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Harvard Study Finds Weaker Copyright Protection Has Benefited Society (michaelgeist.ca)
48 points by jgrahamc on June 17, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

Given the increase in artistic production along with the greater public access conclude that "weaker copyright protection, it seems, has benefited society."

As much as I'd like the paper's conclusion to be valid, it appears to ignore the fact that creating salable creative products has become much easier and cheaper in recent years. Practically every computer sold today comes with an audio mixer and video editor.

All we can conclude is that weaker copyright protection has not offset the positive effects of technology on creative output.

Well, has not completely offset...

I find table 6 in the paper to be quite astonishing. (uploaded here for those who don't want to download the paper: http://imgur.com/OU3Qk.png )

In average only about 15% of an artist income seems to derive directly from recordings. If this is a general rule for well established artists they should all release their music absolutely for free and invest their energies in concerts instead.

It's also interesting that the outliers -- the artists who derive most of their income from recordings -- tend to be rappers. Eminem, Jay-Z, Linkin Park (A little bit of a stretch, but close enough for me), and Brian "Baby" Williams are the ones that jump out at me.

This would imply that, rationally, rappers should be more concerned about copyright, and people like Billy Joel and Neil Diamond shouldn't care one bit.

I'd guess that they can reach a lot of people through recordings that wouldn't go to their concerts, presumably because of how white people are scared of black males. Probably not as many people are scared of Billy Joel fans.

Maybe it's an issue of fear, but I doubt it; probably a combination of cultural stigma (thinking it is "weird" for a white person to go to a rap concert) and relative wealth of the target markets (concerts are much more expensive than albums, especially when you include travel costs).

Perhaps, but would releasing their music for free increase the demand for their concerts enough to make up for the loss in revenue? A million dollars, even if it makes up a relatively small percentage of profits, is still a million dollars.

Slightly misleading headline. This isn't a "Harvard study." It's a draft paper that reviews prior research on copyrights.

If you like this subject check out the book "The Lever of Riches" which is an in-depth study of the issue:


In this case, I might even agree with the conclusion, but it's easy to be misled by something like this. "Study finds x has benefited society" sounds all scientific and objective, so it's easy to forget to ask, "What do you mean by 'benefited society'?"

The authors of this article were one of the first to challenge the early claims about the effects of file sharing. Years later, many other economists have followed suit (including the study funded by Industry Canada). This latest paper does a nice job of expanding the discussion, by using the data to examine incentives for creativity and the effects on aggregate creator and industry income.

Why post an almost-exact copy of the blog's closing paragraph?

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