Open Content creates more economic value than copyright

Fair use is the American concept that there are exemptions to copyright in certain cases, which in fact create a form of what is now “open content”. A recent report by the Computer and Communications Industry Association, concludes that this in fact creates more economic value added than the protected material. The importance of this report in terms of policy making cannot be overstated. The excerpt is from a fuller article in Information Week.


“Fair use exceptions to U.S. copyright laws account for more than $4.5 trillion in annual revenue for the United States, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

“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,” CCIA president and CEO Ed Black said in a statement. “To stay on the edge of innovation and productivity, we must keep fair use as one of the cornerstones for creativity, innovation, and, as today’s study indicates, an engine for growth for our country.”

By one measure — “value added,” which the report defines as “an industry’s gross output minus its purchased intermediate inputs” — the fair use economy is greater than the copyright economy.

Recent studies indicate that the value added to the U.S. economy by copyright industries amounts to $1.3 trillion, said Black. The value added to the U.S. economy by the fair use amounts to $2.2 trillion.

The fair use economy’s “value added” is thus almost 70% larger than that of the copyright industries.

The $4.5 trillion in annual revenue attributable to fair use represents a 31% increase since 2002, according to the report, which claims that fair use industries are responsible for 18% of U.S. economic growth and almost 11 million American jobs.

The fair use doctrine allows the use of copyrighted material without a license from the copyright owner.”

1 Comment Open Content creates more economic value than copyright

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Criticism by open knowledge activist Rufus Pollock at

    “while perhaps interesting as propaganda these figures have zero ‘intellectual’ credibility — and , in fact, little basis in the study itself. For all the study actually does is label a whole bunch of industries as ‘fair-use’ related and then sum up their contribution to GDP and Value-Added. Leaving aside their extremely questionable classification of companies as ‘fair-use related’ the basic problem is that the study makes no effort to actually work out whether fair-use was essential to these businesses, or, more specifically, what difference the absence of fair-use would have meant to their profitability or success. Just because a company makes some use of the fair-use exceptions doesn’t mean you can suddenly ascribe its full value to the existence of those exceptions!

    Thus there is absolutely no way this study tells us what the ‘contribution of fair-use’ to the economy actually is and certainly no way to make specific statements such as the “value added to the U.S. economy by fair use amounts to $2.2 trillion”. The study’s authors no doubt were aware of this, hence that clever elision in the above quote between industries “benefiting from fair-use” and the “fair-use economy”, with the latter phrase implying much a much more direct dependence on the benefits of fair-use than the former.

    Of course it is also true that just as much propagandizing (base on equally poor “research”) is done by those on the other side of the debate (see for example my analysis of the BSA’s piracy claims) but I am deeply sceptical that two wrongs make a right. What we need in debates over IP is not more propaganda but more evidence.”

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