Document Type

Symposia Article


Part I explores the challenge that COPYRIGHT’S EXCESS tackles. It explains the core of copyright’s incentive theory, why it is difficult to test it empirically, and how COPY- RIGHT’S EXCESS rises to that challenge, especially by exploring the lack of correlation between sales and productivity, and, in particular, superstars’ productivity in the music industry.

Parts II-IV of this Essay consider several explanations for the lack of correlation. Part II addresses the sometimes-neglected role of the recording companies. Those intermediaries profoundly affect the art- ists’ compensation and their creative decisions. Therefore, any analysis of the connection between sales, artistic income, and artistic output (i.e., productivity), needs to consider their role. Part III addresses one of Lunney’s theories for explaining the discrepancy between sales and productivity. Labor economists have long held that while low-paid workers will wish to work more as their compensation increases, highly-paid workers will instead substitute work time for leisure time as their compensation increases and work less. Can this phenomenon explain why superstars became less productive when the music industry’s sales peaked? In Part III, I explain why I find this explanation unlikely. Superstars, this Part suggests, are probably too wealthy to be affected by this phenomenon.

Part IV focuses on the superstars’ incentives to continue to create even after their previous successes have made them very wealthy. It suggests that the main driving forces of top musicians are likely their internal joy from creating, and possibly more importantly, the social- psychological reward that is attached to their success. Ultra-wealthy businessmen present a similar phenomenon: They continue to work even when they already accumulate enough wealth to meet all their material needs because, as studies suggest, they enjoy their work, and they love to be considered successful by their reference group. It is reasonable to expect wealthy musicians to act similarly for corre- sponding motivations.

Part V briefly considers some of the possible implications. If top- artists are not primarily motivated by money, putting aside the status that is attached thereto, then society should be hesitant to devise a copyright system that makes those wealthy individuals even richer. It might get very little in return. In that respect, this Essay ends close to where COPYRIGHT’S EXCESS does: with the call for copyright law to focus on incentivizing marginal artists and not the super-rich.



First Page


Last Page




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.