Copyright and Creativity – Evidence from Italian Operas

A new study from researchers at Stanford University has produced evidence of a copyright fuelled boom of new operas in Italy after the introduction of French copyright laws following Napoleon’s invasions of Northern Italy in the late 18th Century.

Economists, Michela Giorcelli and Petra Moser collected detailed data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900 and found a significant increase in the number of new operas premiered per state and year. The study also shows that the number of high-quality operas increased – measured both by their contemporary popularity and by the longevity of operas.

States that did not benefit from new copyright laws did not experience the same boom. Study of the number of operas produced per state and year for states with and without copyright laws shows that states with copyrights produced 2.68 additional operas per year, which compared with a mean of 2.21 new operas per state and years, implies a 121 percent increase. Historically popular operas (as measured by the Annals of Opera) grew by 47 percent, and durable operas grew by 80 percent.

See Giorcelli, Michela and Moser, Petra, Copyright and Creativity – Evidence from Italian Operas (November 2, 2014). Available at SRN: or
For further commentary see also Danielle Kurtzleben in VOX: Napoleon's conquest of Italy led to a copyright-fueled opera boom.