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Copyright Protection, Technological Change, and the Quality of New Products: Evidence from Recorded Music since Napster

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  • Joel Waldfogel

Abstract

While some recent technological changes reduced revenue for digital products, other changes reduced the costs of bringing creative works to market. Therefore, we do not know whether copyright protection now provides weaker incentives to bring forth new products. This paper assesses the quality of new recorded music since Napster was established in 1999. First, I create an index of high-quality music from critics' retrospective lists. Next, I rely on music sales and airplay data, using the idea that if one vintage's music is better than another's, its superior quality should generate higher sales or greater airplay through time, after accounting for depreciation. I find no evidence of a reduction in the quality of music released since 1999, and the two usage-based indices suggest an increase since then. Researchers and policy makers thinking about the strength of copyright protection should supplement their attention to producer surplus with concern for consumer surplus.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Waldfogel, 2012. "Copyright Protection, Technological Change, and the Quality of New Products: Evidence from Recorded Music since Napster," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(4), pages 715-740.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/665824
    DOI: 10.1086/665824
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    1. Rob, Rafael & Waldfogel, Joel, 2006. "Piracy on the High C's: Music Downloading, Sales Displacement, and Social Welfare in a Sample of College Students," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 29-62, April.
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    3. Joel Waldfogel, 2011. "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie? The Supply of New Recorded Music Since Napster," NBER Working Papers 16882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media

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