Effects of Copyrights on Science: Evidence from the WWII Book Republication Program

76 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2014 Last revised: 1 Mar 2017

Barbara Biasi

Stanford University, Department of Economics

Petra Moser

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 28, 2017

Abstract

This paper examines the effects of copyrights on science, through copyrights’ impact on the price of knowledge. In 1942, the American Book Republication Program (BRP) allowed US publishers to reprint exact copies of German-owned science books, leading to a 25-percent decline in the price of BRP books. We use two alternative identification strategies to study the effects of this change on downstream science, and find that the reduction in access costs led to a substantial increase in the number of new scientific articles and books that used BRP books. A comparison across fields suggests that access costs matter most for disciplines, in which knowledge production is less intensive in physical capital, such as mathematics. To investigate the mechanism by which copyrights have affected science, we collect data on library holdings. These data indicate that lower access costs allowed a new set of poorer libraries to buy BRP books and make them available in their locations. Two alternative measures of scientific output – changes in the number of new PhDs in mathematics and changes in the number of US patents that use BRP books – confirm the main results.

Keywords: Science, knowledge, human capital, cumulative invention, copyright, open access

JEL Classification: J24, N32, O14, O31, O34

Suggested Citation

Biasi, Barbara and Moser, Petra, Effects of Copyrights on Science: Evidence from the WWII Book Republication Program (February 28, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2542879 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2542879

Barbara Biasi

Stanford University, Department of Economics ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Petra Moser (Contact Author)

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer 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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