Copyright protection, technological change, and the quality of new products: Evidence from recorded music since Napster

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Abstract

While some recent technological changes reduced revenue for digital products, other changes reduced the costs of bringing creative works to market. Therefore, we do not know whether copyright protection now provides weaker incentives to bring forth new products. This paper assesses the quality of new recorded music since Napster was established in 1999. First, I create an index of highquality music from critics' retrospective lists. Next, I rely on music sales and airplay data, using 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. I find no evidence of a reduction in the quality of music released since 1999, and the two usage-based indices suggest an increase since then. Researchers and policy makers thinking about the strength of copyright protection should supplement their attention to producer surplus with concern for consumer surplus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-740
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Law and Economics
Volume55
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

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