IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

An Economic Model of Fair Use


  • Thomas J. Miceli

    () (Department of Economics, University of Connecticut)

  • Richard P. Adelstein

    () (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)


The doctrine of fair use allows limited copying of creative works based on the rationale that copyright holders would consent to such uses if bargaining were possible. This paper develops a formal model of fair use in an effort to derive the efficient legal standard for applying the doctrine. The model interprets copies and originals as differentiated products and defines fair use as a threshold separating permissible copying from infringement. The analysis highlights the role of technology in shaping the efficient standard. Discussion of several key cases illustrates the applicability of the model.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas J. Miceli & Richard P. Adelstein, 2005. "An Economic Model of Fair Use," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2005-014, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2005-014

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Benjamin Klein & Andres V. Lerner & Kevin M. Murphy, 2002. "The Economics of Copyright "Fair Use" in a Networked World," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 205-208, May.
    2. Paul Klemperer, 1990. "How Broad Should the Scope of Patent Protection Be?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 113-130, Spring.
    3. Novos, Ian E & Waldman, Michael, 1984. "The Effects of Increased Copyright Protection: An Analytic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 236-246, April.
    4. Depoorter, Ben & Parisi, Francesco, 2002. "Fair use and copyright protection: a price theory explanation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 453-473, May.
    5. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1984. "Litigation and Settlement under Imperfect Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 404-415, Autumn.
    6. Michele Boldrin & David Levine, 2002. "The Case Against Intellectual Property," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 209-212, May.
    7. Liebowitz, S J, 1985. "Copying and Indirect Appropriability: Photocopying of Journals," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 945-957, October.
    8. Adelstein, Richard P. & Peretz, Steven I., 1985. "The competition of technologies in markets for ideas: Copyright and fair use in evolutionary perspective," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 209-238, December.
    9. Cooter, Robert D & Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1989. "Economic Analysis of Legal Disputes and Their Resolution," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 1067-1097, September.
    10. Posner, Richard A, 1992. "When Is Parody Fair Use?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 67-78, January.
    11. 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 325-363, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Gans, Joshua S., 2015. "Remix rights and negotiations over the use of copy-protected works," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 76-83.
    2. Baker, Matthew J & Cunningham, Brendan M, 2006. "Court Decisions and Equity Markets: Estimating the Value of Copyright Protection," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 567-596, October.
    3. Yoon, Kiho, 2008. "An economic model of fair use: Comment," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 67-74, March.
    4. Wendy J. Gordon, 2014. "The fair use doctrine: markets, market failure and rights of use," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Copyright, chapter 4, pages 77-92 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item


    Fair use; Copyright law; Technological improvement;

    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2005-014. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Manolis Kaparakis). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.