Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2018


International and domestic copyright law reform around the world is increasingly focused on how copyright exceptions — a.k.a. “user rights” —should be expanded to promote maximum innovation, 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 are developing such a tool, which we call the “User Rights Database.” This paper describes the methodology used to create the Database and the results of initial empirical tests using it. We find that all of the countries in our study are trending toward more “open” copyright user rights over time –meaning that copyright exceptions have developed over time to cover more works, uses, users and purposes than before. However, we find a development gap in the data, with wealthy countries in our sample are about thirty years ahead of developing countries. Our empirical tests find positive relationships between more open user rights and innovative activities in information and communication technology industries. We do not find evidence that opening user rights causes harm to revenue of copyright intensive industries such as publishing and entertainment.