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Copyright’s Contributions to the Art Industry Essay

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Updated: Sep 14th, 2022


Copyright plays a critical role in ensuring that society’s creative works are preserved. It is worth noting that lack of copyright would deny creators the opportunity to make new works. Copyright is an exclusive right that is enjoyed by an artist, such as a musician, thespian, or an author of a published work. It denies others the opportunity to reproduce the same work for their own benefit (Netanel, 1996, p. 290). Apart from protecting individuals and their works of art, copyright also helps societies preserve their unique artwork. Amidst the positive aspects of copyright, there have also been negative thoughts against individuals or societies holding exclusive artwork rights. This paper seeks to discuss the topical issue and elaborate on the positive contributions that copyright makes in the art industry at large.

Provision of Rich Creative Works

Copyright provides motivation for innovation. Artists enjoying copyright protection have the authority to protect the potential consumers from acquiring copyright material. The authority is critical in giving permission to producers of copyright material to have an opportunity of earning rewards within the market (Jenkins, 2004). This motivates the artists, urges their innovation capabilities, and broadens the social advantages of promoting copyright-related industries. In turn, this increases the range of services or goods provided in the market.

However, the critics of the copyright question mainly attack this position by mentioning the resultant costs and economic benefits of copyright. The critics argue that the material incentives that are provided by copyright lack the relevance related to the innovative development pushing copyright works, as well as the other subject matter (Park, 2010, p. 53). The net benefit of copyright, in terms of its ability to reward innovation, is also questioned in a scenario where more copyright materials are imported compared to the export materials. The other area of criticism has been on determining whether the relevant costs incurred during the granting of proprietary rights against information offset the copyright benefits.

Virtually all artists, from time immemorial, have been conventional in terms of finances. Such artists in the past relied on the state, the church, or sometimes just individuals in society who were wealthy to earn their income. The market remained as the premier source of income for the sale of their artwork in case all the other options appeared to be less viable. This scenario is true even today where art has turned out to be more of a profession than a mere pass time activity (Lessig, 2004, p. 113).

Copyright plays the critical role of upholding and supporting innovation as more individuals turn into professional artists. In other words, it is only practical for innovators to find a position in which rewards can be captured equivalent to the overall benefit that the society attains from their artwork. It is only after these conditions are met that the recovery of the risk-adjusted investment costs can equally be attained fully. Copyright grants the artists the exclusive rights over their art work, thereby providing a good platform for accentuating this condition. The exclusive rights granted are tradable in the market, making it possible for the artists to earn an incentive from the sale of their work. Although it is still possible for some level of innovation to take place in the absence of a clear mention of the material incentives provided by copyright, it is critical to point out that efficient innovation still requires copyright (Park, 2010, p. 53).

In the event that the copyright protection of artwork is eliminated, there is a greater likelihood that many literary, dramatic, musical, and drawing works will not be produced. Where such artistry works would somehow still be produced, the quality and quantity would obviously be diminished. Copyright is actually the reason why professional artists exist in the industry because they can produce their works and sell them in the market without fear of someone else copying and reproducing their innovation. Copyright also brings about healthy competition in both the industry and the market. Artists, by virtue of the realization that they have to be innovative enough to capture the market, work hard to produce original works of art that keep attracting the market (Collins, 2010, p. 38).

A case in point that indicates how important copyright is in enhancing innovation and business competition is that of Xerox. Xerox became the first company to come up with the idea of computer programming early in the 1980s before the idea of copyright was fully integrated into the business of computer programs (Tietz & Parker, 2010, p. 1). The company was the first to break into the business idea of office computers, developing its own version of the “Star” system. However, Apple Computers Company eventually took the benefits of the idea through the launch of its Macintosh brand of computers. Many of the key product features that were contained in the Macintosh at the time had been copied from Xerox’s original “Star” system idea. The Macintosh spotted ‘windows’ and ‘mouse’ were all originally developed and thought out by Xerox.

Thus, from the Xerox case, it is easy to see how important copyright is in the protecting ideas and enhancing innovation and competition. Had the idea of copyright been introduced into the computer software and programs field by then, Xerox would not have lost the huge revenues that its innovation generated later. All other competitors in the industry, including Apple, would only have had the chance to either introduce their own unique products, or buy the rights from Xerox to integrate the “Star” system features into their Macintosh and other brands of computers (Tietz & Parker, 2010, p. 1).

Benefit to Exporting Countries

Copyrighted materials or pieces of artwork do not lose their exclusive rights even when they are traded internationally in different countries (Doctorow, 2008, p. 56). The World Trade Organization observes several trading agreements that take into account the basic principle that governs the equal treatment of the participating member countries. Some of the agreements that are contained in these international business accords include the broadcast, as well as transmission of related rights and the rights that relate to the public performance, as well as communication (Doctorow, 2008, p. 56).

This framework eliminates the arguments fronted by the critics of copyright protection. The critics argue that such protection limits the market reach of such products. Artists whose works are copyrighted need not worry about losing their exclusive rights once their artworks are sold in international markets. With the globalization phenomenon spreading very fast, all countries in the world are literally signatories to some of the international or regional trade agreements that seek to protect the exclusivity of such artwork exported from one country to another (Lopes & Casson, 2012, p. 287). Even where the importing country is not a signatory to such conventions, it will still be compelled to observe the exclusivity rights before the goods or services can eventually be sold.

The main issue of contention in this argument pits together protectionism and its benefits and costs, on the one hand, against free trade, on the other hand (Roda, 2004, p. 5). Copyright does not, in any way, infringe or block the occurrence of free trade. Copyrighted materials are still sold in different markets throughout the world, although the materials remain protected even after acquisition by the customer. This ensures that somebody does not take advantage of the distance between the producer and the customer to reproduce the work and sell it as if he or she owns the original rights.

Right of ownership, which copyright purports to protect, is not a bad idea. However, the copyright fails to achieve extended benefits owing to the copyright being imbedded, as well as being limited by socioeconomic, macroeconomic, social, culture, and ecology (Smiers & van Schijndel, 2009, p. 11). From a cultural point of view, for instance, it leaves many questions regarding whether draping an individual’s ownership or tenure around the creation of artists makes it appropriate. This results in the creation of a monopoly and exclusive rights in terms of using a given piece of work. In the end, an essential component of communication ends up being privatized, making it harmful to democracy (Patterson & Lindberg, 1991, p. 29).

Censorship equated to copyright, especially going by the descriptions provided above (Smiers & van Schijndel, 2009, p. 11). Copyright does not grant anyone the right to alter any work of art or use it without the discretion of the original artist. What this structure or arrangement fails to appreciate is the fact that artists often draw or build on from where others left in the past (McCardle, 2003, p. 13). The public domain is endless, thus artists only draw from the endless public domain that is well known (Smiers & van Schijndel, 2009, p. 11). What the ensuing right does is to create a far-reaching consequence, where any significant amount of the material required by people for their communication purposes is literally placed out of reach. Although the drawing of an artistic idea of a past artwork may not really be the problem, the main challenge is in recognizing the part of the new work that is a reflection of a past artwork, regardless of how small it may be (Smiers & van Schijndel, 2009, p. 11).

Limitation on Competition

Artists produce their works in the hope of finding market among the admirers and making profit out of their own productions. However, borrowing from Pittard, Monotti, and Dun’s (2013, p. 253) observation, protection limits competition in the market, thereby paving way for market failures and distortions. It is a surprising account, given that competition laws and intellectual property protection aim at enhancing innovation. Nevertheless, the genesis of the conflict arises from the fact that while the objective of competition law is to augment social welfare by regulating the competition, intellectual property protection acts on very dissimilar building blocks (Pittard, Monotti, & Duns, 2013, p. 253).

In particular, property protection promotes monopoly because it confers market power within a relevant market. The existence of this market power, in turn, is what creates conflict with the competition law. What copyright fails to admit is the fact that products and services within the current new economy regularly exhibit what is referred to as “network effects” (Pittard, Monotti, & Duns, 2013, p. 254). In other words, the demand for a particular artwork in the market will only relate directly to the widespread manner in which it is used. The market’s significant use of a service or product directly relates to the widespread manner in which it is used. In essence, copyright only works towards limiting the market for the artists, thereby restricting their profits (Netanel, 1996, p. 301).


The copyright system has often been thought to generate income for the artist. What this argument seems to advance is the fact that lack of copyright would deny the market all the exciting artwork, including films, novels, and music. The basis of such an argument is the assumption that artists would lack incentives to continue producing such artworks because they failed to earn from their previous works. However, the actual situation shows a different picture altogether. Only a few artists throughout the entire art industry actually earn very well (Netanel, 2008, p. 77).

A case in point that highlights record labels’ mischief involves Mike Oldfield with Virgin. Mike Oldfield was signed under Virgin in 1972, with the contract agreement involving 10 albums and Richard Branson taking up Oldfield’s managerial roles. In the contractual agreement, the royalty rate for the 10 albums was set at 5% (Oldfield, 2010, p. 16). The musician realized that the deal was actually not benefiting him once Oldfield had produced the third album under the agreement in 1976, with the sales performance proving lucrative. Although 5% royalty rate appeared fairer in 1972, it gradually lost its practicability as time went by. Thus, in 1976, Oldfield noticed how new artists that were mostly inexperienced were signing deals at the rates of between 8% and 9%.

Oldfield’s great performance in the music scene helped Virgin build a big fortune from the business created. Well performing singles, including “Guilty”, and a series of tours provided both Virgin and Oldfield with the opportunity to create significant resources. However, relations between the two parties continued to worsen as Oldfield became unhappy about how Virgin handled him. Virgin benefited more than the artist himself, despite the great success of the record label coming from his music sales. Virgin argued that their actions were justified because they had agreed to sign Oldfield at a time when all the other record labels had turned him down. However, to the musician, his feelings were that the original deal needed a review to give him more say in as far as the contract was concerned, although he had virtually surrendered his copyright protection to the record label (Oldfield, 2010, p. 60).

The biggest trick that record labels use to capture artists is through the mere mention of copyright. They convince the artists that they would not be in a position to protect their own artwork if they operated on their own (Demers & Coombe, 2006, p. 116). Moreover, most artists are easily convinced that signing an agreement with a recognized record label will help them achieve their objective. This comes from the fact that most of the artists at that juncture are usually less advanced and have fewer resources to protect their own work from piracy.

What this argument portrays, in other words, is the fact that copyright may not actually be promoting incentives to the artists. More often than not, most musicians are never in a position to turn down what in the initial sense appears to them like lucrative deals during the signing of deals (Weissman, Carlin, & Morrison, 2006, p. 148). They are enticed with large sums of money, tempting them to append their signatures on what they have not sufficiently gone through to determine its eventual benefits. Such agreements always ensure that they politely snatch away the copyright of the artist and hand it over to the enterprise, at least for a specified period. During such durations, the enterprise has the largest say over the artwork that is produced by the artist. Their say is so immense that, in some instances, they decide what the artist will earn from the sale of his or her own piece of art (Demers & Coombe, 2006, p. 116).


Copyright protects a society’s rich creative work, while allowing other societies to utilize the same work at a fee. Copyright bestows exclusivity rights to the original owner of an artistic idea, while allowing other users of the idea to pay tribute to the initiator. Copyright enhances innovation and competition in the market because it promotes the idea of incentives being earned by initiators. The copyright protection has literally turned art into a respectable profession where people earn a living out of their creativity and skills without promoting piracy. However, enterprises have also used the idea of copyright materials inappropriately to enrich themselves at the expense of the truly deserving artists. In the music industry, for instance, most record label companies earn more money than what they eventually pay the musicians involved. The record labels basically own the copyrights after signing musicians, thereby deciding on the amount they would pay the artists in the end.

List of References

Collins, S, 2010, ‘Digital fair: Prosumption and the fair use defence’, Journal of Consumer Culture, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 37-55.

Demers, JT & Coombe, R 2006, Steal this music: how intellectual property law affects musical creativity, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.

Doctorow, C 2008, Selected essays on technology, creativity, copyright, and the future of the future, Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, CA.

Jenkins, H, 2004, Textual poachers: Television fans & participatory culture, Routledge, New York, NY.

Lessig, L 2004, Free culture: How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity, The Penguin Press, New York, NY

Lopes, TS & Casson, M 2012, ‘Brand protection and the globalization of British business’, Business History Review, vol. 86, no. 2, pp. 287-310.

McCardle, M 2003, ‘Fan fiction, fandom, and fanfare: What’s all the fuss?’ Boston University Journal of Science and Technology Law, vol. 9, no. 2, pp 1-37

Netanel, MW, 1996, ‘Copyright and a democratic civil society’, The Yale Law Journal, vol. 106, no. 2, pp. 283-387

Netanel, NW 2008, Copyright’s paradox, Oxford University Press, New York, NY

Oldfield, M 2010, Changeling: The autobiography of Mike Oldfield, Ebury Publishing, London, UK

Park, WG 2010, ‘The copyright dilemma: Copyright systems, innovation and economic development’, Journal of International Affairs, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 53-58.

Patterson, LR & Lindberg, SW 1991, The nature of copyright, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.

Pittard, JM, Monotti, AL, Duns, J 2013, Business innovation and the law: perspectives from intellectual property, labour, competition and corporate law, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK.

Roda, T 2004, ‘Copyright and trade agreements: The U.S. perspective’, Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 5-6+.

Smiers, J & van Schijndel, M 2009, Imagine there is no copyright and no cultural conglomorates too / an essay, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam

Tietz, MA & Parker, SC 2010, ‘How do you capture value from an innovation?’ Ivey Business Journal Online. Web.

Weissman, D, Carlin, R & Morrison, C 2006, American popular music: Blues, Infobase Publishing, New York, NY.

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