Handbook on the Economics of Copyright
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Handbook on the Economics of Copyright

A Guide for Students and Teachers

Edited by Richard Watt

Featuring expert contributors from around the world, this book offers insight into the vital theoretical and practical aspects of the economics of copyright. Topics discussed include fair use, performers’ rights, copyright and trade, online music streaming, internet piracy, copyright and visual art markets, and open source publishing. In addition to in-depth coverage of these timely topics, the authors also offer insightful predictions and policy recommendations for the future.
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Chapter 1: The basic economic theory of copyright

Richard Watt


One way to describe ‘economics’ is as the study of how incentives can curb behaviour. And clearly one of the greatest incentive mechanisms that is present in all modern societies is the legal system, where the general rules of acceptable human conduct are spelled out along with (at least a perception of) the possible repercussions if that conduct is violated. In that sense, then, it is hardly surprising that economists have a strong tradition of studying the law, addressing such questions as; What are the final consequences of particular laws? Are the consequences of laws actually those that were intended? How can the law be altered so as to better address the intended consequences? This general research agenda has come to be known as the subject area of ‘law and economics’, and within that subject area, the study of copyright law has held a prominent position. Economists have been interested in studying the very justifications and purpose of copyright law, in terms of the outcomes of copyright protection. In short, copyright protection is seen as a means by which a greater number of better quality, creative works will be produced.

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