Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management in the Aetna Chair, Emeritus
This paper, written for a conference of the Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues, explores the history of copyright protection for musical compositions. The first modern copyright law did not cover musical works. The role of Johann Christian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johann Neopmuk Hummel in securing legal changes is traced. How Giuseppe Verdi exploited the new copyright law in Northern Italy is analyzed. The paper argues that Verdi, enriched by copyright protection, reduced his compositional effort along a backward-bending supply curve. However, his good fortune may have had a demonstration effect inducing other talented individuals to become composers. An attempt to determine the impact of legal changes on entry into composing is inconclusive. The paper shows, however, that a golden age of musical composition nevertheless occurred in nations that lacked copyright protection for musical works.
Scherer, F.M. "The Emergence of Musical Copyright in Europe from 1709 to 1850." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP08-052, October 2008.