Pirate Thy Neighbor: The Protectionist Roots of International Copyright

32 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2015

Date Written: February 8, 2015


In recent years, many policymakers have pushed for a stronger international standard of copyright recognition and enforcement, as embodied in international agreements such as TRIPS. Proponents argue, in part, that stronger laws will encourage economic development in both developed and developing countries by ensuring all inventors, scientists, and creators have incentives to innovate. However, history is inconsistent with this narrative. Countries have been able to develop and innovate under a variety of legal rules with varying degrees of respect for copyright. The strength of copyright laws increases endogenously according to the position of domestic publishing interests. These interests develop by first pirating foreign works and ultimately push to strengthen copyright laws to protect themselves from future competition once they are strong enough. I use case studies from the history of the U.S., U.K., and Germany to demonstrate the progression of copyright laws according to the relative position of domestic publishers.

Keywords: Copyright, intellectual property rights, TRIPS, development, protectionism

JEL Classification: H41, K29, N40, O34

Suggested Citation

Safner, Ryan, Pirate Thy Neighbor: The Protectionist Roots of International Copyright (February 8, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2564232 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2564232

Ryan Safner (Contact Author)

Hood College ( email )

401 Rosemont Avenue
Frederick, MD 21701
United States

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