Fair Use Worth $4.5 Trillion, Say Computer Companies

According to the Computer & Communications Industry Association, companies that "benefited from limitations on copyright holders' exclusive rights” represent $4.5 trillion in annual revenues for the United States.

Copyright holders have long argued about the billions of dollars in lost revenue from piracy of intellectual property, so computer companies on the other side of the argument released their own estimates of the impact of limiting fair-use copying of that copyrighted material.

The report, unveiled at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday, defined those revenues as coming from companies that "would not exist" or would be much smaller if limitations and exceptions on copyright did not exist.

That proves to be a pretty big group, including radio, TV, print, publishing, Internet, insurance, securities, architecture, scientific research, education and pages more.

"Much of the unprecedented economic growth of the past 10 years can be credited to the doctrine of fair use,” said CCIA president Ed Black in announcing the study, pointing out that the Internet "depends on the ability to use content in a limited and nonlicensed manner … We must keep fair use as one of the cornerstones for creativity and innovation.”

“Creators and artists recognize the value of fair use. It plays -- and will continue to play -- an important role in our culture," fired back Patrick Ross, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, representing the studios and other content providers. "However, attempts to frame discussion about fair use in a way that pits fair use against creators is bad for artists, bad for society and bad for anyone who desires the continued production of creative works."

He pointed out that copyright industries accounted for a little over 11% of GDP (gross domestic product) at $1.38 trillion and employed 11.3 million U.S. workers. The CCIA's study, which was looking to trump the copyright claims, said the "fair-use" industries -- which actually included the copyright industries, as well -- represented one-sixth of GDP and employed 17 million workers.

Fair-use fan Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), author of a bill that would expand fair-use protections, used the study as an opportunity to plug his bill, H.R. 1201, the Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship (FAIR USE) Act.

“The study that the CCIA released today identifies the far-reaching benefits that fair use confers upon our economy," he said. "Historically, the nation's copyright laws have reflected a careful balance between the rights of copyright owners and the fair-use rights of the public. However, the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act dramatically tilted this balance toward complete copyright protection at the expense of the fair-use rights of the public. The time has come for Congress to reaffirm the fair-use doctrine. The study confirms that restoring this balance is essential to our future economic growth and global competitiveness.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.