Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Businesses The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

Fair Use Generates $4.7 Trillion For US Economy 160

Hugh Pickens writes "The Hill spotlights a study released by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which concludes that companies relying on fair use generate $4.7 trillion in revenue to the US economy every year. The report claims that fair use — an exception to the copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted materials — is crucial to innovation. It adds that employment in fair use industries grew from 16.9 million in 2002 to 17.5 million in 2007 and one out of eight US workers is employed by a company benefiting from protections provided by fair use (PDF). Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) says the reasonable fair use of content needs to be preserved; otherwise, content owners will control access to movies, music, and art that will no longer be available for schools, research, or web browsing. Lofgren tied the copyright issue with the question of net neutrality. Without net neutrality 'content owners will completely control and lock down content. We're going to be sorry characters when we actually don't see fair use rights on the Web,' says Lofgren. 'If we allow our freedom to be taken for commercial purposes, we will have some explaining to do to our founding fathers and those who died for our freedom.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Fair Use Generates $4.7 Trillion For US Economy

Comments Filter:
  • by iYk6 ( 1425255 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:20AM (#32012646)

    Easier said than done. There are so many variables that affect fair use. Is it for commercial purposes or non-profit? Parody or satire? 10% of what? Like you alluded, 10% of a large work is a lot. An entire song, over a hundred pages in a large book. And what about new technologies? The nature of fair use makes it difficult to define.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:25AM (#32012680) Homepage
    Note that the FSF view the GPL as a necessary evil on the road to destroying all software copyrights entirely. This isn't hyperbole, or my opinion: read Stallman's book [gnu.org], particularly Chapter 4.
  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:26AM (#32012700) Homepage

    I think you're missing the point. It's not about anti-copyright, because of the reasons you describe. It's about changing the goalposts all the time - fair use has been written in law for decades / centuries. Suddenly, companies want to clamp down, pretend it doesn't exist, stop you using your "fair use" rights at all, making "fair use" almost impossible through DRM schemes etc. And then copyright extension terms gets extended *again*, and *again* until nothing ever hits the public domain at all. That's *not* what copyright was about, and it's *not* the stated purpose as written in every historical law on copyright. It's supposed to be a temporary arrangement to allow the authors to prevent plagiarism for a reasonable time in order for them to capitalise on their work, and then to ultimately let the public benefit from "archaic" works.

    The message was lost. But even those people who license under the GPL release that when their copyright expires (if it *ever* does), their works may revert to the public domain (I don't know if anyone's looked at the copyright expiration situation but it's very difficult given the average development history of popular GPL software). At the rate things are going, that's going to be never.

    Most people *aren't* anti-copyright. They actually want the laws to be enforced as written and for the law to stay static. Hell, most Disney stuff, The Beatles, etc. should have expired into the public domain *YEARS* ago.

    The only significant works that I know where you can get public domain copies of them are the books on things like Project Gutenburg (and we're talking still-money-making stuff like the original Beatrix Potter illustrations and novels etc. and the rights-holders are still making a killing... you just have to be sure that you took the images from the *original* books, not from the modern (re-copyrighted) reprints). Music, software, video, where's the public domain stuff now?

  • by infalliable ( 1239578 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:29AM (#32012724)

    It is exaggerated and as all "effect on the economy" estimations, it is wildly dependent on the assumptions. But it uses a methodology similar to what is known of the MPAA/RIAA methodology. The MPAA/RIAA are not real forthcoming with how they came up with their numbers though, while at least this study does list out where all the numbers came from. Even the GAO criticized the MPAA/RIAA funded studies as being entirely secretive with no way of verifying the results.

    The important take home is that IP/copyright exceptions matter a great deal to people as does what is covered by copyright/IP law

  • Bad comparison (Score:2, Insightful)

    by epte ( 949662 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:29AM (#32012728)

    The assumption is to compare against $0 revenue for unfair use. But isn't it myopic to rely on the term "revenue" instead of "value"? It implies a suboptimization of the entertainment industry, instead of optimizing the whole.

    Don't you have to instead compare against the value generated for society as a whole? If it generates $10 trillion in value to society for moderate unfair use, then that changes the picture a little.

    I Am Not An Economist (obviously)

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:36AM (#32012794) Journal

    When dealing with an intractable foe, I see nothing wrong with adopting their tactics. RIAA exaggerates their numbers? Well then exaggerate your numbers too. RIAA sends-out talking points to Congresscritters with their "piracy costs us 5 trillion a year!" stats? Then send out YOUR talking point that says the exact opposite: "Fair use generate 5 trillion a year in revenue!"

    If the enemy cheats, then you need to cheat too, else you might as well just accept defeat. Nice guys finish last.

  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:38AM (#32012816) Homepage

    No, the important take home is that *all* political agendas need to be audited. The moment you start giving a free ride to politicians just because you agree with their cause is the moment you open the floodgates to total political anarchy.

    Not that it matters, really. The floodgates have been open for a while already.

  • by tbannist ( 230135 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:41AM (#32012834)

    No, it's the pro-copyright stance of many people that has not been entirely thought through. Copyrights are, at best, a necessary evil. The exist to create an incentive to create new works of art and to allow artists to work professionally on their art. They have been corrupted by corporate interests to make a perpetual money machine where new art is suppressed to keep the old art profitable. That runs exactly opposite to the reasons for copyright existing in the first place.

    I don't think the possible consequence that if you make something truly great your great-grandchildren will never have to work a day in their life is really a very good incentive. I doubt that's what motivates many, if any, artists.

  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:44AM (#32012858) Homepage

    Also, this will be the MAFAA's point of contention. Everyman's "fair use" is the MAFIAA's "copytheft". Hence, that $$$ these companies are deriving from fair use rightfully belongs in the MAFAA's coffers.

    It's not enough to argue that fair use is important because it generates value in the economy. We have to argue that fair use is indeed fair, and that certain provisions in copyright law are unfair, ridiculous, unenforceable, and impose an undue burden on all of us.

  • by kurt555gs ( 309278 ) <{kurt555gs} {at} {ovi.com}> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:51AM (#32012928) Homepage

    Originally the length of time a Copyright was valid for was 14 years. This allowed publishing and distribution in a world of Ox carts and sailing ships. One would only reason that with instant, world wide "content" distribution, it should be much less now. Say 1 or 2 years. This would be enough to extract money from the general public before the real purpose of Copyright law which is to put all creative works into the public domain would come into effect.

    Now with the post Eldridge Mickey Mouse forever life + 75 years as the term, and the whole reason of copyright law being twisted into some ownership of "content" forever which is exactly the opposite of it's intent, we need "fair use" and "net neutrality".

    What really is needed though, is to fix copyright and patent law so the time limit of protection is only a year or two, and return to it's original purpose of bringing all of these works into the public domain where they belong!

  • by thunderdanp ( 1481263 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:52AM (#32012948)
    Your search for a clearly defined boundary of fair use boils down to this question; would you prefer that Congress decide the issue, or would you prefer the courts decide? I would argue that the Courts are better situated, in this context, to figure out what uses out to be protected under fair use. This is so due to the significant implications of rights gained under fair use. If you accept that copyright generally is a good, productive, successful inducement scheme to yield creative works, then taking some of those rights given under copyright away shouldn't be done lightly. The more you expand fair use, the less valuable a given copyright will be to the original author. Given that Congress has to act in a uniform manner and isn't able to feel out the edges of the ramifications of fair use, I posit that courts will produce the most fair and practicable rule for both parties.
  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:58AM (#32012994)

    I think 2 years is too little. That's enough for the giants to make their money, but is unfair to the small publishers and self-publishers. It effectively creates a barrier to entry into the arts.

  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:13AM (#32013154) Homepage Journal

    When dealing with an intractable foe, I see nothing wrong with adopting their tactics.

    You assume that all tactics favour both sides equally. The IP cartels can afford to employ professional liars, while they don't have much in the way of moral high ground. We have the moral ground, and any lies we might employ will be quickly picked apart and used to discredit us.

    Better to play to our strengths and keep it clean. Not everybody regards the world as the utterly amoral zero sum game that some economists would like it to be.

  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:20AM (#32013234) Homepage

    I recently assigned a paper on the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement in a class on innovation. We had to spend two weeks more discussing it after I got not a single paper that understood the difference, despite having spent time going over the topic already.

    What surfaced in the course of our discussions after the paper was that they were relying on sources (articles, press, other instructors) that simply conflated the two, and whose language on the justifications for both was almost always couched simply in individualist ethics (protecting an implied right on the parts of other authors in terms of identity and status) rather than in rational policy calculations. In short, most of the sources they found sloppily interchanged words like plagiarism and copyright infringement and implied both to be a matter of protecting egos and personas as an individual rights issue.

    Plagiarism = Copyright Violation = Failure to be original

    It was a very tough discussion because they were very suspicious to find one single instructor (i.e. me) telling them that pure originality is not the basis of science or creative life (indeed, isn't even possible), and that plagiarism is not a legal construct and should not be imagined in that way.

  • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:29AM (#32013374)

    Presumably the original Mickey Mouse character design should be in the public domain.

    Disney could probably claim the character name and image as trademarks, which don't expire. Even if that isn't the case now, I personally would be okay with allowing it in exchange for shorter copyright terms. You wouldn't be able to create new cartoons and market them as Mickey Mouse, but you can freely watch and share Mickey Mouse cartoons that Disney made 50 years ago.

  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:03AM (#32013874)

    let's make breaking DRM legal on works 20 years old or more. Let's also make it an obligation to release the DRM encryption method for those works

    Better to make DRM and copyright mutually exclusive. If you use DRM you don't need the legal protection of copyright.

  • by orasio ( 188021 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:05AM (#32013910) Homepage

    Every time I see someone from two centuries ago respond so clearly to the dumbasses that rule today, I get more convinced that the world is advancing in the wrong direction.

  • by monkeythug ( 875071 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:25AM (#32014224) Homepage

    In fact the whole point of this report is the highlight the absurdity of the claims made by the RIAA/MPAA. It deliberately uses the exact same methodology, where in the *AA case it assumes that all revenue generated by creative industries is attributable to the existence of copyright law - this report applies the same thinking to fair use.

    The idea is to point out that even by the *AA's own calculations the economy benefits far more from exceptions to copyright law than it does from copyright law itself.

  • by ThunderDan ( 788062 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:27AM (#32014262)

    Copyright is a necessary evil. It should be treated as such.

    I am always curious about comments such as this. If Copyright is "evil," what makes it necessary? And if it is really necessary, is it really evil? To argue that something is a "necessary evil," to me, belies the underlying principles that makes something necessary in the first place, and is simply a semantical device to remain indignant to an idea, but still reap its benefits.

  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:46AM (#32014676) Journal

    I got not a single paper that understood the difference, despite having spent time going over the topic already

    That's what happens when everybody Google's the same terms and uses those same first 10 sources for their research...

  • by DelShalDar ( 120367 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:30AM (#32015578) Homepage

    It's also interesting to note that these companies, at least the companies the MPAA represents, keep claiming to operate at an effective net loss. Hollywood Accounting is notorious for claiming negative net profits on films that cost tens of millions of dollars to make and distribute, and generate hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in gross income. This is why anyone wanting a percentage of a movie's income as payment go after gross profits instead of net profits, otherwise they wouldn't ever get paid. Why, then, do these same companies decry that they're losing money due to fair-use/piracy/etc.? They're already losing any money they may have generated by being in business and operating as they do in the first place. So, unless they're lying about their actual costs (which is pretty much a given when considering the money they're willing and able to throw around) then we have to assume that any "losses" they complain about are internal to their infrastructure and business models, and not from any external factor.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:11PM (#32019462) Journal

    Your assumption is incorrect, Nicky. I have made my living, supported my family, as a content creator since 1989. I've been a professional since 1987, but it took me a couple of years to start making enough money to not need a day job.

    Since 2006 I only use Creative Commons licenses. It has not negatively affected the profitability of my work.

    It is possible, it just takes a little creativity. Content creators are supposed to be creative, so it works out.

    Copyright is not only murder, but it's for the weak-minded, the one-hit wonders. It became immoral the day it became legal for creators to sell or transfer their rights, and when copyright was extended past two decades. When it was extended past the natural life of the author, it became an abomination. It's for people who fear they don't have anything more to give.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?