This week, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) released the report Fair Use in the U.S. Economy (.pdf) concluding that industries that rely on the “fair use” exception in copyright law contributed $4.7 trillion or 16% of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2007, growing faster than the other sectors of the U.S. economy. The report credits the fair use of copyrighted works for the success of search engines, software developers and a number of other “new economy” industries.
The Fair Use Doctrine is derived from Section 107 of the Copyright Act, which reads:
[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
The CCIA Report examines industries that benefit from the Fair Use Doctrine, particularly Internet search engines, software developers and the makers of music and media players, and concludes that “exceptions to copyright protection . . . promote innovation and are a major catalyst of U.S. economic growth.” The report cautions that these findings do not necessarily call for scaling back copyright protections:
Certainly, copyright protection provides an incentive for the production of creative works and these works have a positive impact on the U.S. economy. The positive aspects of copyright protection should not, however, obscure that fair use is also a vital economic driver.
The CCIA report does not explain in detail what “fair use” helped drive the growth of MP3 players, but everyone should keep in mind that, as far as current caselaw is concerned, we still need to pay for songs downloaded from iTunes.
How “fair use” drives MP3 player sales: Currently, format shifting is (usually) considered fair use. Conversion of CD music to MP3 for personal use is legal, and without it, MP3 player sales would be a lot smaller.