Copyright and the Profitability of Authorship: Evidence from Payments to Writers in the Romantic Period
Proponents of stronger copyright terms have argued that stronger copyright terms encourage creativity by increasing the profitability of authorship. Empirical evidence, however, is scarce, because data on the profitability of authorship is typically not available to the public. Moreover at current copyright lengths of 70 years after the author's death, further extensions may not have any effects on the profitability of authorship. To investigate effects of copyright at lower pre-existing levels of protection, this chapter introduces a new data set of publishers' payments to authors of British fiction between 1800 and 1830. These data indicate that payments to authors nearly doubled following an increase in the length of copyright in 1814. These findings suggest that - starting from low pre-existing levels of protection - policies that strengthen copyright terms may, in fact, increase the profitability of authorship.
We wish to thank Xing Li, Hoan Nguyen, and Alex Pitzer for excellent research assistance, Koleman Strumpf and conference participants at the Economics of Digitization: An Agenda for comments, and Stanford's Second-Year Graduate Research Program, the NBER Program on the Economics of Digitization, the Kauffman Foundation, and the National Science Foundation through CAREER Grant 1151180 for financial support. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Copyright and the Profitability of Authorship: Evidence from Payments to Writers in the Romantic Period, Megan MacGarvie, Petra Moser. in Economic Analysis of the Digital Economy, Goldfarb, Greenstein, and Tucker. 2015