Effects of Copyrights on Science - Evidence from the Wwii Book Republication Program

Barbara Biasi (Stanford University)
Petra Moser (NYU)

Abstract: This paper examines the effects of copyrights on science, through copyrights’ impact on the price of knowledge. In 1942, the American Book Republication Program (BRP) allowed US publishers to reprint exact copies of German-owned science books, leading to a 25-percent decline in the price of BRP books. Two alternative identification strategies indicate that this decline in price raised the number of new scientific articles and books that build on BRP books. A comparison across fields indicates that benefits of lower access costs were particularly strong for mathematics, a field in which knowledge production is more intensive in human than in physical capital. Library data also show that the BRP enabled more and poorer libraries to buy BRP books and make them available to a broader set of scientists across the American West, Midwest, and South. Citations data also reveal a disproportionate increase in citations for locations that are near libraries with BRP books. Two alternative measures of scientific output – changes in the number of new PhDs theses in mathematics and changes in the number of US patents that use BRP knowledge – confirm the main results.