Defining the Public Domain in Economic Terms – Approaches and Consequences for Policy

Etikk i praksis. Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics 2016(1) pp. 61-74.

18 Pages Posted: 10 May 2016

Date Written: May 9, 2016

Abstract

Stimulating innovation and growth in the so-called ‘creative economy’ is a current policy objective for national regulators. One policy lever traditionally applied to the creative sector is intellectual property, in particular the scope and term of protection offered by copyright. Increased copyright protection limits the size of the public domain by restricting access to and use of cultural expressions. Opposition to expansion and further enclosure of the cultural public domain was previously articulated in terms of access to a commons of information. Following the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property in 2011, copyright reform in the UK context has been increasingly framed in terms of economic policy objectives.

This paper reviews two economic approaches which shape how researchers and policymakers discuss the public domain in debates about IP reform: an economic welfare approach which weighs increases in producer and consumer surplus under different policy configurations and an economics of innovation approach which considers the value of the public domain as a reservoir of ideas for innovators and firms. I argue that economic definitions of the public domain should be augmented by a consideration of the democratic requirements of freedom of expression and access to information. The consequences of this re-figuration of the public domain for the public interest and access to information are discussed.

Keywords: copyright, public domain, intellectual property, economic welfare, innovation, IP policy, UK IPO, public interest, freedom of expression

JEL Classification: D21, D23, D63, H41, K19, L30, L82, O34

Suggested Citation

Erickson, Kristofer, Defining the Public Domain in Economic Terms – Approaches and Consequences for Policy (May 9, 2016). Etikk i praksis. Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics 2016(1) pp. 61-74.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2777407

Kristofer Erickson (Contact Author)

University of Leeds ( email )

School of Media and Communication
Leeds, Yorkshire LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

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