Common Myths About the Economic Effect of Copyright Term Extensions for Sound Recordings

20 Pages Posted: 2 May 2015

See all articles by George Robert Barker

George Robert Barker

Australian National University; Wolson College, University of Oxford; Law and Economics Consulting Associates Ltd

Date Written: April 29, 2015


The Canadian Government recently announced that it is amending the Copyright Act to extend the term of protection for performers and makers of sound recordings from its current 50 years to 70 years. This will bring Canada’s laws more into line with those of more than 60 countries which have protection of 70 years or more, including many of Canada’s major trading partners that have terms of 70 years or more, such as the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Mexico (75 years) and the United States (95 years).

Some have questioned the economic consequences of such an extension. This report examines and debunks four myths about the likely economic consequences that have been raised by certain copyright users’ advocates following the government’s recent Budget announcement on April 21, 2015. The four (4) myths are as follows:

Myth 1: Heavy Costs to Consumers in Royalty Payments. It is claimed that term extension will cost consumers millions of dollars in extra royalties.

Myth 2: Royalty Payments Will Be Sent Out of the Country.

Myth 3: No Additional Incentive for Creativity. It has been claimed that “[l]ong copyright terms are a poor recipe for compensating creators who generally receive low royalties from their works.”

Myth 4: Less Entering the Public Domain. It is claimed that term extension will simply leave Canadians with 20 additional years of no new works entering the public domain.

These common mistakes in economic analysis have been revived from the 2005-9 UK and EU debate, and the 2005 Australian debate on term extension. In each of those cases, these arguments were considered and rejected by policy makers in deciding to extend the term of copyright.

In this paper, I review the evidence cited in support of each of the above four contentions, using accepted economic methodology and current economic thinking on topics related to copyright term of protection. I find a number of errors undermining the studies which oppose term extension including that they ignore digital piracy; ignore the free rider problem; assume copyright creates a monopoly; assume deadweight costs due to non-rivalry; make modelling errors; and ignore the facts, in particular on what happens to consumer prices. I conclude that term extension is likely to have a net positive economic effect by i) first helping to restore revenues, and the incentive to invest in new copyright goods, which has been adversely affected by the effects of digital piracy; and ii) second enhancing incentives to invest in, market, maintain and enhance existing copyright goods.

Keywords: copyright law, economics, Copyright Term Limits, Copyright Term Extensions, piracy digital economy

JEL Classification: K11, K29

Suggested Citation

Barker, George Robert, Common Myths About the Economic Effect of Copyright Term Extensions for Sound Recordings (April 29, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

George Robert Barker (Contact Author)

Australian National University ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

Wolson College, University of Oxford ( email )

Linton Road
Oxford, OX2 6UD
United Kingdom

Law and Economics Consulting Associates Ltd ( email )

Level 9 Chifley Tower
2 Chifley Sq
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
+61405 394 193 (Phone)

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