Tech Companies Say Fair Use Contributes Billions To US Economy

Sep 13th, 2007 | By | Category: General, Podcasting Law

Fair Use exceptions to U.S. copyright laws are responsible for more than $4.5 trillion in annual revenue for the United States, according to the findings of an economic study released today by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

The study, which was was conducted in accordance with a World Intellectual Property Organization methodology, suggests that limitations on copyright-holders’ exclusive rights, such as “fair use”, generate substantial revenue, employ millions of workers, and, in 2006, represented one-sixth of total U.S. GDP.

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.

Fair Use issues have long been a source of conflict between companies that want to introduce new technologies and content providers that want to control what you can do with their content. Fair Use issues have also become critical to the future of Internet media, as million- and even billion-dollar lawsuits threaten to limit what you can do with music, video and other copyrighted content.

The report (pdf), released today at a briefing on Capitol Hill, quantifies for the first time ever the contributions of fair use to the U.S. economy. The timing proves particularly important as the debates over copyright law in the digital age move increasingly to center stage on Capitol Hill.

In the past twenty years, digital technology has increased and, with it, the importance of fair use. With more than $4.5 trillion in revenue 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. According to the CCIA, 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”

Fair use use and related exceptions to copyright are crucial to non-technology industries, 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.

via InformationWeek

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