Economic Research



Spotlight

In January 2024, the Office of the Chief Economist convened a roundtable of economic experts on copyright and artificial intelligence to discuss what empirical and theoretical evidence should be developed in order to make well-informed policy decisions. Based on this discussion, the group will produce a report intended to guide the research community towards the most pressing research questions

The U.S. Copyright Office is committed to expanding access to the copyright system, honing our expertise, and enhancing our use of data to better understand and support the copyright system. Advancing economic research on copyright through the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) plays an integral role in achieving those goals.

OCE is dedicated to cultivating scientific evidence to further inform decisions relevant to copyright policy and the administration of copyright systems. OCE advises the Register and other senior officials on how these decisions may impact the Copyright Office, copyright stakeholders, and the general public.


Located within the Office of Policy and International Affairs, the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) provides expert economic analysis and advice on copyright policy and its effects on creators, consumers of creative works, and the general public.

OCE staff engage in activities aimed at

  1. producing new, policy-relevant research on copyright;
  2. encouraging and facilitating external policy-relevant research on copyright; and
  3. assessing and applying existing economic research to ongoing policy and operational questions.

Much of this research revolves around understanding how stakeholders (including creators, consumers, and intermediaries) interact with the copyright system and how the costs and benefits of that system affect stakeholders and the general public. Other research focuses on the trends that can change the cost-benefits calculus of the copyright system, such as evolving technologies and laws.

OCE also makes data generated through the copyright registration system publicly available and assists researchers in understanding the institutional factors behind that data to enable further research.

OCE’s research mission is to cultivate credible scientific evidence upon which to base copyright-relevant policy and procedural decisions. The goal is to ensure that the system works effectively for the benefit of stakeholders and the public and that it operates in a way that is consistent with policy objectives. OCE focuses its research in three general areas:

  1. The economic efficiency and equity of the copyright system

    A number of factors influence the efficiency and equity of the copyright system. These factors include both the operational policies of the Copyright Office, such as those related to registration fees or community engagement, and the legal policies around copyright protection, such as resale rights, piracy prevention, or the treatment of orphan works. Establishing a more robust body of evidence on these issues can increase the efficiency and equity of the system.

  2. The effects of developing technologies on copyright-relevant concerns

    Evolving technologies present a range of novel copyright policy questions as well as opportunities for enhancing the copyright system. Such technologies include, for example, artificial intelligence, blockchain-enabled smart contracting, digital access, and piracy safeguards, among others. Understanding the full spectrum of economic and social risks as well as the potential benefits associated with these technologies is essential for making informed policy decisions.

  3. Establishing foundations, tools, and data for enhancing and broadening external research on copyright

    Establishing research tools and the foundations for using those tools is a key strategic focus intended to increase the breadth and pace of economic research on copyright policy. These tools include, for example, datasets on copyright registrations, instructions on the use of certain complex data, as well as empirical analyses that establish the contexts in which such data can be used as a valid measure.

Copyright Office Reports

Published

Women in the Copyright System

The report reveals a complex and evolving picture of women’s participation in the creative professions and their use of the copyright registration system.

Forthcoming

Analysis of the Demand for Standard Copyright Registration

This study uses historical registration data to calculate the change in the volume of applications the Office receives as a result of fee changes. The results of the analysis can be used to form expectations around how application volume, fee revenues, and direct costs will change in response to changing fees in the future. It also provides insights into how sensitive different groups of rightsholders are to price and thus how reliant they may be on the copyright system.

Scholarly Research

Forthcoming

Extending Intellectual Property Research in Copyright: A New Dataset from the U.S. Copyright Office

This paper introduces a newly available dataset containing U.S. Copyright records for 1978–2021. The data include nearly 20 million copyright registrations as well as over 12 million records of copyright renewals, terminations of granted rights, rights transfers, and other activities. The intent is for this data to facilitate progress on copyright research to parallel the wider IP literature that has blossomed since patent data became widely available.

The U.S. Copyright Office has released a dataset of copyright registration records, copyright renewal records, and recorded document records, from January 1, 1978, to July 8, 2021. It contains information on authors, types of works registered, publication status, and other relevant copyright information. More detailed descriptions of the fields, variables, and definitions can be found in the document, “Library of Congress Copyright information As Distributed in the MARC 21 Format.” OCE is working to produce and publish useful tools and processed data subsets derived from these raw data.

The full dataset is available here.