According to the US Constitution, copyright is about promoting “the Progress of Science and useful Arts”; it’s not about enriching authors, except as a means of promoting said “Progress.”
Here comes the Science:
“Data on the supply of new works are consistent with our argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers,” they write in their paper, “File-sharing and Copyright" (PDF).
"The publication of new books rose by 66 percent over the 2002-2007 period. Since 2000, the annual release of new music albums has more than doubled, and worldwide feature film production is up by more than 30 percent since 2003… In our reading of the evidence there is little to suggest that the new technology has discouraged artistic production. Weaker copyright protection, it seems, has benefited society.”
Indeed, they round up a host of studies from the past few years suggesting that, on average, one-fifth of declining music sales might be chalked up to piracy. (The rise of new entertainment options like video game has also hurt the business, and consumers finally stopped “re-buying” old albums on CD by the mid-2000s.)
Looked at more broadly, the music industry “has grown considerably” in the last few years. When concert revenue is added to recorded music revenue, the authors note that the overall industry grew more than 5 percent between 1997 and 2007.
That’s in large part because consumers’ willingness to pay for “complements” like concerts and merchandise goes up as the price of music and movies falls, and because consumers are exposed to many more artists when prices are low or nonexistent.
The IFPI isn’t buying it, naturally, and make a good counterpoint:
“Live performance earnings are generally more to the benefit of veteran, established acts, while it is the younger developing acts, without lucrative live careers, who do not have the chance to develop their reputation through recorded music sales.” Thus, recorded music sales remain important.
And IFPI’s 2010 “Digital Music Report” (PDF) makes the case that artists are producing less in states with high piracy rates. “In France, there has been a striking fall in the number of local repertoire albums released in recent years,” says the report.
The interesting thing to me is the “Weaker copyright protection has benefitted society” angle. And there’s some new data points here on the same old conversation.