The Computer and Communications Industry Association--a Washington D.C.-based think tank and lobbying group--has issued a report [PDF] that dispels some common mythology around the value of intellectual property to the U.S. economy. CCIA found that "fair use" exceptions to copyright created $4.5 trillion in annual revenue for the U.S. economy.
That's a big number, but it's not surprising. Just think of how difficult it would be to innovate if anyone (including Microsoft et al., which are members of CCIA) relied on a strict view of copyright.
"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."...
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 percent larger than that of the copyright industries.
The $4.5 trillion in annual revenue attributable to fair use represents a 31 percent increase since 2002, according to the report, which claims that fair use industries are responsible for 18 percent of U.S. economic growth and almost 11 million American jobs.
In short, those industries that rely on copyright to fuel their business should be even more grateful for fair use exceptions to their copyrights. The U.S. economy would shrink if it were purely based on compliance with traditional intellectual property strictures.
In other words, we need "leakage" in our copyright rules in order for copyright to work at all. Open source is a way of vastly broadening "fair use" in software, making it highly available for third-party usage. I'd therefore suggest that we'll see tremendous economic value created by open source.
As, in fact, we do. Imagine that.
UPDATE: By the way, Nick Carr decimates the article here. Oh, well. The idea was right.