Don't sweat copyrights, it's good for the economy

Don't sweat copyrights, it's good for the economy

Summary: Fair use exceptions to U.S. copyright laws is worth more than $4.

TOPICS: Google, Microsoft

Fair use exceptions to U.S. copyright laws is worth more than $4.5 trillion in annual revenue, or a sixth of GDP.

Do you buy it?

That tally is provided via a study commissioned by the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a bunch of firms that support fair use.

The report is well-documented, but I'd encourage you to read it for yourself with an emphasis on the methodology. Mike Masnick at Techdirt says it best: Reports from the BSA, RIAA and MPAA are blatantly one-sided in support of copyrights (they typically blare about piracy losses). However, this report coming from a group that includes Google, Yahoo and Microsoft is also one-sided.

In other words, the truth (as usual) is somewhere in the middle.

The CCIA says:

Companies benefiting from limitations on copyright-holders’ exclusive rights, such as “fair use” – generate substantial revenue, employ millions of workers, and, in 2006, represented one-sixth of total U.S. GDP.

Let's give CCIA some credit for trying to quantify fair use's impact on the economy. Unfortunately, the court system may not care. Copyrights feed into profit motive. Tell Viacom, which is suing Google over YouTube, that its copyright limits are for the greater good.

CCIA says:

In the past twenty years as digital technology has increased, so too has the importance of fair use. With more than $4.5 trillion in revenue generated by fair use dependent industries in 2006, a 31% increase since 2002, fair use industries are directly responsible for more than 18% of U.S. economic growth and nearly 11 million American jobs. In fact, nearly one out of every eight American jobs is in an industry that benefits from current limitations on copyright.

What's notable about this report is that there are a lot of examples how fair use plays into every day capitalism. I'll have to weed through the report in its entirety to figure out what makes sense. I encourage you to do the same.

Update:  Weeding complete. Color me skeptical on this report and most industry backed studies. But honestly nothing I can write is going to be as good as Nick Carr's missive. Here's a sampling:

Even by the woeful standards of the bespoke research industry, this study is a crock of shit. It's not just bad; it's absurd. What the authors have done is to define the "fair-use economy" so broadly that it encompasses any business with even the most tangential relationship to the free use of copyrighted materials. Here's an example of the tortured logic by which they force-fit vast, multifacted industries into the "fair use" category: Because "recent advances in processing speed and software functionality are being used to take advantage of the richer multi-media experience now available from the web," then the entire "computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing industry" qualifies as a "fair-use industry." As does the entire "audio & video equipment manufacturing" business. And the entire software publishing industry. And the entire telecommunications industry. And - hey, why not? - the entire insurance industry. Stock markets and commodity exchanges? Sure, throw them in, too.

Topics: Google, Microsoft

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  • Don't sweat copyrights

    Did I miss something here guys, or are you intentionally trying to be vague and ambiguous?

    Many of these same CCIA members depend on adequate copyright protection for their own survival. And I bet if they are asked, rather than lumped together into a group like Mike Masnick and various CCIA adminstrators tend to do, they would agree with this post.

    I don't really see anyone in the copyright industries arguing against "Fair Use" as long as it remains "fair" as the law intended it to be in the first place. It's when "fair use" starts to be confused with willful stealing that the distinction arises.

    The recent CCIA complaints filed with the FTC, from what I can tell anyway, are nothing but a bag full of hot air. A total waste of everyone's time and taxpayers money. Do any of you folks at ZDNet really know anyone who has been harmed, or who feels their rights have been taken away from them because of the labels and/or disclaimers on television shows, DVD labels, or the MLB playoffs?

    I say we all concentrate on "real" issues like what amount of our GNP will be lost if we continue to give energing nations (those that are foreign to the concept of copyrights) the notion that we are losing respects for those who generate copyrighted works in this society.

    Did I miss something or do you agree? As journalists, you have as much to lose as anyone, if not more.

    George P. Riddick, III
    Imageline, Inc.
    • Sorry

      Sorry, Mr. Riddick, but I disagree with your assessment of the current copyright and "Fair Use" climate, as in practice today. Currently, the individual consumer has little recourse to counter the practices that the copyright-wielding corporation wields, such as DRM technologies. I have on multiple occasions encountered DRM song tracks that I purchased become unplayable...specifically because DRM licenses for those tracks became invalidated in some way. After a few emails and a couple phone calls with the "support" department of the related large software company, I remain to this day unable to use those songs as I ought to be able. Yes, at the other end of the spectrum, there is thievery occurring. But that does not excuse impinging upon the rights of the legal customer.

      One thing you cannot argue with: before DRM, content producers made profits aplenty, and consumers were not rendered unable to use the product by any "copyright protection" mechanism. The media would wear out after repeated use. But that is another issue entirely. And one reason for the "Fair Use" law we have that the customer could make a "backup" copy of the work in question.

      The bottom line is that the only real solution is two-fold (and does not involve DRM technology): 1) prosecute violators (as opposed to restricting legitimate, paying customers); and 2) teach some moral values to youth, such as "Thou shalt not steal". Oh...I forget, though...that would be "forcing values upon others." Can't do that. How much better that we evolve into a police state, rather than teach morals in school, and then have well-grounded citizens who live within some framework?

      And lastly, you insult the people of emerging nations, with your implication that they do not have as well-developed a sense of honest as we may (or may not) have, simply because they are technologically lagging us.

      I think you need to reconsider the assumptions that your arguments are based upon, sir.
      • (sp)

        ...sense of honest(y)...
      • Honesty is a hard thing to teach these days

        It's hard to teach morals when so many go rich ignoring morals and not complain at the same behavior showing up in their own kids. Seriously it's hard to be honest these days because honesty is not reward and in fact the honest person more often gets screwed for being honest in the first place. I see other pulling stuff, not just copyright infringement but all kind of stuff from cheating on taxes to lies to get social funding. Then you read in the paper how CEO X is taking from the company and all you can think is how many CEOs don't get caught.

        How do I teach my child to respect copyright let alone to be honest when the world we live thrives on cheating your neighbor.
      • If you had ever been to an emerging nation ...

        ... and seen all the pirated material you wouldn't hold such a holier then thou attitude about the subject. Since when has it become unfashionable to tell the truth. It is often the case that people who do not own IP take an ambivolent attitude to others's ownership.
    • Re: Don't sweat copyrights

      [i]I say we all concentrate on "real" issues like what amount of our GNP will be lost if we continue to give energing nations (those that are foreign to the concept of copyrights) the notion that we are losing respects for those who generate copyrighted works in this society.[/i]

      A good place to start would be calling attention to the instances of copyright abuse by rightsholders.

      Are you with me?

      Let's tell Hollywood, for example, that region coding and controlling DVD player functionality are not exclusive rights, and that using copyright protection technologies like CSS to overreach and infringe on the rights of the public only fosters the disrespect you bemoan.

      Looking forward to your next rant on that topic.

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