Copyright Law and Digital Piracy: An Econometric Global Cross-national Study

October 14, 2016

Digital piracy is a worldwide concern. Both very high and very low rates of intellectual property infringement threaten innovation, thus implying that some level of effective copyright regulation is required to incentivize the creation of original works. However, although Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates for social access to culture as well as the protection of copyright, many countries do not yet have an economic and legal balance between authors and consumers.
This article aims to identify which copyright law measures are more related to low/high digital piracy rates. To address that question, the author presents a picture of how the world of copyright is today. The empirical law and economics methodology used in this paper thus consists of a content analysis of significantly selected copyright law measures that have been more or less broadly implemented, or that have been dismissed by 108 countries in their current national copyright statutes. After processing the resultant database (or coding scheme) with econometric and descriptive statistical tools, the findings suggest that: (1) the legal measures correlated to high digital piracy rates include the sweat of the brow doctrine and secondary liability rules for Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”); (2) the measures most connected to low piracy rates are private copying and fair use provisions; (3) statutes that favor copyright holders are associated with greater rates of digital piracy; and (4) richer countries show lower levels of copyright infringement, which validates the development economics theory. Because there is no extant literature on this topic, these results constitute the first step toward a comprehensive cross-national quantitative study on comparative copyright law and digital piracy, both in descriptive and explanatory terms.
Without doubt, this project will excite scholars in economics and intellectual property but will also intrigue international policymakers as the outcomes of this study provide core policy guidelines on copyright that legislatures and governments around the world can implement. These interdisciplinary recommendations are in line with designing a new and economically viable regulatory copyright model which aims to reduce piracy rates and to solve the global tension between authors and consumers in the digital era.