Saturday, March 2, 2024

Are Fair Use and Piracy Good for the Economy?


The Computer & Communications Industry Association released a report yesterday with alleged findings that fair use generates $4.7 trillion in revenue for the U.S.

Ironically, two other reports released yesterday strongly argue for stronger intellectual property rights protection. The first, by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, concluded that more aggressive protections for copyrighted and patented work is necessary to spur economic growth and job creation. The other report, by the NY Times, reported that as Shanghai prepares for the World Expo, “government inspectors fanned out across the city and ordered shops selling pirated music and movies to stash away their illegal goods during the expo[.]”

The Hill reported that Rep. Zoe Loffgren (D-Calif.), who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, commented on fair use:

[T]he reasonable fair use of content needs to be preserved. Otherwise, content owners will control access to movies, music and art that will no longer be available for schools, research or web browsing. She tied the copyright issue with net neutrality[.] Fair use is a matter of Internet freedom[.] Fair use is what makes search engines possible. Without the fair use doctrine in the law, indexing the Web would be illegal because it requires creating copies of Web sites.

Huh? With all due respect to Rep. Loffgren, her understanding of fair use could not be more erroneous and misguided. Loffgren makes the same mistake made by countless laypersons: the wrong assumption that anything on the web is public domain. The absurdity of this belief is self-evident, and the counter-arguments too many to list here. Simply put, if I upload my images on for your perusal, it does not give license to every viewer to use my image in any way they see fit. There are limitations and restrictions to the image’s use granted to me by copyright law, and some freedoms granted to you the viewer by fair use. Just as I cannot break into someone’s bank account via a website (made available through “internet freedom”), viewers cannot use my images in ways not allowed by fair use. The internet and websites don’t change that or make it more fair use. It’s that simple.


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