As I have expressed before on this blog, I am no big fan of patents and copyrights, and monopoly power in general. I am particularly annoyed, on a personal level, by copyrights on music that have been menacing Internet radio for a while now. I have always believed that the fact that artists have a free medium that allows them to be discovered is much better for them than being fed on commercial radio what the big labels deem good for the general public.
So it is refreshing to see that there are other arguments that show that copyrights are bad for artists. Francisco Alcalá and Miguel Gonzalez-Maestre model the artist market taking into account that it is close to a winner-take-all tournament, that the number of artists worth listening to depends on the number of them starting out (in other words, there is hidden talent that reveals itself with time), and promotions matter a lot. They find that lengthening copyrights, while increasing profits of superstars, does not necessarily encourage more people to become artists. And increasing the pool of talent is what we really care about. The key intuition here is that with longer copyrights, superstars will provide more effort in the form of promotions in order to capture a larger share of the markets. Less is left ofr other talent, who then do not bother starting a career.