Fair use industries returned $4.5 trillion to the US in 2006

The Computer and Communications Industry Association has just released a study it commission to calculate the value returned to the US economy by fair use and other exceptions to copyright. We often hear stories about how much money the US economy generates by giving certain sectors and companies exclusive access knowledge and information, but it's rare to see such a quantitative approach to the value created by not creating regulatory monopolies in certain cases. Even more interesting is the sum that the study comes up with -- according to the economists (who worked "in accordance with a World Intellectual Property Organization methodology"), "$4.5 trillion in revenue [was] 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."
"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"
Link (Thanks, Trey!)


  1. This makes a ton of sense, and it’s great to have the quanitfication.

    Fair Use is such an emotional topic – one that could benefit from a more objective view. IMHO, technology needs to help by providing help on each factor of Fair Use.

    Factor 1: The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature is for nonprofit educational purposes.

    While technology can’t identify if the usage is transformative, it can detect if the page on which reuse occurs has advertising present. As evidenced by recent moves by the New York Times, advertising is clearly driving the online content economy making commercial use an increasingly important factor.

    Also, you can learn a lot about the purpose and character of a use by whether or not attribution is provided, which in the online world, amounts to links from the copy to the original.

    Factor 2: The nature of the copyrighted work

    No help from Technology here – it can’t accurately determine if the work is fiction or non-fiction.

    Factor 3: The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

    This is a fancy way of saying that the less of your content that is taken, the more likely it qualifies as Fair Use. This could be detected based on the percentage of the original content that has been reused.

    Factor 4: The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    Technology can indicate if ads are present on the reusing site which can be combined with monthly site traffic to determine impact.

    (Disclaimer in that I work for Attributor which provides the above functionality)

  2. Interestingly, The Computer and Communications Industry Association represents companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! (via /.)

  3. One only has to read the areas that are consider fair use employment to see this study as absurd. They have taken entire industries and assigned their workers and revenue to fair use. Does this really make any sense? Or course not.

    Just because one copyrighted document snippet is sent across the web does not mean we count all the routers, switched and servers that touch it to be fair use economic value, but this is what this study does.

    As for the idea of value added to fair use material I believe this is wholly overstated.

    The idea of fair use having a social benefit is understandable but this effort to quantify the economic impact does a great disservice to this debate by creating a false picture of this value.

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