4.5 Trillion Served

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Pardon me if I have to approach the computer company’s calculation of the "dollar value of "fair use: on the U.S. Economy with a cellar full of salt.

Studios have been fighting the battle against content pirates for decades, and can be expected to err on the side of protecting their intellectual property in an era where most 10-year-olds are perfectly capable of commandeering content. That does not mean that fair uses should not also be protected, of course.

But giving each their due, with a thumb on the scale of the content creator side as a content creator myself, I was struck with the enormity of that fair use figure as trumpeted in a just-released study by the Computer and Communications Industry Association. that’s the same group that took aim at the FBI warnings on DVD’s as overzealous.

According to CCIA, the "contribution of fair use" to the U.S> economy is $4.5 trillion, or one-sixth of the entire gross domestic product. The study was intended, I think, primarily to get a number out there bigger than the $1.3 bilion the copyright industry says they represent, a figure they site under seige by content pirates.

Both seem large, but obviuusly, the $4.5 billion figure seems more than three times as large becuase, well, it is.

What does that number comprise. Almost everything, apparently. The list of companies that "would not exist or be much smaller" were it not for fair use exemptions and limitations seems almost limitless, though CCIA says it is conservative and, because of the fluidity of the Internet businesses, may actually undercount the potential damage.

Here is just a smattering of the industries that depend on fair use, somewhat ironically including studios and other media. Only somewhat ironically because those media concede there are fair uses, just too many opportunities for unfair uses.

Anyway, here is that list I was talking about before I digressed. Performers, agents, book stores, music stores, insurance carriers, architectural firms, music publishers, book publishers, direct mailers, computer hardware and software manufacturers, Internet service providers, data processing, business-to-business Internet sites (that’s me!), and the veritable host of others stretching over many pages.

Fair use fanatics argue their rights to snip and clip and share and copy have been erroded by powerful studios overprotecting their content with the Chicken Little cry of "the sky is being digitally copied and distributed without compensation." The studios say they are simply trying to protect the financial interest of themselves and the creators of their content in a world where Generation X or Next or whatever is increasingly seeing content duplication and distribution as an entitlement rather than the potential theft of someone else’s property.

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