Fair use costs/makes money — discuss

by Mathew on September 13, 2007 · 3 comments

It’s funny how all those press releases that the record industry sends out about the costs of music piracy rarely ever mention “fair use,” a concept that is an integral component of copyright law in most countries. It’s as though the idea never existed. But then, admitting that copyright regulations are a tradeoff between two opposing forces — fair use and creative control — would get in the way of pushing the whole “downloading is theft” idea.

To counter some of those one-sided arguments, we now have a study from the Computer and Communications Industry Association that says fair use of copyrighted works generates $4.5-trillion in economic benefits. As Mike Masnick notes over at Techdirt, you could quibble with the methodology of the CCIA study, but it is no more one-sided than all the anti-piracy “facts” that get circulated by the record companies. Says CCIA president Ed Black:

“Much of the unprecedented economic growth of the past 10 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.”

According to one measure used by the study — “value added,” or the difference between an industry’s costs and the gross economic output it generates — fair use has contributed substantially more to the U.S. economy than the copyright business has (although there are problems with this, as Nick Carr describes in his own inimitable style). The study itself is here.

As the Inquirer points out, the amount of value created by fair use may even be higher than the CCIA study estimates, since much of the economic value that is generated by the music industry is driven by publicity and media reports — both of which would either not exist, or wouldn’t be as powerful, without fair use. Not surprisingly, Google has a pro fair-use post on its public policy blog.

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