Papers on the Size and Value of EU Public Domain

I’ve just posted two new papers on the size of and ‘value’ the EU Public Domain. These papers are based on the research done as part of the Public Domain in Europe (EUPD) Research Project (which has now been submitted).

  • Summary Slides Covering Size and Value of the Public Domain – Talk at COMMUNIA in Feb 2010
  • The Size of the EU Public Domain

    This paper reports results from a large recent study of the public domain in the European Union. Based on a combination of catalogue and survey data our figures for the number of items (and works) in the public domain extend across a variety of media and provide one of the first quantitative estimates of the ‘size’ of the public domain in any jurisdiction. We find that for books and recordings the public domain is around 10-20% of published extant output and would consist of millions and hundreds of thousands of items respectively. For films the figure is dramatically lower (almost zero). We also establish some interesting figures relevant to the orphan works debate such as the number of catalogue entries without any identified author (approximately 10%).

  • The Value of the EU Public Domain

    This paper reports results from a large recent study of the public domain in the European Union. Based on a combination of catalogue, commercial and survey data we present detailed figures both on the prices (and price differences) of in copyright and public domain material and on the usage of that material. Combined with the estimates for the size of the EU public domain presented in the companion paper our results allow us to provide the first quantitative estimate for the `value’ of the public domain (i.e. welfare gains from its existence) in any jurisdiction. We also find clear, and statistically significant, differences between the prices of in-copyright and public-domain in the two areas which we have significant data: books and sounds recordings in the UK. Patterns of usage indicate a significant demand for public domain material but limitations of the data make it difficult to draw conclusions on the impact of entry into the public domain on demand.

The results on price differences are particularly striking, as to my knowledge, these are by far the largest analysis done to date. More significantly, they clearly show that the claim in the Commission’s impact assessment that there was no price effect of copyright (compared to the public domain) was wrong. That claim was central to the impact assessment and to the proposal to extend copyright term in sound recordings (a claim that was based on a single study using a very small size, performed by PwC as part of a music-industry sponsored piece of consultancy for submission to the Gowers review).

5 thoughts on “Papers on the Size and Value of EU Public Domain

  1. Pingback: Denying The Public Domain Has A Very Real Cost

  2. Pingback: Denying The Public Domain Has A Very Real Cost | Techdirt

  3. Matt

    Well done! Obviously, these are a work in progress (the value paper even has a “TO DO” section). They are provocative already.

    On value – you are not distinguishing (perhaps because it cannot be done with available data) between the value of the public domain and the value of the price difference between copyrighted works and public domain works. Say a tracking license for a song were offered in three different packages: in the first, the song would be licensed for a fee; in the second, the song would be licensed without a fee; and in the third, the song would be available without license, free for the public to use. In order to avail oneself of the first opportunity, you would have to be a member of a club. The second would require gold-level membership, and the third platinum-level membership. The value question would be how much would someone pay for gold- and platinum-level memberships, and how much for a license?

    Presumably, the value proposition will be linked to what is included in the license, and to the intrinsic value of the work. For instance, if the license is not perpetual, or is geographically limited, or if it does not include relicensing rights, then the member might be willing to pay more to obtain an unlicensed version. Put differently, in order to value public domain versus copyright (rather than works that have passed into the public domain versus works that have not,) one would really have to develop a mechanism for valuing a bundle of rights. Because the bundle represented by copyright effectively can pass piecemeal into the public domain (for instance, under a CC license like the one you have applied to your papers) and you only value works as being in the public domain once the entire bundle of rights has been extinguished, you are probably significantly undervaluing the public domain.

    Also, this work only values works in the public domain that have passed due to their age (rather than, for instance, because of a failure of formalities when they were required). As such, you were not only comparing public domain to copyright, but very old to relatively new and popular (and heavily marketed, and familiar, and currently culturally relevant, etc.). If you were to correct for this, the per work usage rates for public domain works (and thus the per work value) presumably would be substantially higher. Of course, the longer the copyright term, the more dated the work by the time it passes out of copyright – so term extensions, among other things, undermine our ability to evaluate whether further term extensions will be socially valuable.

    This is excellent work, and points the way to additional scholarship that must be done.

  4. Pingback: Introducing: The Public Domain Review

  5. Pingback: miscellaneous factZ – The online home of Rufus Pollock » Blog Archive » Progress in the last 3 months

Leave a Reply