Copyright and digitisation

DIW Weekly Report 16/2015

In connection with digitisation, it has been a matter of dispute for years to what extent the existing copyright law contributes to a sustainable positive development of the regulated areas of society.

This report shows that significantly more music and films have been released in recent years than before the spread of digital copying technology. According to user ratings, the average quality of the releases has remained about the same. Besides, countries with stronger copyright protection do not publish significantly more new works. Relatively strong copyright protection measures in some countries do not encourage the supply of new creative works.

This report also looks at whether professional content is being supplemented or replaced by user-generated content. This type of non-profit publication is not covered by standard statistics and adds to the diversity of content. User-generated content is likely to be less encouraged by strong copyright protection than professional content. Replacing professional content with “amateur publications” could therefore reduce the copyright protection that is desirable for society as a whole.

However, we find that professional content also accounts for almost half of the content on YouTube, is viewed more frequently than average and is rated positively. A widespread replacement of professional content is not evident. Moreover, a large part of the user-generated content on YouTube contains parts of professional publications. Consequently, the offer of user-generated content could also be promoted by more efficient copyright protection that strengthens the professional offer of creative works without unduly restricting their further use as input for user-generated content.

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