Thursday, September 13, 2007
The economic value of "fair use"
Millions of people use Google’s search engine every day but don't realize that the balance inherent in U.S. copyright law helps enable it to exist. Here at Google, we strongly support the intellectual property rights of content creators and the protection of copyright. We think creators deserve to be rewarded for their work, and support the balance of copyright law as fundamental to promoting future creativity.
While protecting the rights of creators, the Constitution and the courts place limits on the rights of copyright holders. For example, copyright laws encourage others to make use of content in limited ways without seeking anyone's permission through the doctrine of "fair use." By enabling journalists, scholars and the general public to quote from and comment on others' writings, the fair use doctrine underscores basic rights of free expression.
Fair use also assures that technological innovations such as the Internet itself can operate without violating copyright law. For instance, Google crawls the web, analyzes and indexes its content and makes a copy of each page on our servers. Our index is made up of the content of every web page which is crawled, optimized and stored in a variety of locations all over the world, to deliver results to users in a fraction of a second. In this way, we provide an opportunity for content creators to promote and capitalize on their creativity.
We've known for a while that fair use has allowed entire new industries and companies to grow, and to bring beneficial new services and innovative devices to consumers. Now, an interesting new study released yesterday by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (of which Google is a member) attempts to quantify the contribution of industries relying on fair use to the economy.
The study -- which I encourage you to check out -- concludes that the "fair use economy" in 2006 accounted for $4.6 trillion in revenues (roughly one-sixth of total U.S. gross domestic product), employed more than 17 million people, and supported a payroll of $1.2 trillion (approximately one out of every eight workers in the US). It also generated $194 billion in exports and significant productivity growth. Using a methodology similar to a previous World Intellectual Property Organization guide, the results of the study demonstrate that fair use is an important economic driver in the digital age.
Copyright law involves a delicate balance, and here in the U.S. fair use is an important part of that equation. This study suggests that it's also an important part of the U.S. economy.