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Can artists make money without copyrights?

by Learn Liberty

You may be familiar with Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Donna è Mobile” from his opera Rigoletto. If not, perhaps you recognize it from popular soccer chants. The song provides an interesting case study in intellectual property rights because there weren’t any protections for intellectual property in Italy in Verdi’s time.

Despite the fact that Verdi could not prevent other people from using or profiting from his song, he still produced it. He also profited from the song, because people were willing to pay a premium to hear the song performed by its creator’s company. Professor Stephen Davies uses Rigoletto to demonstrate that intellectual property rights were not needed in Verdi’s time. Is it possible we don’t need them today either?

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