Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When an item is copied, the original tends to lose value — except when it doesn't.

Driving the news: The biggest fight in the music industry this week is undoubtedly Taylor Swift vs. Scooter Braun, the manager of longtime Swift foe Kanye West. Braun bought Big Machine, Swift's former record label, for what is said to be over $300 million, much to the megastar's displeasure.

  • In the midst of the resulting pop-culture chaos, Alex Boubia, a Bulgarian Taylor Swift fan, put up a change.org petition asking Swift to re-record her first 6 albums; he has almost 200,000 signatures.
  • It's not clear whether Swift is contractually allowed to re-record her early albums, or whether she would want to do so even if she could. But the economic intuition is clear: Given the choice, Swift's fans would prefer to stream new recordings where she owned the masters. By doing so, they would channel the Taylor Swift income stream away from Big Machine and toward Swift herself, enriching Swift at the expense of Braun.
  • Swift might be able to buy her master recordings from Braun, the outcome that would likely make her fans happiest. The negotiations would take place in the context of two implicit threats. First, she might be able to re-record the old albums; second, she could refuse permission to allow music on those albums to be used in movies, commercials and other lucrative contexts.

Be smart: If the masters have more value in Swift's hands than in Braun's, that's a more likely outcome than any attempt to devalue them.

Between the lines: Art has always had a strange relationship with copying. The most reproduced artworks tend to also be the most valuable — think Monet's water lilies or Warhol's Marilyns. If the artist makes many such works, that's often good for the per-piece value, even as mechanical reproductions are generally worthless. Broadly, the objects (which can be bought and sold) are worth much more than the copyright (which generally remains with the artist).

  • Copying art objects is generally taboo in the art world, but it tends not to have a negative effect on the value of the originals. Photographer William Eggleston reprinted some of his early photographs in 2012, without any deleterious effect on value of the earlier, smaller versions. And when Wade Guyton started making dozens of copies of one of his paintings going up for auction at Christie's, the original sold for $3.5 million, above its high estimate.
  • Even counterfeit goods don't always harm the owners of intellectual property. Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana is famous for refusing to prosecute counterfeiters, because they think counterfeits ultimately increase the desirability of the brand.

Generic drugs are meant to be indistinguishable from the originals, bringing prices down. A new book by Katherine Eban, however, argues that there are important differences between generics and originals; some hospitals actively avoid prescribing certain generics.

The bottom line: One glance at the price of an iPhone should be enough to prove that copies don't always mean that prices come down. In fact, they often serve to ratify the value of the original.

Go deeper: Almost everything in the digital economy is a copy. MIT professors Seth Benzell and Erik Brynjolfsson examine some of the implications in their paper "Digital Abundance and Scarce Genius: Implications for Wages, Interest Rates, and Growth."

Editor's note: This post was corrected to reflect that the estimated price Braun bought Big Machine for is over $300 million (not a definitive $300 million).

Go deeper

Updated 48 mins ago - Axios Twin Cities

In photos: Thousands rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Demonstrators on March 7 outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, will begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protesters marched through Minneapolis' streets Sunday, urging justice for George Floyd on the eve of the start of former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death, per AFP.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
5 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.