Paper: Do Bad Things Happen When Works Enter the Public Domain?: Empirical Tests of Copyright Term Extension (Buccafusco & Heald)
Do Bad Things Happen When Works Enter the Public Domain Empirical Tests of Copyright Term Extension https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2130008 The most interesting thing about this paper was the arguments put forward by the supporters of copyright extension. They are so distressingly bad that it seems pointless to empirically test them. Theoretical arguments are sufficient to show them to be faulty. Nevertheless, the authors carried out some experiments that show the obvious to be true. Abstract:
According to the current copyright statute, in 2018, copyrighted works of music, film, and literature will begin to transition into the public domain. While this will prove a boon for users and creators, it could be disastrous for the owners of these valuable copyrights. Accordingly, the next few years will witness another round of aggressive lobbying by the film, music, and publishing industries to extend the terms of already-existing works. These industries, and a number of prominent scholars, claim that when works enter the public domain bad things will happen to them. They worry that works in the public domain will be underused, overused, or tarnished in ways that will undermine the works’ cultural and economic value. Although the validity of their assertions turn on empirically testable hypotheses, very little effort has been made to study them. This Article attempts to fill that gap by studying the market for audiobook recordings of bestselling novels. Data from our research, including a novel human subjects experiment, suggest that the claims about the public domain are suspect. Our data indicate that audio books made from public domain bestsellers (1913-22) are significantly more available than those made from copyrighted bestsellers (1923-32). In addition, our experimental protocol suggests that professionally made recordings of public domain and copyrighted books are of similar quality. Finally, while a low quality recording seems to lower a listener's valuation of the underlying work, our data do not suggest any correlation between that valuation and legal status of the underlying work. Accordingly, our research indicates that the significant costs of additional copyright protection for already-existing works are not justified by the benefits claimed for it. These findings will be crucially important to the inevitable congressional and judicial debate over copyright term extension in the next few years.