We See Your 'Copyright Contributes $1.5 Trillion' And Raise You 'Fair Use Contributes $2.2 Trillion'

from the pointless-numbers dept

The copyright industry lobbyists absolutely love to throw around the bogus and debunked stat that copyright contributes $1.52 trillion to the economy. That number is derived by taking any business that kinda sorta maybe touches copyright (including things like furniture and jewelry) and then assuming that all of the revenue they make is entirely due to copyright. Yes, that’s ridiculous. But, if the copyright lobbyists are going to use such bogus methodology to push their agenda, it seems only fair for those on the other side to use the same methodology. Last week, we wrote about a biased editorial by two newspaper industry lawyers in the WSJ (who failed to note the conflicts of interest), claiming that Google violated copyright law, and attacked the concept of fair use.

In response, Ed Black, from the Computer & Communications Industry Association wrote a letter to the editor highlighting those lawyers factual mistakes as well as the importance of fair use throughout the industry (thanks to Yano for sending this in). Most of the (short) letter discusses all the wonderful things that fair use allows, and then has this wonderful line at the end:

Businesses dependent upon exceptions to copyright contribute $2.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. They are responsible for one in eight jobs, for a total payroll of $1.2 trillion in 2006. Fair use is serious business; it is the glue that holds the Internet and new technology together. It is worth protecting.

This is fantastic. Of course, the number is just as bogus as the $1.52 trillion used by copyright maximalists, but I think that if they’re going to use their methodology to make such ridiculous claims, it’s only fair to do the same for the contributions to the economy of exceptions to copyright, and as the CCIA clearly demonstrates, the businesses that rely on weaker copyright contribute significantly more to the economy than those that rely on copyright. Thus, by the copyright maximalists own logic (and numbers), shouldn’t we be fighting to expand the exceptions to copyright law?

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Comments on “We See Your 'Copyright Contributes $1.5 Trillion' And Raise You 'Fair Use Contributes $2.2 Trillion'”

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ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Don't stop there

“Thus, by the copyright maximalists own logic (and numbers), shouldn’t we be fighting to expand the exceptions to copyright law?”

More to the point, we should be drastically limiting copyright. It’s ridiculous that the terms that were in place in an age of moveable type are considered inadequate for an age of instant, perfect duplication. A fourteen year lapsed copyright is far more useful than a CC:ND.

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Good point — you could almost attribute all of Disney’s income ever to public domain. Can we also start adding up all the money we save individually, by avoiding Copyright license fees via “fair use”, and little things like quotes and proper attribution? I could probably tally a few $K based on high school reports alone! College papers could put me in the millionaires club.

chairs says:


um i do not htink im going ot get sued if i go out in my back yard and build myself a chair

also i never have heard of once i buy a chair should i not wish to build one have to have a EULA and or pay a monthly subscription fee or monthly to use said chair

my bet is 80% of that 1.52 trillion is UTTER BULL$HIT, while tech going into your car my have copyrights what you do with your car after is truely your business and when they try and pull the same crap with cdrs and music and movies on cars the drug addict gangster will revolt, thats why it dont happen…..

Spanky says:


I occasionally read the WSJ for amusement, but in general I don’t trust it. They lie a little too much.

Yesterday, on the front page, was a comment that the current economic downturn was caused by people buying houses they couldn’t afford. No mention of the fact that, before deregulation, no lender would have lent to those people, because the lender would be too afraid they would be left holding the bag.

I like how these stand-up, tough, risk-taking businessmen can never seem to take responsibility for their own actions. The WSJ and IBD are leading practitioners of this.

Anonymous Coward says:

The full 45 page report can be found here


Its actually eye-opening to go through their list of industries that rely on fair use, and how they do. Amusingly there is a fair amount of overlap with the industries that copyright supposedly benefits. It’s a good read.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: The problem is....

Except if you took away all copyrights tomorrow (or drastically shortened them) all the business models relying on fair use exceptions would keep right on trucking, while those relying on a government granted monopoly would likely collapse.

So, while both numbers are rather silly, only one of them is even theoretically dependent on the existence of copyright law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The problem is....


The fair use in a great number of the industries highlighted by the CCIA are in no way related to use of material where copyright was a motivating factor in its creation. For example:

* The legal industry (which benefits from the idea/expression dichotomy exception, no copyright of US gov works, etc.)
* The insurance industry (which benefits from no copyright on facts / database content)
* investment industry (non-copyright of facts)
* software/electronics/semiconductor industries (reverse engineering exception, no copyright on interfaces, etc.)
…(read the report to see more)…

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