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Copyright and the Profitability of Authorship: Evidence from Payments to Writers in the Romantic Period

In: Economic Analysis of the Digital Economy

  • Megan MacGarvie
  • Petra Moser

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.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Avi Goldfarb & Shane Greenstein & Catherine Tucker, 2015. "Economic Analysis of the Digital Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gree13-1, June.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12997.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12997
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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