Keynote: Waldfogel on “Creative Activity and Product ‘Quality’ in Music, Movies and Books since Napster/Digitization”

Post by Dr. Theodore Koutmeridis, CREATe Research Fellow, reviewing a keynote by Prof. Joel Waldfogel (University of Minnesota) titled “Creative Activity and Product ‘Quality’ in Music, Movies and Books since Napster/Digitization”. The keynote was presented at a CREATe capacity building event hosted by the Centre for Competition Policy & University of East Anglia, Norwich at the conference ‘The Economics of Creativity and Competition: New Markets, New Challenges” held on 4th/5th February 2015.


Professor Joel Waldfogel, a global expert on industrial organisation and law and economics, delivered an outstanding keynote speech on “Digital Renaissance”, at a CREATe capacity building event at the University of East Anglia.

Initially, he outlined the bigger picture, highlighting the demand side challenges associated with digitisation in media industries, as well as the intertwined supply side benefits. The digital revolution altered the functioning of markets and the legal landscape in creative industries, influencing significantly recorded music, books, movies and television, among others. Future work on copyright research and policy requires better data both in size and in breadth to analyse the effects of rapid technical change.

Focusing on music recordings, Prof. Waldfogel examines empirically a unique historical event, the impact that Napster had on music quality. By comparing and contrasting physical and digital sales, before and after the introduction of Napster, he shows that there is no evidence that vintage quality has declined. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, according to which a revenue collapse decreases the quality of products, evidence suggests that the quality of music recording has increased. According to Waldfogel a potential explanation for this paradox is that digitisation allows experimentation and leads to the discovery of additional “good” music.

Prof. Waldfogel goes on and compares empirical findings from the music industry to evidence from books, movies and television. He concludes that digital technology brought threats to creative industries through piracy, while it has also brought opportunities via new products, easier distribution and larger markets. This presentation yields some interesting implications regarding copyright law and policy on a topical and highly debatable issue.

Find the powerpoint for the presentation here:

Download (PPTX, 739KB)

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