Petra Moser and Michela Giorcelli's paper on the effects of copyrights on creativity, forthcoming in the Journal of Political Economy

August 6, 2020

Copyrights establish intellectual property rights in creative goods ranging from literature and science to images, music, and film. Although their primary purpose is to encourage creativity, the causal effects of copyrights on creativity have proven difficult to establish. This is due primarily to a lack of experimental variation today, when copyrights are modified in response to lobbying by the owners of particularly valuable creative goods. To address this issue, this paper exploits exogenous variation in the adoption of copyrights – as a result of the timing of Napoléon’s military victories in Italy – to examine the effects of copyrights on creativity. To measure changes in creative output we compare changes in the creation of new operas across states with and without copyrights. These analyses show that basic copyrights increased both the number and the quality of operas, measured by their popularity and durability. Notably, there is no evidence of comparable benefits for extensions in copyright length beyond the life of the composer. Complementary analyses for other types of musical compositions confirm the main results.

Petra Moser is a Professor of Economics at NYU Stern.
Read the full paper here.