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 17: Open source and open access: new paradigms in the theory of copyright

Richard Watt


The economics of copyright is founded, principally, upon the premise that, in order to expend their efforts creating valuable works of authorship, creative individuals require that the rights in their work be protected from competition by second-comers who could otherwise compete for consumers without having suffered the initial creation costs. In effect, under a regime of copyright protection, second-comers would have to pay licensing fees to the copyright holder if they would like to exploit the work in a market, and those copyright fees are the primary source of incentives for the author to invest effort in creating the work in the first place. It is therefore, at least at first glance, somewhat counter-intuitive that copyright holders may find it to be in their best interests to waive any copyright fees, making their works freely available to whoever would like to use them. And yet this, in a nutshell, is the underlying idea behind the relatively recent open-source and, to a lesser extent open access, models. In this chapter we shall look a little more closely into the economics of these new regimes, with the objective of clarifying why and in what sense they are economically viable for copyright holders, and how these models may or may not co-exist with traditional models of proprietary rights management.

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