Copyright Protection, Technological Change, and the Quality of New Products: Evidence from Recorded Music since Napster: by Joel Waldfogel

Well I can’t say I really agree with the criterion of quality – but anyway, at least by our intrepid old friend Joel’s lights file sharing hasn’t harmed music making.

Recent technological changes may have altered the balance between technology and copyright law for digital products.   While file-sharing has reduced revenue, other technological changes have reduced the costs of bringing creative works to market.   As a result, we don’t know whether the effective copyright protection currently available provides adequate incentives to bring forth a steady stream of valuable new products.  This paper assesses the quality of new recorded music since Napster, using three independent approaches.   The first is an index of the quantity of high-quality music based on critics’ retrospective lists.

The second and third approaches rely directly on music sales and airplay data, respectively, using of the idea that if one vintage’s music is better than another’s, its superior quality should generate higher sales or greater airplay through time, after accounting for depreciation.  The three resulting indices of vintage quality for the past half-century are both consistent with each other and with other historical accounts of recorded music quality.  There is no evidence of a reduction in the quality of music released since Napster, and the two usage-based indices suggest an increase since 1999.   Hence, researchers and policymakers thinking about the strength of copyright protection should supplement their attention to producer surplus with concern for consumer surplus as well.

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12 years ago

Kinda like the abolition of stupid parallel-import rules didn’t affect the Australian music industry, nor did the failure of the cassette tax, …

Copyright protectionism beats me. On suprisingly many issues I can see arguments both ways but extending copyright every decade or so even as production increases by orders of magnitude???