The Computer and Communications Industry Association has released a study claiming that the value added in the United States by industries dependent on fair use is $2.2 trillion dollars annually, or one sixth of the U.S. economy, apparently almost 70% more than than value added by copyright industries, as measured by other recent studies. From the release:
“As the United States economy becomes increasingly knowledge-based, 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,” said Ed Black, President and CEO of CCIA. “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. To stay on the edge of innovation and productivity, we must keep fair use as one of the cornerstones for creativity, innovation and, as today’s study indicates, an engine for growth for our country”
The Fair Use exception to U.S. copyright law, as codified in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 states, “The fair use of a copyrighted work … is not an infringement of copyright.” Fair use permits a range of activities that are critical to many high technology businesses such as search engines and software developers. As the study indicates, however, fair use and related exceptions to copyright are crucial to non-technology industries as well, such as insurance, legal services, and newspaper publishers. The dependence of industries outside the high-tech field illustrates the crucial need for balanced copyright law.
While the particular numbers arrived at by the study may be challenged (it is the first attempt to quantify the fair use economy in this way and the CCIA is composed of interested parties), the overall points highlighted above (emphasis added) are extremely compelling.
Given the demonstrated criticality of fair use to the economy and the steady diminishment of fair use, is there any reason to believe the current balance is optimal? Even moreso outside the U.S., where fair dealing and other exceptions to copyright are less liberal than fair use.
This is one place where Creative Commons comes in. CC licenses make it easy to grant permissions beyond the scope of fair use (and without ever restricting fair use), shifting the balance by completely voluntary action. This is not lost on leading companies in the fair use economy. For example, at least five CCIA members have provided support for Creative Commons — Google, Microsoft, Red Hat, Sun, and Yahoo!.
Those are huge, important companies, but a fraction of a $2.2 trillion fair use economy, and that’s not counting the world outside the U.S. Consider joining these leaders — your business, or your job, may depend on it.
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