Data Needs for Assessing the Function of Copyright

Authors: Joel Waldfogel (University of Minnesota)

Abstract
The purpose of copyright is to provide rewards adequate to induce creators to continue creating new works of value to producers and consumers. Recent technological changes have affected both revenue and costs in copyright-protected industries. Hence, while producers’ revenue is an important indicator, it is alone inadequate for assessing whether copyright is working. Instead, we need to assess the value of the new products created, a task that one should admit at the outset is difficult. Quantifying the number of new works is an important start, but given the skew in products’ appeal, data on the number of works are ideally supplemented with data on the usage of works, both by time and by vintage of creation. In some cases the ideal data exist and are available; in other cases they exist but are expensive. In still other cases the data are proprietary and unavailable to researchers. Hence, researchers must be creative – an open-minded – in data that shed light on the fundamental question of how recent technological changes have affected the operation of the copyright-protected industries. Coordinated efforts to make data available to the research community would be valuable.

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