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Revista de Economía Institucional

Print version ISSN 0124-5996


KHAN, Zorina. Copyright piracy and development: United States evidence in the nineteenth century. Rev. Econ. Inst. [online]. 2008, vol.1Selected edition, pp. 21-54. ISSN 0124-5996.

Does the lack of international copyrights benefit or harm developing countries? This article examines the effects of U.S. copyright piracy during a period when the U.S. was a developing country. U.S. statutes protected the copyrights of American citizens from 1790, but until 1891 deemed the works of foreign citizens to be in the public domain. In 1891, the laws were changed to allow foreigners to obtain copyright protection in the United States if certain conditions were met. Thus, this episode in American history provides us with a convenient way of investigating the consequences of international copyright piracy. The analysis is based on copyright registrations, information on authors, book titles and prices, financial data from the accounts of a major publishing company, and lawsuits regarding copyright questions to investigate the welfare effects of widespread infringement of foreign works on American publishers, writers, and the public. The results suggest that the United States benefited from piracy and that the choice of copyright regime was endogenous to the level of economic development.

Keywords : copyrights; development; JEL: K11, O1, Z1.

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