Erickson, Heald, Homberg, Kretschmer and Mendis (2015)
|Erickson, Heald, Homberg, Kretschmer and Mendis (2015)|
|Title:||Copyright and the Value of the Public Domain: An Empirical Assessment|
|Author(s):||Erickson, K., Heald, P. J., Homberg, F., Kretschmer, M., Mendis, D.|
|Citation:||Erickson, K., Heald, P. J., Homberg, F., Kretschmer, M., & Mendis, D. (2015). Copyright and the Value of the Public Domain: An Empirical Assessment. Intellectual Property Office Research Paper.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:|| Study 1: Commercial uptake by creative businesses
This study consisted of interviews with 22 creative businesses that used public domain materials to create commercial products.
Study 2: Public domain projects on Kickstarter In order to assess the role of public domain material in a crowdfunded creative marketplace, the team performed quantitative analysis on 1,933 Kickstarter projects from January to April 2014.
Study 3: Impact of availability of public domain images on Wikipedia To assess the value of public domain images in the context of this resource, researchers studied the presence and impact of public domain images on biographical Wikipedia pages of 1,700 literary authors, lyricists and composers.
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||Yes|
|Government or policy study?:|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
The purpose of this research study is 1) to map the size of the public domain and frequency of its use; 2) analyse the role of public domain works in value creation for UK businesses; 3) assist creators and entrepreneurs to identify business models that benefit from the public domain. In addition to these outputs, the intellectual contribution of this project was to arrive at a sufficiently precise definition of the public domain to permit measurement of its value, and secondly, to critically appraise theories of creativity and innovation that explain how value might be generated from non-exclusive use of ideas and works available to all. The non-rival, non-excludable nature of the public domain would seem to limit its appeal to creators in a competitive market. Any observed commercial uptake of public domain material consequently raises important questions: What stimulates creators to invest in transforming or re-publishing public domain works? How do firms gain and sustain competitive advantage when exploiting freely available public domain materials? Finally, what policy options are available to promote market uptake of public domain materials, and what are the likely impacts?
Main Results of the Study
Researchers identified the following issues relating to public domain uptake in Study 1:
- Creators working with visual or multimedia content reported difficulties in locating and securing high-quality sources of public domain works (image resolution, digital format). This was a significant challenge to commercialisation.
- Archives, museums, and libraries were frequently cited as useful partners when seeking access to public domain works, able to provide access to source material and data needed to ascertain copyright status of work.
- There was little concern about competition due to non-excludability of source material, but firms worried about costs of marketing and sustaining PD projects when initial development cost and investment was also low.
- Clarity on legal use (e.g. requirements for ‘diligent search’ when using orphan works) would improve commercialisation potential.
The main findings for Study 2 were as follows:
- Use of both public domain and third party licensed material were significantly associated with higher likelihood of project success.
- Influence of public domain status on success rate was most pronounced in the mediums of Comics and Theatre, compared with Publishing and Video Games. This suggests that the role of PD materials differs across mediums. Direct re-publication of public domain literature does not seem to be rewarded – aptation to another medium may be more attractive to backers.
- Explicitly obtaining copyright permission to use a third party work in a Kickstarter pitch was significantly associated with higher funding levels achieved.
- Previous experience and status of pitch creator was also significant to project success, suggesting that familiarity of both underlying work and its creator is important to Kickstarter funders.
Study 3 found:
- Public domain availability makes a significant difference to inclusion of images on Wikipedia. Biographies for notable authors born prior to 1880 have a greater likelihood of containing an image than those born more recently, even though camera technology became widespread in the 20th Century. Less than 58% of authors in the sample born after 1880 have images associated with their Wikipedia pages.
- Controlling for notoriety of authors, composers and lyricists using a matched-pairs technique, we found that pages with public domain images attracted between 17% and 19% more visitors than pages where no image was available, reflecting the value those images contribute to the Wikipedia resource.
- Using commercially equivalent licence fees obtained from Corbis and Getty for images relating to the biographical sample, we estimate a total value of USD $208 million (GBP £138million) per year for the 1,983,609 English-language Wikipedia pages in appropriate categories which contain public domain images.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The authors make three policy recommendations:
- Assist communities in valorising the public domain; members of the public participate as both consumers and stakeholders in relation to the public domain. As much as possible, members of the public and stakeholder communities should be offered the opportunity to be involved in curating, preserving and disseminating public domain materials. Ideally, outputs should be of professional quality and should be presented in formats which are machine-readable, manipulable, and adaptable to different mediums (to facilitate downstream use).
- As far as possible, clarify legal status of public domain; Government should provide guidance on those issues, in a format that is accessible to creators and businesses. Educational initiatives should be aimed at helping UK firms understand what is likely to be still in copyright and what is likely to be in the public domain. Increasing the strategic capabilities of the UK media sector with respect to intellectual property will likely increase licensing of copyright works alongside uptake of public domain materials – both types of usage require similar legal awareness and capacity.
- Improve access to information; many respondents focused their concern on transaction costs, as searching for and using public domain materials was often more costly than licensing a less-suitable copyright work or hiring-in a replacement original work, disinhibiting creation. Information about availability and access to public domain works will help entrepreneurs make strategic decisions. Centralised databases of works with associated metadata, such as the Wikimedia Commons project, have sought to overcome such problems in limited, specific contexts. Initiatives to increase the centralisation and searchability of public domain data will likely lower these barriers to entry and encourage innovation and new products.
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Company|
|Period of material under study:||2014|
|Level of aggregation:||Kickstarter projects|
|Period of material under study:||January - April 2014|
|Level of aggregation:||Wikipedia pages|
|Period of material under study:||2014|