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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Megan MacGarvie & Petra Moser, 2013. "Copyright and the Profitability of Authorship: Evidence from Payments to Writers in the Romantic Period," NBER Working Papers 19521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19521
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stan J. Liebowitz & Stephen E. Margolis, 2005. "Seventeen Famous Economists Weigh In On Copyright: The Role Of Theory, Empirics, And Network Effects," Law and Economics 0505003, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Scherer, F. M., 2008. "The Emergence of Musical Copyright in Europe," Working Paper Series rwp08-052, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xing Li & Megan MacGarvie & Petra Moser, 2014. "Dead Poets’ Property - How Does Copyright Influence Price," Discussion Papers 14-001, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    2. Julia Cage & Nicolas Hervé & Marie-Luce Viaud, 2017. "The Production of Information in an Online World: Is Copy Right?," Working Papers hal-03393171, HAL.
    3. Bradley, Wendy A. & Kolev, Julian, 2023. "How does digital piracy affect innovation? Evidence from software firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(3).
    4. Stan J. Liebowitz, 2016. "Paradise Lost or Fantasy Island? Voluntary Payments by American Publishers to Authors Not Protected by Copyright," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 549-567.
    5. repec:hal:wpspec:info:hdl:2441/3tcpvf3sd399op9sgtn8tq5bhd is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Milan Miric & Lars Bo Jeppesen, 2020. "Does piracy lead to product abandonment or stimulate new product development?: Evidence from mobile platform‐based developer firms," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(12), pages 2155-2184, December.
    7. Barbara Biasi & Petra Moser, 2018. "Effects of Copyrights on Science - Evidence from the US Book Republication Program," Working Papers 18-06, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    8. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/1ikqf7qv0m8h7q6lmc4ng73ueq is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/38tbdqmgvf8f9amamb132hea9b is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/3tcpvf3sd399op9sgtn8tq5bhd is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Moser, Petra & Biasi, Barbara, 2018. "Effects of Copyrights on Science - Evidence from the US Book Republication Program," CEPR Discussion Papers 12651, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • N83 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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