- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

Industries that benefit from the “fair use” exemption to federal copyright law contributed about $4.5 trillion in revenue to the U.S. economy last year, according to a study conducted by an information technology trade group.

Fair use refers to an exception in the Copyright Act of 1976 that permits the use of copyrighted works for reasons including criticism, news reporting, scholarship and research. The exception has taken on new relevance as the Internet and advances in consumer technologies increasingly pit copyright holders against the technology sector.

In what it billed as the first economic analysis of “fair use industries,” the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) yesterday released a report calculating the effect of the exceptions on U.S. revenue, employment, productivity and exports.

The trade group, whose members include software and Internet companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., identified fair use industries as: manufacturers of consumer devices that allow individual copying of copyrighted programming; educational institutions; software developers; and Internet search and Web-hosting providers.

The industries employed 10.8 million workers and generated $194 billion in related exports in 2006, according to the study, which also calculated growth in each category since 2002.

“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 trade group, who cautioned against “unintended consequences of perhaps well-meaning but overbroad copyright regulation.”

The Copyright Alliance, a group dedicated to safeguarding copyrights, did not dispute the study’s findings but sought to focus attention on the contributions of copyright holders.

“There is no fair use without original creative works,” said Patrick Ross, executive director of the alliance, whose members include the entertainment industry. “All those who embrace fair use must understand this and support creators who are producing the works they so prize.”

For their part, copyright industries employed 11.3 million workers and contributed $1.3 trillion, or 11 percent of gross domestic product, in 2005, the Copyright Alliance added.

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