Mises Wire

Copyright and structure of authors’ earnings

I’ve blogged before some recent findings comparing creativity and innovation in Germany and England during a period of time when Germany had little or no copyright law. (See Frank Thadeusz, No Copyright Law: The Real Reason for Germany’s Industrial Expansion? and the German version, Explosion of knowledge, der Spiegel; Jeff Tucker, Germany and Its Industrial Rise: Due to No Copyright; and my post Innovations that Thrive without IP.) This concerns a new study by economic historian Eckhard Hoffner that shows that Germany’s lack of copyright in the 19th century led to an unprecedented explosion of publishing, knowledge, etc., unlike in neighboring countries England and France where copyright law enriched publishers but stultified the spread of knowledge and limited publishing to a mass audience. According to Robert Groezinger, “This article in Der Spiegel is all about how the absence of copyright in Germany led to an “explosion of knowledge” in the 19th century. The reason there was no copyright law was that there was no central government until 1871. This contrasts with the UK, where there had been copyright since 1710, and the number of publications was lower by a factor of 10 compared to Germany. Also, the number of copies printed was much, much lower in the UK (hundreds as compared to ten thousand or so). The article claims that this is the main reason that Germany’s production and industry had caught up with everyone else by 1900.”

I’ve come across a recent slide presentation by Hoffner, which he presented at Bournemouth University’s 2009 Symposium on Copyright, Contracts and Creativity; slides are available here.They are fascinating graphic comparison of the publishing industry under different copyright regimes.

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