You are here:


The complex economics of the public domain

Prominent economists (and US trade negotiators) assert that bad things happen when creative works fall into the public domain. They insist that works without owners to shepherd them will become inaccessible, worn out, or mis-used and, therefore, the term of copyright should continue to be extended. Yet, recent empirical studies show that books falling into the public domain become more accessible and unprotected music becomes more frequently used. Audiobooks are more likely to be produced from public-domain books, and the quality of public-domain audio versions is high. Moreover, econometric studies of public-domain photos prove how the absence of legal protection can be accurately measured in dollar terms. Behind each of these studies are fascinating histories of individual works in the marketplace. The complex economics of the public domain can be illustrated through those stories and told in a way that engages academics, policymakers, and the general public alike.



Fellows involved in this project


Related news


Related publications

Book/Book Chapter

Heald, Paul J. 2020. COPY THIS BOOK! What data Tells Us about Copyright and the Public Good. Stanford University Press.

Journal Article

Heald, P. J. (2019). The effect of copyright term length on South African book markets (with reference to the Google book project). South African Intellectual Property Law Journal, 7, 71–98.

Share this project:

Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].