In the recent debate in the UK about copyright extension for performances, one of the key points raised by many who were against the proposal was that economic studies suggested that it would really only help a few big superstars (who probably were well enough off already) while harming up-and-coming artists greatly. Christian Zimmerman
points us to a recent economics paper by Francisco Alcala and Miguel Gonzalez-Maestre that models why this happens, and points out that copyright extension actually serves to decrease incentives for the creation of new content
. The full paper
(pdf) basically points out that extending copyright really only helps the superstar performers, since, for everyone else, the economic value of the content is exhausted by the time the extension would matter. That's pretty obvious. But the more troubling part is that this also then negatively impacts the market for new artists, because money and attention that might have gone towards new works end up going instead to those older works.
Increasing the returns in the case of success may be counter productive
for helping new artistic careers. Most artistic markets operate in the framework of an
overwhelming machinery of promotion and advertising. Incentives to invest in the promotion
of the superstars rise as the prospects of superstars' revenues improve (as caused
by modifications in the regulation of copyrights or the size of global markets). In this
environment, the expected discounted return of a young artist' career may be reduced as
a result of a positive shock to superstars' revenues. As a consequence, larger high-type
artists' revenues may result in the long run in fewer numbers of artists, and therefore, less
high-quality artistic creation.
Nice to see more economists recognizing the problems of the current copyright system.