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Does Copyright Enforcement Encourage Piracy?

  • Rick Harbaugh

    (Claremont McKenna College)

  • Rahul Khemka

    (Georgetown University)

More intensive copyright enforcement reduces piracy, raises prices, and lowers consumer surplus. We show that these results do not hold regarding the extent rather than intensity of enforcement. When enforcement is targeted at high-value buyers such as corporate and government users, the copyright holder has an incentive to charge super-monopoly prices, thereby encouraging piracy among low-value buyers. Extending enforcement down the demand curve broadens the copyright holder’s captive market, leading to lower prices and higher sales that can increase both profits and consumer surplus. The standard tradeoff between the incentive to generate intellectual property and the cost of monopoly power is therefore avoided. Private enforcement by copyright holders may be insuciently extensive since consumers can also benefit from more extensive enforcement. Similarly, new technologies which lead to stronger control over illicit use can paradoxically benefit consumers.

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Paper provided by Claremont Colleges in its series Claremont Colleges Working Papers with number 2000-14.

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Handle: RePEc:clm:clmeco:2000-14
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  8. Bakos, Yannis & Brynjolfsson, Erik & Lichtman, Douglas, 1999. "Shared Information Goods," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 117-55, April.
  9. Joshua Slive & Dan Bernhardt, 1998. "Pirated for Profit," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(4), pages 886-899, November.
  10. Jean O. Lanjouw & Josh Lerner, 1997. "The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights: A Survey of the Empirical Literature," NBER Working Papers 6296, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Stanley M. Besen & Leo J. Raskind, 1991. "An Introduction to the Law and Economics of Intellectual Property," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 3-27, Winter.
  12. Liebowitz, S J, 1985. "Copying and Indirect Appropriability: Photocopying of Journals," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 945-57, October.
  13. Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1989. "An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 325-63, June.
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