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Economists’ Topsy-Turvy View of Piracy


  • Stan Liebowitz

    (University of Texas at Dallas)


Although it was once considered inevitable that unauthorized copying would harm copyright owners, it is now understood that this is not necessarily the case. The concept of indirect appropriability played an important role in shaping this newer understanding. In recent years, however, many economists seem to have taken the message from this new understanding too far, seeing gains to the copyright owners from unauthorized copying in every nook and cranny of the economy, when in reality the instances of such gains are likely to be rather limited. The current literature on this subject, which consists mainly of theoretical models, seems to be badly out of kilter. In this paper I attempt to explain some of the problems and try to provide the outlines of what I believe to be a more balanced and nuanced view of copying. It emphasizes the importance of examining various institutional and behavioral details of individual markets, which are often overlooked by researchers.

Suggested Citation

  • Stan Liebowitz, 2005. "Economists’ Topsy-Turvy View of Piracy," Law and Economics 0505002, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwple:0505002
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 24. Part of Symposium on Indirect Appropriability

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sana El Harbi & Gilles Grolleau, 2008. "Profiting from Being Pirated by 'Pirating' the Pirates," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 385-390, August.
    2. Insaf Bekir & Sana El Harbi & Gilles Grolleau, 2013. "How a luxury monopolist might benefit from the aspirational utility effect of counterfeiting?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 36(1), pages 169-182, August.
    3. Alberto Pastore, 2014. "No al falso! Un’indagine esplorativa sulle strategie anti-contraffazione delle fashion firms," MERCATI E COMPETITIVITÀ, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2014(2), pages 81-102.
    4. Stan J. Liebowitz & Richard Watt, 2006. "How To Best Ensure Remuneration For Creators In The Market For Music? Copyright And Its Alternatives," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(4), pages 513-545, September.
    5. Grolleau, Gilles & Mzoughi, Naoufel & Sutan, Angela, 2008. "Please do not pirate it, you will rob the poor! An experimental investigation on the effect of charitable donations on piracy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2417-2426, December.
    6. Insaf Bekir & Sana El Harbi & Gilles Grolleau, 2012. "The strategy of raising counterfeiters’ costs in luxury markets," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 645-661, June.
    7. Noemí Pulido Pavón & Luis Palma Martos & Luis F. Aguado, 2016. "Derechos de autor. Enfoque económico, evolución y perspectivas," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 18(35), pages 151-169, July-Dece.
    8. Ariel Katz, 2013. "Copyright and competition policy," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Digital Creative Economy, chapter 19, pages 209-221 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Handke, Christian, 2012. "Digital copying and the supply of sound recordings," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 15-29.
    10. David Waterman & Sung Ji & Laura Rochet, 2007. "Enforcement and Control of Piracy, Copying, and Sharing in the Movie Industry," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 30(4), pages 255-289, June.
    11. Alan E. Woodfield, 2006. "Piracy Accommodation and the Optimal Timing of Royalty Payments," Working Papers in Economics 06/01, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.

    More about this item


    copyright; indirect appropriability; copying; mp3; downloads;

    JEL classification:

    • K - Law and Economics

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