James Hicks

Intellectual Property

Copyright and Economic Viability: Evidence from the Music Industry

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 17.4: 696-721 (2020) · Publisher

Copyright provides a long term of legal excludability, to encourage the production of new creative works. The extent to which current law aligns with the economic incentives of copyright owners has been the subject of vigorous theoretical debate. We investigate the economic viability of creative content in a major industry—commercial music—using a novel longitudinal dataset of weekly sales and streaming counts. We find that the typical sound recording has an extremely short commercial half-life—on the order of months, rather than years or decades. Strikingly, we find that decay rates are sharp even for blockbuster songs, and that the patterns persist when we approximate weekly revenue.

With Kristelia García and Justin McCrary

Informative Patents? Predicting Patent Validity With the Text of Claims

In data collection

Patent litigation is widely thought to be unpredictable. In particular, empirical research consistently finds that the intrinsic characteristics of a patent have little apparent relationship with its success or failure in invalidity proceedings. Using methods from computational text analysis, I demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is incomplete. In fact, the text of patent claims is a surprisingly powerful predictor of invalidity decisions in federal courts: the best performing model can correctly predict the outcome of nearly 73% of decisions, relying solely on the claim text of the disputed patent.

Corporate Law

The Future or Fancy? An Empirical Study of Public Benefit Corporations

Forthcoming, Harvard Business Law Review (2021) · SSRN

The public benefit corporation is one of the most hyped developments in corporate law. PBC directors are required under their fiduciary duties to consider purposes other than profits when making decisions. These new forms are hailed by their champions as a new hope for a reformed capitalism. Critics assail them as unworkable, and a thin disguise for ordinary profit-seeking behavior. What this debate lacks is evidence. We aim to fill the gap by investigating early-stage investment in PBCs. Using our novel dataset, we can discern whether for-profit investment is occurring in PBCs, and if so, whether it is different in kind from traditional venture funding.

→ Featured in Harvard Forum on Corporate Governance

With Michael Dorff and Steven Davidoff Solomon

Anticipating Harassment: MeToo and the Changing Norms of Executive Contracts

Working paper · SSRN

This paper explores the effect of the MeToo movement on corporate oversight of CEO misbehavior. We treat the unexpected revelations about Harvey Weinstein as an external shock, allowing us to observe whether the MeToo movement has led companies to take affirmative steps against harassment on the part of senior executives. From the SEC website, we scrape five years of executive employment agreements filed by S&P 1500 companies, and hand code the grounds of for-cause termination (that is, the grounds for which a corporation can terminate the CEO without paying substantial severance). Preliminary results suggest that post-MeToo agreements have played host a notable rise in the use of contract language that relates to misconduct and violations of company policy.

With Rachel Arnow-Richman and Steven Davidoff Solomon