|Copyright Auctions and the Asset Value of a Copyright Work
|Towse, R. (2016) Copyright Auctions and the Asset Value of a Copyright Work. Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues. 13(2), pp83-99
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|About the Data
|The research examines “copyright auctions” (of engraved plates of musical works which also confer a copyright in that work) from the Puttick and Simpsons auction house from 1794-1960. Prices are obtained from the study of a musicologist James Coover (1983) who reported on the selling price of the lots, the author noting that these figures tend to be skewed towards the exceptional (and therefore inflated figures are anticipated); figures from the LRP-SLAS data from 1865 are also included. The figures reported at the time have been converted into GBP value at 2015.
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“Research on the economic history of copyright and music publishing turned up an unusual source of data on the value of copyrights, namely detailed accounts of public auctions of musical items that were held in London between 1794 and 1960 of, inter alia, copyrights and the engraved plates from which musical works were printed. The standard contract between song writers/composers and music publishers in the 19th century bought out all rights and therefore the sale of the plates was also the sale of the copyright to the work, enabling the new owner to print and distribute the work. The sales also facilitated entry into and exit from the industry.
This paper describes the historical circumstances of copyright and the market for printed music and presents some of the more notable data, with calculations of their present day values. Though insufficient for a full statistical analysis, the paper provides some hard evidence of the asset value of copyright in musical works as perceived by the music publishers of those times. The paper also suggests a basis for further research.”
Main Results of the Study
The research finds that an analysis of historical “copyright auctions” is a reliable means of establishing the true asset value of copyright works; as the copper plates which were purchased at these auctions also confer a copyright to the purchaser (a business to business transaction), these are indicative of the overall publishing asset value.Works appeared to devalue based on lack of cultural appeal, noting that Virginia Gabriel’s ‘Cleansing Fires’ consistently held its value from 1889 until 1895, and declining sharply in 1904 (as the work would still be in copyright at this point, this is not an explanatory factor). Other works that fell into the public domain, namely Blockey’s ‘An Arab’s Farewell to his Favourite Steed’, held great value upon the authors death before inexplicably decreasing years later (again suggesting that copyright is not an explanatory factor).The price paid for historical musical works is overall surprisingly high (noting that the author recognises the potential for skewing based on the primary data). The highest figure paid for a work in the dataset was in 1898, in respect of Macheroni’s ‘For All Eternity’ (£262,261 in 2015 value).
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The research does not state any policy implications, but rather an overview of the historical asset value of musical works, and a means of measuring this from an economic perspective. The author does suggest that this historical evidence appears to point to many possible explanatory factors for the increase or decrease in value of a musical work, which is not explained by copyright.
Coverage of Study