MacGarvie, McKeon and Watson (2018)
|MacGarvie, McKeon and Watson (2018)|
|Title:||It was Fifty Years Ago Today: Recording Copyright Term and the Supply of Music|
|Author(s):||MacGarvie, M., McKeon, J., Watson, J.|
|Citation:||MacGarvie, M., McKeon & Watson, J. (2018). It was fifty years ago today: Recording copyright term and the supply of music. NBER conference on the Economics of Digitization.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|Linked by:||Garcia, Hicks and McCrary (2020)|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||A sample of 13,238 tracks by 140 artists from 1960 up to and including the beginning of 2017.|
|Data Type:||Primary and Secondary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
This paper examines the effect of the expiry of recording copyright on the supply of music – in the form of re-releases, availability in streaming platforms, and concert performances – by artists popular in the UK in the 1960s. The term of recording copyright in the UK was extended from 50 to 70 years in 2013, implying that copyrights on recordings made in the late fifties and early sixties are no longer in force, while tracks recorded a few years later remain under copyright protection. In a sample of 13,238 tracks by 140 artists first released between 1928 and 1975, we find that the expiry of recording copyright leads to an approximately 141-247% increase in the number of re-releases, holding constant artist, age and year fixed effects. The effect is not significantly different for the most popular artists in our sample, and is not apparent in placebo regressions on a sample of US re-releases. Results on availability on the Spotify streaming music platform tell a different story: there is no significant effect of copyright expiry on the availability of tracks recorded before 1963. However, when a track’s original recording copyright expires, it becomes less likely to be performed in concert. These results point towards substantial heterogeneity in the effects of copyright on availability of cultural products across different distribution channels, and raise the question of whether the digital platform distribution model may moderate the negative effects of long copyright terms on availability.
Main Results of the Study
The main results of this study are:
- When a song enters the public domain, there are more reissues of that song, but recordings in the public domain are performed less often in concert. This suggests that, when artists are living at the time of a copyright term extension, the negative supply effects of the extension on re-releases may be counteracted by a positive supply response in live performances. This stands in contrast to prior research which has suggested that extending copyright does not encourage the restoration, maintenance and distribution of pre-existing works (Buccafusco and Heald, 2013). However, given that the artists popular in the 1960s are now in their seventies or older, this increase in the supply of performances is a temporary phenomenon.
- The results about the supply of re-releases are consistent with prior findings about copyright and the availability of books (Heald, 2008a; Reimers, 2018). This may not be surprising, because CDs and books share similar distribution models, in which multiple publishers/labels compete to offer desirable editions/releases, and the expiry of copyright lowers barriers to entry for those wishing to offer a low-priced edition/release. The resulting entry lowers prices and increases availability for both books and music distributed on CD.
- If a track is not available in CD format, consumers may choose a different track available on CD rather than switching to Spotify. This suggests that, if old music is not reissued on CD due to extended copyrights, it may fade into obscurity.
- Consumers’ desire for near universal access and the high fixed costs of negotiating licenses with record labels have led to the concentration of digital distribution among a small number of large platforms, and the entry by “generic” producers which is observed in the CD market does not exist. Despite this, we observe no difference in availability on Spotify between public-domain recordings and those remaining under copyright, presumably due to the blanket licensing of tracks by labels to DSPs.
- In the long run, the market’s shift away from CDs and towards online platforms like Spotify may thus work to moderate the negative welfare implications of copyright term extensions. It is possible that this null effect of copyright on availability is unique to Spotify, or to the sample of relatively well-known artists we have selected.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The authors conclude that the effects of term extension for sound recordings on the supply of music are mixed but state "the available evidence as examined in this paper indicates that digital platforms may help to moderate the negative effects of copyright term extensions on the availability of music from this period."
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Music copyright works|
|Period of material under study:||1960-2017|