Journal article

What Happens When Books Enter the Public Domain? Testing Copyrights Underuse Hypothesis Across Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada

Jacob Flynn, Rebecca Giblin, Francois Petitjean

University of New South Wales Law Journal | University of New South Wales | Published : 2019


A key justification for copyright term extension has been that exclusive rights encourage publishers to make older works available (and that, without them, works will be 'underused'). We empirically test this hypothesis by investigating the availability of ebooks to public libraries across Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. We find that titles are actually less available where they are under copyright, that competition apparently does not deter commercial publishers from investing in older works, and that the existence of exclusive rights is not enough to trigger investment in works with low commercial demand. Further, works are priced much higher when under copyright than..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by ARC

Funding Acknowledgements

ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University. This research was partially funded by ARC via projects LP160100387, FT170100011 and DE170100037. It also received funding support from Monash University. The authors thank Professors Imke Reimers and Paul J Heald who reviewed an earlier draft of the article, and the three anonymous reviewers who considered it for publication. Their thoughtful comments and feedback valuably strengthened the article.