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Chris Sprigman, law professor

New York University

Interviewed by Elizabeth Townsend Gard

Date January 2018


C hris is a well-known Intellectual property professor.  He sits down with us to talk about his article "Copyright and Creative Incentives: What we Know (and Don't).  He has worked on fashion, comedy, and other areas of IP.  He is a professor at New York University.





Three areas: event studies; qualitative studies; controlled experiments

Copyright as a Tax

His work on fashion and comedy

How does this work compare to "cultural commons" of Strandberg, Madison and Frischmann?

The idea going forward:

 - 100 qualitative interviews

 - work by the students on caselaw/doctrine

 - specialized focus on industry practices (and sub-industries)

-  Best Practices for Quilt Guilds and/or App for them

-  Industry book

 - General public book

-  Articles about copyright

Thoughts on interviewing

Finding the underbelly stories

Notes from conversation: 

Event studies:  1976 Bicentennial.  Did it really create a demand for quilting?  How does it impact quilting?  Wouldn't be testing copyright.  But cultural phenomenon.  Event studies are hard to do.  Strategy - differentiating external shock -- bicentennial -- from all the other things.  e.g. price of cloth drops...  Brackman's study and how that fits in

Qualitative studies:  associated with Strandburg, Madison and Frischmann.  Framework for doing qualitative work.  Attempt to establish regular procedure.  Patient in that they are not drawing normative conclusions.  Building up body of rigorous qualitative studies.  How do they work?  What motivates them?  Events and personalities that shape what they do?  Want consistency.

Another strand of qualiative studies:  more IP-focused.  Negative Space scholarship -- IP without IP scholarship.  Intellectual production without intellecual property.  Ways industry approaches creative incentives without IP being central tool.  Gives you some understanding of pwoer of IP and limitations to that power.   Example:  fashion industry.  Sprigman's work.  "Useful articles" are not protected.  Some useful articles can be protected  -- artistic separability.  Sharply limits copyright protection for garmants.   "Inspired" by garmants.  We get a ton of copying, including knock-offs, and "inspired" by garmants.  Innovative and productive.  Reason: 1) copying is productive b/c helps set trends. copying is at the hear tof the fashion cycle; 2) information costs. by anchoring designs to certain trends, copying  allows consumers an inside view on what industry produces and what industry thinks suitable to wear.  Jonathan Barnet's paper:  reduces risk.  Quick cycle of innovation.  Difficult to know if leader or follower.  Ability to copy reduces risk.  

Trademark:  firms care a lot about unauthorized use of the mark. Brand equity is important.  

Controlled Experiments:  these are the oddest.  Old discipline.  But it is not used widely in legal academic studies.  Attempts to simulate lab some innovation decision.  Atempts to measure changes in the rules can lead to different performance on the creative task.  His paper where subjects perform a variety of creative tasks.  We varied the rules in which they worked.  Some: flat compensation.  Some: if looked like copyright, entered into lottery, and chance grew depending on creative tasks.  but low bar.   Third, patent-like.  To get into the lottery, very very well.  This is simulating patents.   Once you get it, lottery.  What did they find?  The copyright incentive didn't help.  Patent structure - did some work.  Conclude?  Generalizing is hard.  

Two ways to think about experiments:  ask people to get experiments.  Imaginary world.  Viniette.  Incentive-compatible stories.  Do the thing.  Incentives set up to behave that we can predict.  If they don't behave.  Controlled and treament group.  One thing different.  One thing causes behavior to change.  One thing would change....  Highly stylized.  Abstracted from reality.  What drives behavior?  If go through recent IP experiments, very simple.   

Beginning a project:  qualitative projects to begin.  Not a lot of math.  Allows to tell through interviews very complex texture story.  How creativity happens.  Property.  appropriation.  Questions through carefully done qualitative study.   Qualitative study sets the table.

Then, quanitative --






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