Industrial Organization Approach to Copyright Law, An

Intellectual Property and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


Michael B. Abramowicz


William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 46, p. 33, 2004


This paper asks if copyright law enables too many works to be created.

Policy Relevance

Everyone might be just as well off if fewer new works were created, but if fair use were expanded to make it somewhat easier to access existing works and if poorer people paid lower prices.

Main Points

  • Each new created work seems to benefit consumers relatively little; the author of a new vegetarian cookbook mostly profits by diverting the profits authors of other vegetarian cookbooks would have earned.

  • Most copyrighted works add little to democratic deliberation. If all conservatives watch Fox News and all liberals watch CNN, democracy might be harmed ; perhaps if there were fewer good works would get more attention.

  • The production of copyrighted content is like a winner-take-all market; only a few people make large profits. More competing works make other producers less well off.

  • Perhaps with nonfiction books and other informative content, everyone is better off with as many such works as possible. But education and subsidies are a better way to improve access to truthful information.

  • With software, network effects mean that a product like Windows operating system might be more valuable when more people use it, because their systems work together. But network effects can be harmful. Perhaps too much software is produced.

  • Peer-to-peer software that allows users to share music without paying the musicians might mean that somewhat less music is produced.

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