John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Fair-Use Economy Generates One-Sixth of U.S. GDP, One-Half of Its BS

loadofbull.jpgThe entertainment and so-called fair-use-dependent industries may be at odds when it comes to issues of copyright, but apparently they’re of a mind when it comes to hyperbolic claims about their contributions to the U.S. economy.

According to a new report [PDF] from the Computer and Communications Industry Association, industries that rely on copyrights to drive their business contribute $1.3 trillion in annual revenue to the U.S. economy. Industries that rely on “fair use” exceptions to those copyrights contribute $4.5 trillion annually.

“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,” said Ed Black, president and chief executive officer of the CCIA, who cautioned against “unintended consequences of perhaps well-meaning, but overbroad copyright regulation.”

Which is about what you’d expect from a computer-industry lobbying group whose membership includes companies like Google and Yahoo, both of which have benefited from unlicensed usage of copyright materials. But even discounting for trade group overstatement, the idea that fair-use-dependent industries account for a sixth of the nation’s GDP seems ludicrous, as Nick Carr caustically notes over at Rough Type.

Even by the woeful standards of the bespoke research industry, this study is a crock. It’s not just bad; it’s absurd. What the authors have done is to define the ‘fair-use economy’ so broadly that it encompasses any business with even the most tangential relationship to the free use of copyrighted materials. Here’s an example of the tortured logic by which they force-fit vast, multifaceted industries into the ‘fair use’ category: Because ‘recent advances in processing speed and software functionality are being used to take advantage of the richer multi-media experience now available from the web,’ then the entire ‘computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing industry’ qualifies as a ‘fair-use industry.’ As does the entire ‘audio & video equipment manufacturing’ business. And the entire software publishing industry. And the entire telecommunications industry. And–hey, why not?–the entire insurance industry. Stock markets and commodity exchanges? Sure, throw them in, too. … Can’t industry groups make their points without stretching the truth beyond recognition and, in the process, insulting everyone’s intelligence? Fair use deserves better.”

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— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo