updated 05:00 pm EDT, Thu September 13, 2007
Sixth of US GDP Fair Use
The special grants that let users copy and otherwise copyrighted material could be responsible for nearly a sixth of the entire US gross domestic product, claims a study from the Computer and Communications Industry Association. The open-market group estimates that about $4.5 trillion of the revenue generated in the US, or 18 percent, rely on the fair use exceptions of 1976 that allow copies in certain circumstances. This could include anything from personal backups of music and software to educational and reporting purposes, such as capturing a TV show for a classroom or playing a song in the news. Even the music and movie industries also depend on fair use as they need the ability to copy rough edits of songs and videos, according to the study.
The CCIA also stresses that the US is increasingly dependent on technologies with fair use at their heart. The revenue is a 31 percent jump versus the same areas in 2002 and is said to now account for roughly 11 million US jobs, or a sixth of the entire US workforce.
While the international group is private and can't legally bind the US government or other companies to protect fair use, it has presented the report on Capitol Hill and argues that the report establishes the importance of obeying the US Copyright Act that forms the basis of fair use, which many believe is under attack by the US record label and movie industry which insist on digital rights management to limit or even ban copying for legal purposes. Allowing unfair restrictions could ultimately damage the economy, the group claims.
"The concept of fair use can no longer be discussed and legislated in the abstract. It is the very foundation of the digital age and a cornerstone of our economy," says CCIA chief Ed Black. "Much of the unprecedented economic growth of the past ten years can actually be credited to the doctrine of fair use, as the Internet itself depends on the ability to use content in a limited and nonlicensed manner."
Many online music initiatives in recent months have backed the CCIA's basic philosophy behind its report, including EMI's DRM-free music as well as a test project by Universal Music Group that offers unprotected songs to several major online stores and directly from artists.