How long should the copyright term last? Copyright provides a long term of legal excludability, ostensibly to encourage the production of new creative works. The extent to which this term aligns with the economic incentives of creators has been subject to vigorous theoretical debate. Using a novel longitudinal dataset of music sales and streaming, we assess the economic viability of content in a major content industry: commercial music. We find that the typical work has an extremely short sales ‘half life’ – on the order of months, rather than years or decades. We also find suggestive evidence that new forms of distribution (such as subscription streaming services) are extending the commercial viability of music, relative to traditional sales media.
Garcia, Kristelia and Hicks, James and McCrary, Justin, Copyright and Economic Viability: Evidence from the Music Industry (January 30, 2020).