• Professor Chris Buccafusco

    Christopher J. Buccafusco

    Assistant Professor of Law

    – Go to his faculty biography

    – Go to his publications:

       SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com
       Bepress: http://works.bepress.com/christopher_buccafusco1/

    Buccafusco on the Economics of Airplane Seat Reclining in Slate

    by  • September 24, 2014 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    Illustration by Robert Donnelly | Slate

    Professors Christopher Buccafusco and Chris Sprigman (NYU School of Law) recently co-authored a piece for Slate magazine’s science section on what they term the economics of airplane seat reclining. “Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space?” presents the findings from an experiment the pair ran to “measure how much people value the ability to recline compared to extra knee and laptop room.” Read an excerpt below:

    Not since the Battle of the Somme has such little space been the subject of such intense conflict.

    We refer to the fact that Americans are now punching each other on airplanes over 4 inches of space. Specifically, the 4 inches that a coach passenger gains—and that the passenger directly behind loses—when he reclines his seat a few degrees from vertical.

    For the recliner, those 4 inches can transform a hellish flight into something fractionally less awful. But it also works the other way around. The guy behind the recliner loses the same 4 inches, space that might otherwise accommodate knees or a laptop.

    It sounds trivial, and it is trivial, and we hope that everyone will agree that people who get in fights over airplane seats are idiots. But there are, apparently, more than a few idiots. Fistfights over the right to recline caused three flights to be diverted and forced to make unscheduled landings in a two-week period.

    Views on the “right to recline” are divided, but both sides tend toward intensity. Slate’s Dan Kois has said that people who recline their airplane seats are “pure evil” and that reclining should be banned. But a lot of the people commenting on Kois’ article say he has it backward, that if you buy the seat you have the “right” to recline, and that people who complain about reclining are a pack of whiners.

    We are split on this issue. Buccafusco doesn’t think that recliners are evil—but he does think they are misguided. Buccafusco suspects that recliners don’t get nearly enough pleasure from reclining to offset the suffering they’re inflicting. Sprigman’s intuitions are precisely the opposite. He enjoys reclining, doesn’t care if those in front of him do likewise, and maintains that people who complain about reclining need to get some perspective on what a real problem looks like.

    If we disagree about the merits of reclining, we agree at least that dispassionate economics is more likely than righteous moralism to get us some clarity about whose preferences should rule. Economics is fundamentally concerned with precisely the sorts of questions involved in the “right to recline” debate: who should get to control scarce resources when people are competing over them.


    Buccafusco on Children, Creativity, and IP

    by  • June 1, 2013 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    Professor Chris Buccafusco has authored a new post on children, creativity, and their relation to intellectual property at the blog Jotwell (“Out of the Mouths of Babes: Studying Children’s Judgments about Creativity, Ideas, and Ownership“). In the post, Buccafusco unpacks Kristina Olson’s article Children Apply Principles of Physical Ownership to Ideas (co-authored with Alex Shaw and Vivian Li, 36 Cognitive Science 1383 (2012)) and draws out its implications for intellectual property. Read an excerpt from the post below:

    Legal scholars who study intellectual property rarely think about children. Children are almost never inventors of patented technologies, and, although children’s drawings technically receive copyright protection the moment they are created, children rarely appear as litigants in disputes.

    But recent research coming from psychologist Kristina Olson’s lab suggests that we should be thinking more about children. In their new paper, Olson and her graduate students Alex Shaw and Vivian Li, report the results of experiments testing children’s intuitions about the ownership of ideas. This paper provides an interesting insight into the development of our ideas about intellectual property and creativity, and it should be widely read by IP scholars.

    Olson is interested in learning how and when children’s judgments about creativity, ideas, and ownership emerge.  Research by other developmental psychologists had shown that very young children (2+ years old) apply concepts of ownership to physical objects. In earlier work, Olson showed that 6-year-old, but not 4-year-old, children respond negatively to those who plagiarize others’ ideas.  That research suggested the possibility that children of a certain age think about ideas as things that can be owned.

    Continue reading Prof. Buccafusco’s post at Jotwell (Intellectual Property Section).

    UN Adopts International Day of Happiness

    by  • July 11, 2012 • Faculty Commentary, Scholarship • 0 Comments

    By Christopher Buccafusco

    Mark your calendars for March 20th – the new International Day of Happiness. The United Nations has chosen this date recognize the importance of happiness to people’s lives.
    According to Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the UN General Assembly, “I believe that the proclamation of an international day of happiness by the General Assembly to be observed over a year with full participation of the international community as a whole would be a forward looking way of focusing on the value of happiness as a universal goal and aspiration on the lives of all.”

    Take a look at my writing on the importance of happiness to human life and the law.

    “Well-Being Analysis vs. Cost-Benefit Analysis”

    by  • April 2, 2012 • Scholarship • 0 Comments

    By Christopher Buccafusco

    John Bronsteen, Jonathan Masur, and I have just posted our newest happiness-related paper to ssrn. The paper, Well-Being Analysis vs. Cost-Benefit Analysis, will be published in the Duke Law Journal, and it will form the basis for Duke’s annual administrative law symposium. You can download the paper here.

    Here’s the abstract:

    Cost-benefit analysis is the primary tool used by policymakers to inform administrative decisionmaking. Yet its methodology of converting preferences (often hypothetical ones) into dollar figures, then using those dollar figures as proxies for quality of life, creates systemic errors so large as to deprive the tool of value. These problems have been lamented by many scholars, and recent calls have gone out from world leaders and prominent economists to find an alternative analytical device that would measure quality of life more directly. This Article proposes well-being analysis (WBA) as that alternative. Relying on data from the field of hedonic psychology that tracks people’s actual experience of life — data that has consistently survived scrutiny by passing the social science tests of reliability and validity — WBA is able to provide the same policy guidance as CBA without CBA’s distortionary conversion of preferences to dollars. We show how WBA can be implemented, and we catalog exhaustively its superiority over CBA. In light of this comparison, we conclude that there is no reason for CBA to continue as the decisionmaking tool of choice for administrative regulation.

    “Valuing Attribution and Publication in Intellectual Property”

    by  • March 8, 2012 • Faculty Commentary, Scholarship • 0 Comments

    By Christopher Buccafusco

    Chris Sprigman, Zach Burns, and I have posted new paper on SSRN. It’s called Valuing Attribution and Publication in Intellectual Property. You can download the paper here.

    This is the third in a series of articles focusing on the experimental economics of intellectual property. In earlier work, we have experimentally studied the ways in which creators assign monetary value to the things that they create. That research has suggested that creators are subject to a systematic bias that leads them to overvalue their work. This bias, which we have called the ‘creativity effect,’ potentially results in inefficient markets in IP, because creators may be unwilling to license their works for rational amounts.

    Our prior research, however, like American IP law itself, focused exclusively on the monetary value that creators derive from their work. In this set of experiments, we expand that focus. The same methods used in our previous studies enable us to test the proposition that creators value opportunities for publication and attribution separately from the opportunity for financial remuneration. Although some previous scholarship has provided strong qualitative evidence for the notion that creators value attribution, it has made no effort to quantify that value. The experiments reported in this latest article attempt to do just that.

    The results reported here suggest that creators are willing to significantly reduce the amount of money they demand to license their IP rights in exchange for the opportunity to receive attribution for their work. These findings shed important light on emerging debates over whether and how American IP law should adopt attribution rights. Perhaps counterintuitively, for reasons explained in the article, our results suggest that adding a default right to attribution to American IP law would more likely worsen, rather than improve, inefficiencies in IP licensing markets. For this reason, we believe that the U.S. should hesitate to adopt an attribution right.

    Making Sense of Intellectual Property Law

    by  • August 29, 2011 • Scholarship • 0 Comments

    By Christopher Buccafusco

    I have posted a new paper, Making Sense of Intellectual Property Law, to SSRN. It is forthcoming in the Cornell Law Review. Here is the abstract:

    Intellectual property (IP) scholars have long struggled to explain the boundaries of and differences between copyright and patent law. This Article proposes a novel explanation: copyright and patent can be fruitfully understood as establishing a dichotomy between the different human senses. Copyright has bracketed works addressed to the senses of sight and hearing, and it treats products appealing to touch, taste, and smell as functional and, thus, uncopyrightable. To the extend the latter receive IP protection, it is through the utility patent regime. The Article begins by establishing this descriptive proposition, and it shows how some of the most contested areas of IP (e.g., the useful articles doctrine in copyright law and design patents) involve breaches of this sensory dichotomy. Next, I argue that the sensory dichotomy in IP reflects the sensory hierarchy in traditional Western aesthetic theory. According to this tradition, sight and hearing are considered “high” senses capable of unconstrained aesthetic and cultural experiences. Touch, taste, and smell, by contrast, are considered “low” senses, because their connection to natural bodily needs constrains their aesthetic capacities. IP law’s treatment of the senses in copyright and patent law matches this hierarchy.

    In recent years, however, fundamental principles of Western aesthetic theory have been undermined by developments in cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary aesthetics, and haptic and culinary communication. This research suggests that sight and hearing are not as aesthetically unconstrained and functionless, nor are touch, taste, and smell as aesthetically constrained and functional as previously believed. Accordingly, I argue that IP law should treat appeals to the senses uniformly. Works that express or communicate ideas, emotions, or pleasures to any of the five senses in such a way that creates original works of authorship should be potentially copyrightable. The Article concludes with an analysis of this proposal’s effects on various creative fields, including tactile objects, fashion, culinary dishes, and yoga.

    Download the paper here.

    Legal Link: Prince wants to make covering songs illegal

    by  • April 25, 2011 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    By Christopher Buccafusco

    From the A/V Club:

    Prince, the world’s biggest Prince fan, has a reputation for maintaining a tyrannical hold over his music, even going so far as to sue his own devotees for using his songs and likenesses in their worshipful websites, and also take them away from toddlers. Now he’s out to extend that imperial control even further, saying during an interview on George Lopez’s Lopez Tonight that he’d like to see the laws changed to ensure that no one can cover one of his songs. Remarking on the compulsory licensing of copyright that allows artists to rework other artists’ hits, Prince said, “That doesn’t exist in any other art form, be it books, movies. There’s only one version of Law And Order. There’s several versions of ‘Kiss’ and ‘Purple Rain’.”

    Read the rest of the article, with links to the interview here.

    (h/t 3L Alex Quinn)

    Legal Link: Genetic Copyright Infringement

    by  • March 28, 2011 • Scholarship • 0 Comments

    By Christopher Buccafusco

    In order to distinguish their synthetic DNA from that naturally present in the bacterium, Venter’s team coded several famous quotes into their DNA, including one from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”

    After announcing their work, Venter explained, his team received a cease and desist letter from Joyce’s estate, saying that he’d used the Irish writer’s work without permission. ”We thought it fell under fair use,” said Venter.

    Read the full article here.

    H/T Lara Kattan