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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 19 No. 2 (Spring 2005)

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Copying and Copyright

Article Citation

Varian, Hal R. 2005. "Copying and Copyright." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(2): 121-138.

DOI: 10.1257/0895330054048768

Abstract

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.

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Varian, Hal R.

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