written: December 10, 2018


Copyrights establish intellectual property in cultural goods, such as music, literature, and science. Intended to encourage creativity, they can however also create significant costs for later generations of authors, inventors, and composers. This paper examines the effects of such costs on science, a field in which the creation of new knowledge depends critically on access to existing work. The empirical analysis examines an important historical change in copyrights as a result of WWII, when the Book Republication Program (BRP) allowed US publishers to violate German-owned copyrights. Using two complementary identification strategies, we find that this change led to a substantial increase in citations to affected books. Intensity regressions show that this increase was driven by reductions in the price of books. A geographic analysis of library holdings and citations suggests that lower prices for BRP books allowed a new group of researchers at less affluent institutions to use these books in their own research. Two alternative ways to measure science – new PhDs and new patents – confirm the main results.

Keywords: Copyrights, Science, Economic History, World War II

JEL Classification: O34, L82, N42

Suggested Citation

Biasi, Barbara and Moser, Petra, Effects of Copyrights on Science (December 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2542879 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2542879

Barbara Biasi

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
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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