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Forever Minus a Day

This article constitutes my notes on Rufus Pollock’s Paper, “FOREVER MINUS A DAY? SOME THEORY AND EMPIRICS OF OPTIMAL COPYRIGHT”, August 7th, 2007. 

Abstract. The optimal level for copyright has been a matter for extensive debate over the last decade. This paper contributes several new results on this issue divided into two parts. In the first, a parsimonious theoretical model is used to prove several novel propositions about the optimal level of protection. Specifically, we demonstrate that (a) optimal copyright is likely to fall as the production costs of ‘originals’ decline (for example as a result of digitization) and that (b) the optimal level of copyright will, in general, fall over time. The second part of the paper focuses on the specific case of copyright term. Using a simple model we characterise optimal term as a function of a few key parameters. We estimate this function using a combination of new and existing data on recordings and books and find an optimal term of around fifteen years. This is  substantially shorter than any current copyright term and implies that existing copyright terms are too long.

Why is it called Forever minus a day?,

It was in a congressional speech prior to the enactment of the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) that Mary Bono, widow of the musician Sonny Bono, famously referred to the proposal of Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, to have copyright last for ‘Forever minus a day’: “Actually, Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever. I am informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution. . . . As you know, there is also Jack Valenti’s proposal for the term to last forever less one day. Perhaps the Committee may look at that next Congress.” (CR.144.H9952)

The paper concentrates on the impact of the reduction of costs on the creation of  original artefacts.
Removing property rights is hard, policy makers should be careful about extending them.
He defines authorial rights, and neighbouring rights, the author’s rights last for the Berne defined period, life plus fifty while the exclusive rights on neighbouring artefacts, a specific recording is 50 years. He specifically mentions the UK’s change of Law where films ceased to be neighbouring artefacts and became original in 1995.
The paper concludes,

  1. The optimal length of protection falls as the cost of production falls.
  2. The optimal length of protection falls over time.

I found this, wonder if it’ll help, I find that it’s not so good on the contents of the papers, it’s more a bio of Pollock which mentions two sided platforms as an area of expertise. This article also points to “Optimal copyright over time: …”

Abstract.The optimal level for copyright has been a matter for extensive debate overthe last decade. Using a parsimonious theoretical model this paper contributes several new results of relevance to this debate. In particular we demonstrate that (a) optimal copyright is likely to fall as the production costs of ‘originals’ decline (for example as a result of digitization) (b) technological change which reduces costs of production may imply a decrease or a decrease in optimal levels of protection (this contrasts with a large number of commentators, particularly in the copyright industries, who have argued that such change necessitates increases in protection) (c) the optimal level of copyright will,in general, fall over time as the stock of work increases.

Two sided platforms start with assumptions that the economies of scale are a benefit to both sides i.e. an assumption which undermines the creative’s demands that all value accrues to them, not the customers nor the platform provider.

Comment ( 1 )

  1. Dave
    I looked at this today, and inserted the comments & abstract about "Optimal copyright over time: ...". Rufus Pollock now has his own site.

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