University of California, Berkeley

To improve understanding of copyright economics in the digital age

  • Amount $333,500
  • City Berkeley, CA
  • Investigator Stephen Maurer
  • Year 2009
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance

The "copyright clause" of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Digitization has made intellectual property issues like this so important that, for the first time, the President has appointed a "copyright czar" to serve in the White House. Students face huge fines for sharing songs over the Internet, for example. Incentives to create or share innovations appear threatened. And the proposed "Google Settlement" could (arguably) monopolize access to certain books, including "orphan works," as discussed at the recent meeting hosted by the Sloan Foundation on "Open Access and Dissemination of Knowledge" and a brief filed by the United States Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court reviewing the Settlement. How can research help? Whereas patenting has been studied extensively by legal scholars and economists, thorough theoretical and empirical analyses of copyright policy and its effects in the digital age remain yet to be done. To this end, Berkeley Professor of Economics, Law, and Public Policy-Suzanne Scotchmer-proposes to study the benefits, costs, and distributional consequences of potential solutions to a set of copyright problems. One is compulsory licensing by collective rights management organizations like Broadcast Music, Inc. (music performance rights) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. This project will help provide theoretical foundations for a Sloan Foundation initiative that will sponsor further theoretical, empirical, and interdisciplinary research on copyright policy and information goods.

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