Following my recent blog posts on music copyright efforts in China, I have linked here an article published in July 2015 by Prof. Jiarui Liu from Stanford University, on “Copyright for Blockheads: An Empirical Study of Market Incentive and Intrinsic Motivation” at the Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts. A Chinese language summary of the statistics in that article (with English captions) is available here.
This Article presents a systematic study regarding copyright incentives, based on industrial statistics and extensive interviews from the music industry in China, which Prof. Liu states is “a virtually copyright-free environment featuring one of the highest piracy rates in the world.” This has in turn has caused a dramatic transformation of the music business.
Prof. Liu seeks to answer the following questions:
– How do musicians earn their living in the shadow of rampant copyright piracy?
– Are copyright incentives still relevant if it turns out that most musicians create music for music’s sake, not for money?
– Can niche musicians benefit from effective copyright enforcement even though copyright piracy mostly targets mainstream music?
– Why do musicians choose music careers over more lucrative jobs?
– Why do musicians commonly become multiple-job holders?
– Why do musicians often earn the majority of income from their second jobs but spend the majority of time on music?
From his abstract:
The empirical research indicates three seemingly paradoxical phenomena: (1) while 17.9% of all themusicians in the sample referred to economic benefits as at least part of their motivations for music creation, 97.4% specifically recognized money as being important and helpful for music creation; (2) while 56.4% alleged that copyright piracy did not affect their creative motivations, 72% agreed that copyright piracy does affect music creation and (3) while 53.8% explicitly admitted that they had little awareness or knowledge of copyright, 92.3% indicated that the current level of copyright protection is insufficient and 71.8% suggested that copyright law should provide strong incentives for music creation. The empirical evidence itself provides compelling explanations for such paradoxes: Even though musicians seem to primarily create music for music’s sake, copyright law could still supply powerful incentives for music production in a way that not only caters to market demand, but also allows for broader artistic freedom…
Copyright incentives do not function as a reward that musicians consciously bargain for and chase after, but as a mechanism that preserves market conditions for gifted musicians to prosper, including a decent standard of living, sufficient income to cover production costs and maximum artistic autonomy during the creative process.