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Study: sixth of US GDP stems from fair use

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.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. johnsonua

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2003


    And the Media executives.

    ...will immediately clamor for their cut, "See we're losing almost 5 trillion p er year in revenues because of you pie-rates!!!!!"

  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jul 2006


    Fabian Understatement

    This reminds me of Beatrice Webb's remarks about how her fellow Fabians used "Fabian Understatement" (i.e. bogus numeric and statistical figures) to push Britain ever so gradually toward socialism. The implication was that the press never questions even the most absurd claims as long as those claims are stated as numbers.

    I can't even imagine that almost one fifth of the US economy is driven by anything remoted connected copyright law,: meaning things that are copyrighted, fair use, or public domain. What about all the money we spend on housing, medical care, clothes, food and utilities? What about all the money businesses spend on raw materials and workers? Copyright doesn't apply to any of those.

    Look at your own budget. Who spends one sixth of their income on copyrighted material, much less on that narrow fair use slice of printed, video and audio material that lies between copyright and public domain. That 'hot' new novel you buy isn't "fair use," it's copyrighted. That Jane Austin book your girl friend is reading isn't fair use, it's public domain. For the most part, air use only applies (in fiction) to literary commentary like my Lord of the Rings chronology, and (in non-fiction) to books such as history, hardly an 18% slice of book sales, much less our entire GNP.

    Fair use is a good thing. I used fair use to beat the Tolkien estate's Manhattan lawyers when they went after my book, Untangling Tolkien, in Seattle federal court. (I won hands down when the judge dismissed their lawsuit, "with prejudice.") But useful as it is, fair use is a tiny, tiny slice of our GNP.

    Fair use is a good cause and deserves a vigorous defense. But bogus economic statistics aren't how it should be defended. Good causes should have good defenses.

    --Mike Perry, Inklng Books, Seattle

  1. Rincewind

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2000


    re: fabian understatement

    Oh, and the only reason that Macnn or any other site can even quote parts of this report is due to Fair Use. So they are making money (via ad revenue and possibly other sources) due to Fair Use.

    Fair Use is in a lot more places than you think.

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