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Free Content Copying and Copyright

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Today most newly created textual, photographic, audio, and video content is available in digital form. Even older content that was not 'born digital' can relatively easily converted to machine-readable formats. At same time, the world has become more networked, making it easy to transfer digital content from one person to another. The combination of technological progress in both digitization and computer networking has been a challenge for traditional ways of managing intellectual property. Some observers have even questioned whether current models for intellectual property can or should survive in a digital world. For example, there is widespread concern about piracy of popular music and film, both via the network and via bootleg CDs and DVDs. There is also concern about the economic viability of the current model for scholarly publication, or, for that matter traditional forms of publishing such as newspapers and TV network news. These developments have led to a revival of interest in the economics of copying and copyright. In this brief review we examine some of the economic issues in this area, and describe some of the insights that have emerged from this work. We end with some reflections on alternative business models for provision of creative works.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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