Power of Haas Ideas

Shortchanging Wikipedia Readers

Copyright and knowledge sharing

Whether and how copyright should be modified for the digital age is a much-debated topic in policy and legal circles. But there is little empirical evidence showing whether copyright influences the diffusion and reuse of digital information. Haas Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj explored just that in his new study conditionally accepted in Management Science.

Nagaraj focused his study on Baseball Digest magazine, which was digitized in its entirety by Google Books in 2008. All of the issues were available online to read via Google Books; however, only some of the issues (pre-1964) were available in the public domain for Wikipedia to reuse directly. (Paraphrasing of copyrighted material would be allowed but not the use of images.)

Nagaraj found that citations to out-of-copyright issues increased 135 percent more than issues still subject to copyright restrictions. And pages that could benefit from copyrighted information received 20 percent less traffic than pages that could benefit from out-of-copyright information. Copyrighted images suffered even more lack of distribution.

This deficiency in the transfer of knowledge impacts not only Internet users who are looking for information but also users seeking to create new content. Nagaraj hopes his work will provide evidence for re-evaluating the value of copyright laws.

“If we want to incentivize new creative work using historical information, we need to fix the system,” says Nagaraj. —PT

[Back to top]

Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj