The $2.2 trillion fair use (U.S.) economy

Mike Linksvayer, September 12th, 2007

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.

Our annual fall fundraising campaign starts next month, so keep the above in mind.

If your company is or should be interested in contributing to our corporate commoner giving program, please contact our development coordinator at

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Help Wikipedia help you: CC license your images

Mike Linksvayer, September 12th, 2007

An Untapped SEO Opportunity: Image Link Love From Wikipedia suggests that web marketers should license their images under CC Attribution-ShareAlike and contribute them to Wikimedia Commons for use on Wikipedia sites.

I like this advice for the obvious reason (encouraging CC licensing, especially under a liberal CC license), but the remarkable thing is that following this “Search Engine Optimization” advice contributes to the greater good. This is largely a testament to the robustness of the Wikipedia community. As I said regarding similar but broader advice earlier this year in Creative Commons for Newspapers, Scientists, Film students and Wikipedia SEOers(!?):

Apart from the CC recommendation, this last article really points to the benefits of the Wikipedia community. Normally ’search engine optimization’ is associated with people basically attempting to scam the search engines’ anti-spam defenses, but most of the article’s tips on participating in Wikipedia are for the good — it’s hard to get any value out of Wikipedia without adding value for others, i.e., it’s hard to scam the Wikipedia community.

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Report from the Bandwidth Music/Technology Conference

Mike Linksvayer, September 11th, 2007

A late report on Bandwidth 2007, “The “Music | Technology Conference” held in San Francisco August 17-18.

I moderated “The DRM Panel”, retitled from “Mano-A-Mano: The DRM Panel”, as it seemed the panelists would largely be in agreement. This was the case. None of the panelists were tied to a hard-core anti-DRM position or a die-hard DRM defense. Most were involved in businesses that serve as intermediaries between labels and online distribution.

There was broad agreement that in music, there has been a seismic shift away from DRM, for entirely pragmatic reasons — DRM is a pain for consumers, so has driven some to filesharing, concentration on protection has meant that the industry has not built services that use technology to provide value to consumers, leaving the likes of MySpace and Apple to slowly fill the gap.

One interesting observation was that the decline in CD sales is creating an opening for those in the industry who have been clamoring for a different approach for years. The alternative would be more circling the wagons with DRM, but that has already been tried.

There are many smart, progressive people in the music industry — we’ve seen a number of them experimenting with using CC licensing as part of their strategy — but it was cool to hear that they may be finally gaining the upper hand. There has of course been a ton of “Music 2.0” innovation happening at the edges for years, but there’s no reason that shouldn’t kick into a higher gear with the involvement of and non-persecution by the majors.

We didn’t discuss this on the panel, but during the pre-panel preparation there seemed to be agreement that although DRM is on its way out for music, the movie industry would stick with DRM for a long time. My question, if there had been time, would have been “DRM didn’t work for the music industry, so why does the movie industry think its experience will be any different?” I’m still wondering about that.

CC Creative Director Eric Steuer was on a later panel called “Sue Me, Sue You, Sue Everybody!” in which there was a pretty strong consensus that suing fans is a pretty stupid strategy that also hasn’t worked out well for the industry. As previosuly mentioned, the really smart people are going beyond just not suing fans, but empowering fans with CC licenses.

The DRM Panel

Sue Me, Sue You, Sue Everybody!

Photos by Jason Schultz under CC Attribution-NonCommercial.

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Science Fiction

Mike Linksvayer, September 10th, 2007

A couple weeks old, but worth reading: Cory Doctorow excoriates Science Fiction Writers of America for issuing takedowns on his behalf, without his permission, against sites hosting his books, with permission (under CC licenses).

Meanwhile, Cory blogs about another author’s science fantasy trilogy released under a CC license and is writing a column in Locus magazine on why SF writers should use CC.

One of the blog reactions to Cory’s SFWA kerfuffle Letting Crazy People Set Intellectual-Property Policy (citing other recent examples of “craziness” as well). Of course with Creative Commons you can set your own non-crazy policy. That’s not science fiction.

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Should Paul McCartney make his latest music free?

Mike Linksvayer, September 10th, 2007

Intentionally controversial (and funny) pointed out by Techdirt:

However, as Bob Lefsetz points out, McCartney’s album looks like it’s a money loser for Starbucks — though McCartney likely made money from Starbucks who probably paid him a nice sum to put the album out on the new label. However, as Lefsetz points out, he could make a lot more in concert revenue much faster. Lefsetz goes on to point out what we’ve been pointing out for years: McCartney would have been better off giving away the music for free everywhere, and actually getting people to hear it. In fact, Lefsetz suggests that he might have put more effort into making better music if he knew that there was a much bigger likelihood that people would hear it and care about it. Where I disagree with Lefsetz is his belief that it makes sense to offer the music for free for now, while you still get a promotional bump just for announcing that you’ll be giving away music for free, that it won’t make sense in the future when lots of artists are doing it. Instead, it seems likely that more and more new models will arise, where the music acts as the promotion, and bands make their money elsewhere. The more popular and widespread the music is, the more opportunities there will be to make that money elsewhere. Once bands start seeing success using that model, more and more will pile on, and people will wonder why anyone pays just for the music if they’re not given anything else of value with it.

Also see from last year What if The Beatles had used Creative Commons Licenses?

And another recent, controversial, and funny Techdirt on Lefsetz post (click through to Lefsetz for humor): 40,000 Explanations For Why The Recording Industry Is Wrong About Business Models.

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Behold: High-Quality Flickr Image Search

Cameron Parkins, September 10th, 2007

Behold is a phenomenal resource that “attempts to catalogue CC images with quality comparable to that of professional image archives such as Getty Images or Corbis, by using the social structure of Flickr and image content analysis”.

The ultimate aim of Behold is to offer graphic designers and artists access to high quality images that they can freely use, a goal that is accomplished through the use of CC licences. Very simply, users can define whether or not they want their results to be “free to use”, creating an array of new options that would not have been so conveniently realized prior.

Flickr’s rich repository of open content is not only inspiring in terms of the sheer amount of photos available, but even more so in terms for its ability to allow interesting and innovative resources, such as Behold, to be built. Even more promising is the wider trend to incorporate CC-licensing into new content directories as they are built, a movement that can only lead to even greater cultural amenities.

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‘Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons’ now on MIT World

Kaitlin Thaney, September 10th, 2007

From the Science Commons blog

Now up on MIT World, “Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons.” The Web cast is from the April 28, 2007 panel discussion featuring Creative Commons‘ own Hal Abelson, William Uricchio (who moderated the event), Wendy Gordon, Gordon Quinn, and Pat Aufderheide.

From the Web site:

“Moderator William Uricchio sets the scene for panelists’ discussion of current copyright wars with a brief historical overview of copyright protection. In 1790, when news traveled by horse and carriage, copyright protection was good for 14 years. Today, when a digital, networked society enables instant transmission of data, protection lasts 70-plus years. Uricchio notes, “Bizarrely, the faster information circulates, the longer we’re extending copyright protection. It seems totally at odds with where our constitution framers and case law emerged from.” […]

Hal Abelson [Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, MIT School of Engineering] offers his sense of how copyright concerns constrict life at the academy. MIT, he says, has begun putting fences up around its own course materials, including the most basic and central of thinkers. For instance, it has limited online, published versions of Aristotle, Pascal and Fermat to students in a particular course, for a single semester. Huge expense goes into getting permissions from faculty, and university lawyers are so concerned about offending copyright holders that they bar reams of material from MIT’s OpenCourseWare site. Abelson believes these fences risk “destroying the university as an intellectual community,” and recommends using open content (granting Creative Commons licenses) as much as possible, as well as aggressively exercising fair use.”

Visit MIT World’s Web site to listen to this wonderful discussion, as well as to learn more about the forum’s participants.

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Creative Commons 1967

Mike Linksvayer, September 8th, 2007

At this weekend’s Singularity Summit in San Francisco, “openness” of all sorts — open source, open access, open content, transparency — seems to be considered an uncontroversial and important part of making “AI and the future of humanity” a good one, for example:

If the singularity is in fact near, the fundamental tools of information, collaboration and access will be our best hope for making it happen in a way that spreads its benefits and minimizes its dangers — in short, making it happen in a way that lets us be good ancestors.

However, Creative Commons was mentioned in reference to a forty year old poem, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace by Richard Brautigan. Paul Saffo highlighted the poem as an example of a “positive, compelling vision that ordinary people could buy into.” But before showing the poem, Saffo highlighted the copyright notice as CC-like:

© Copyright 1967 by Richard Brautigan

Permission is granted to reprint any of these poems in magazines, books and newspapers if they are given away free.

Sounds a lot like a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.

Here is an example of a 2005 blogging of the poem (go there to read it). The blogger specifically cites the permission, though whether a blog qualifies as any of the permitted mediums may be questionable. So yes, granting permission up front does help spread your work, even decades later, and yes, it is good to have lawyers involved in drafting the permission language. Forty years later, Creative Commons has both taken care of. :-)

For some CC Attribution-licensed blogging and photos of the summit, see David Orban’s blog and Flickr set.

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CC@WIPO Information Seminar on Rights Management Information: Accessing Creativity in a Network Environment

Mike Linksvayer, September 6th, 2007

I will be speaking on “Emerging Fields of Application for RMI: Search Engines and Users” at the upcoming WIPO Information Seminar on Rights Management Information: Accessing Creativity in a Network Environment September 17 in Geneva. The seminar is free and open to the public with pre-registration.

Andres Guadamuz, co-director of the AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at Edinburgh University (home of CC Scotland), will close the speaker part of the seminar with “Rights Management Information: Current Issues in the Legal Framework”.

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OwnTerms: CC-Licenced Legal Templates

Cameron Parkins, September 5th, 2007

OwnTerms is an online repository for CC-licensed legal documents, allowing business startups easy and open access to various contracts without the cost of having a specific one tailored in their name. From OwnTerms:

OwnTerms is designed as a repository for “boilerplate” legal documents: those that every web site, startup, or entrepreneur needs but doesn’t want to draft in a lawyer for.

All the documents on OwnTerms are licensed under a Creative Commons license, enabling anyone to take them and edit them for their own use provided certain conditions are met.

Founded by Tom Scott, OwnTerms demonstrates not only the practicality of CC-licences on a broad level, but also the value and commitment of the CC-community as a whole. The idea for OwnTerms was born on the CC-Community list and was crafted with the community’s help, representing a neat circle in terms of problem solving and an ideal project example for those interested in CC-related endeavors.

Although Ownterms was launched just a little over two weeks agoit has begun to gain traction and as its community grows, so does the breadth of its resources. In taking this project from start to finish, Scott and the CC-community have helped craft yet another invaluable resource based around the concept and implementation of CC-licences.

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