Document Type


Publication Date



International and domestic copyright law reform around the world is increasingly focused on how copyright user rights should be expanded to promote maximum creativity and access to knowledge in the digital age. These efforts are guided by a relatively rich theoretical literature. However, few empirical studies explore the social and economic impact of expanding user rights in the digital era. One reason for this gap has been the absence of a tool measuring the key independent variable – changes in copyright user rights over time and between countries. We developed such a tool, which we call the “User Rights Database.” This paper describes the methodology used to create the Database and the results of empirical tests using it. We find that all of the countries in our study are trending toward more open copyright user rights over time, but the wealthy countries in our sample are about thirty years ahead of developing countries on this measure. We find evidence of benefits that more open copyright user rights generate, including the development of high technology industries and scholarly publication. We do not find evidence that opening user rights causes harm to revenue of copyright intensive industries like publishing and entertainment.