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

Fair use exceptions to U.S. copyright laws is worth more than $4.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

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.

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