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Psy’s Gangnam Style shows that copyright infringement can be a boost

A lot of people knew this already, but the recent success of Psy’s Gangnam Style video has arguably demonstrated yet again that copyright infringement can actually boost the performance of a media product. As Techdirt notes, Psy has enjoyed huge success – and raked in a lot of money – thanks, in part, to his willingness to let people around the world copy, re-use and share his work.

Traditional copyright maximalists would probably have advised Psy to crack down on any and all unauthorised exploitation of Gangnam Style. This idea would have been based on the idea that such exploitation would detract from the profitability of the original work. The approach taken by Psy, however, seems to be the opposite: he’s assuming that when people share his work (and their versions of it), he becomes more popular and better known, and the money will pour in.

What works for Psy is obviously not going to work for everyone. If he had wanted to strictly enforce his copyright, he would have been perfectly within his rights to do so, and he would probably still have made a decent profit. But his approach would seem to have validated a long-argued theory that allowing remixing and other forms of re-use can actually be profitable for the copyright holder.

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