On the economics of copyright

When looking at the furore surrounding Julia Reda’s report to the European Parliament’s JURI committee, I am coming to the conclusion that those of us who argue for a fairer, more pro-consumer copyright settlement have won the economic arguments. The massive focus on the tiny change in duration reinforces this. All arguments I have had recently with proponents of the current settlement have rapidly moved from public good arguments to the issue of equity in investment, and the moral failure to compensate creators for their speculative investment. ”I made this, why should you have it for free.”

A number of influencers have shown me that with the economics of copyright there is a balance to be found, between new and legacy creators, between creators and consumers and between the individual actors and the public. Without some IPR laws there is thought not to be enough innovation/creativity and with laws that are too restrictive there’s not enough innovation; derived works become too hard, costly or uncertain.

There is detailed research showing that the only value to old aged intellectual property is as a barrier to entry which is generally considered to be unacceptable. Also in the UK music industry which has a significant reliance on royalty income, average incomes are well below that of the national average. Also there are theoretical models showing that the optimum copyright duration is fifteen years because of the economically destructive effect of enclosure, over charging and discarding past creativity and competition from new product. Monopoly pricing theory shows that copyright goods pricing is predatory/imperfect and welfare economics shows that not enough innovation/creative goods are provided. It also shows that the super-profits earned by (a minority of) creatives should be used to demand/produce alternative goods.

The copyright trolls are deserting the ‘public good’ argument and have turned towards articulating the financial value of moral rights and even a human rights dimension, not to mention their now frequently abusive polemics. I don’t see the human rights dimension myself.


  1. Further evidence for the moral deficiency of the copyright maximalists is that we have authors/creators suing the coprorations for the return of what is de-facto abandoned copyright.

    For those who think using others output without paying is theft, you need to remember that so is overcharging. I have quoted Simon Indelicate before in answer to the question about use without payment, “Why do you expect an above market rate fee?”

    I commented on the Panorama Show here…