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Is fair use more valuable to the economy than copyright?

September 14, 2007
Post by Blog Staff

A study released this week by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) attempts to quantify the value that fair use, the restriction on a copyright holder's ability to assert infringement claims, has to the U.S. economy. The study attempted to ascertain the economic output of "fair use industries," that is, either "industries that produce goods and services whose activities depend in large measure on the existence of limitations and exceptions provided in U.S. copyright law" or "industries whose activities or output facilitate the output of the fair use core."

The study concludes that in 2002, industries either directly or indirectly dependent on fair use contributed $3.5 trillion to the economy, or 16.2% of total economic output. This amount increased to $4.5 trillion in 2006, or 16.6% of total economic output. The study was presented in a briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

The release of this study is interesting as it presents somewhat of a counterbalance to the lobbying and PR efforts of large copyright holders who strive for greater ability to both extend the duration and reach of their copyrights. Predictably, the Copyright Alliance, a group of copyright holders who lobby for stronger protections, has issued a response, stating "There is no fair use without original creative works. Period." The response also includes statistics from its own study that found "the total copyright industries in 2005 accounted for 11.12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, $1.38 trillion; they also employed 11.3 million U.S. workers." So, I guess if you're keeping score based on the groups' studies, fair use industries provide 16.6% of our total economic output and copyright producers 11.12%, for a total of about 28%. It's interesting that over a quarter of the U.S. economy is either wholly or partly dependent on copyright or fair use of copyright.

The CCIA (made up of some big names in the tech industry, including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!) is the same group that filed a recent complaint with the FTC arguing that the copyright advisories played during many sporting events and included in some publications are false and misleading, as they assert that any copying or other use of the copyrighted material without the owner's permission is prohibited, with no mention of fair use. Of course, the Copyright Alliance had a response to that, also.


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