Copyright Protections Don't Encourage Creativity

The driving force behind copyright law has always been the assumption that increases in artistic protection encourage people to be creative.

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A new study, however, uncovers surprising news: When it comes to copyright law, one size does not fit all.

Published in the November 2009 issue of Vanderbilt Law Review, the study by Case Western Reserve University copyright expert Raymond Ku and Jiayang Sun, a Case Western Reserve professor of statistics, looks at how the number of creative works registered from 1870 to 2006 was affected by increases in copyright law, population, technology and the economy.

Ku says that increases of copyright protections didn't have a uniform or predictable relationship with the number of works registered-effectively pulling the rug out from under the theory that has driven the nation's ongoing expansion of copyright law.

"In legal theory, disproportionate emphasis is placed upon the idea that artists create for profit and that legal rights are integral to that motivation," Ku says. "In reality, there is a multiplicity of motives, and the relationship between law and incentives is much more tenuous."

Even so, Ku says, the results of his study are not likely to reverse the mounting sea of copyright protections put in place over the decades.

Copyright expansions have been driven not just by the legal profession, he says, but also by industries such as the recording, motion picture and software trades, which profit on creative works, and, he says, "there's a lot of money in these industries."