Effects of Copyright Law

Empirical research has mainly focused on infringing copying and distribution, but effects of key aspects of copyright law are also of interest, including what aspects of creative works are protected, the type and intensity of enforcement measures, the duration of rights, the scope of copyright exceptions and limitations, the liability standards imposed on intermediaries and third-parties, the availability of easily accessible and affordable legal copies, and the role of digital rights management techniques.

Despite the fact that promotion of innovation and the creation and distribution of new works are the principal rationale for intellectual property protection, very few empirical studies address the effects of changes in the copyright system on their supply of creative works. The handful of studies of copyright term extensions have found no significant effect, although the complexities of isolating such effects are formidable. In any case, such studies are of relatively little significance to the policy debate over online enforcement because such behavior most prominently affects newly released works.

Costs of the Copyright System

The costs of administering the copyright system also need to be considered in designing appropriate copyright policy, but neither these nor the costs of transacting or enforcing rights have been studied directly. This would be useful in evaluating alternative voluntary collective rights administration schemes and proposed changes to enforcement systems. In view of the likelihood that the effects of infringing copying and distribution are not evenly distributed across the population of artists, we need to understand better the impact of copyright arrangements on the markets for artistic works as well as on innovation in distribution and other activities downstream from creation.


Overall, the picture that emerges from research is still ambiguous, patchy, and in some respects contradictory. There is inconclusive evidence of how infringing copying and distribution affects social welfare or what kind of copyright regime would redress the problem without excessive unintended consequences. In addition to the characteristics of the literature noted above, the following gaps and limitations, many of them the result of or exacerbated by data limitations, are particularly pronounced:

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