Copyright's Excess Revisited

26 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2019 Last revised: 7 Nov 2019

Date Written: October 11, 2019


In the United States, copyright’s fundamental premise is that more incentives will lead to more and better original works of authorship. That is the premise on which copyright was enacted. That is the premise on which copyright has been built. My 2018 book, COPYRIGHT’S EXCESS: MONEY AND MUSIC IN THE US RECORDING INDUSTRY (2018), presented a detailed and rigorous empirical test of that premise in the music industry over fifty-four years from 1962 through 2015. Industry revenue over that period first rose sharply, from under $4 billion in constant 2013 dollars in 1961 to over $20 billion in 1999, and then with the rise of file sharing, fell sharply, to under $7 billion by 2014. Using four different measures of the quantity and quality of music output, I tested whether there was a parallel rise and fall in popular music output. There was not. Either there was no statistically significant correlation between incentives and music output. Or where the correlation was statistically significant, it was negative. More money meant less music.

Since the book’s publication, I have presented the findings in a variety of settings, and a number of questions have been raised. In this essay, I present new data that confirms the key finding that more money led to less and worse music and address some of the questions that have been raised.

Keywords: copyright, incentives, distributive justice, backward-bending labor supply curve, rent-seeking, Gini coefficient

JEL Classification: 034, D31, D61, K00

Suggested Citation

Lunney, Glynn S., Copyright's Excess Revisited (October 11, 2019). Texas A&M University Journal of Property Law, Forthcoming, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-57, Available at SSRN: or

Glynn S. Lunney (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
504-865-5987 (Phone)

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