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I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Means, Part II


As DisCo has previously reported, it’s not uncommon for copyright-related studies to be mischaracterized, even by their own sponsors.  The report and the accompanying press release just issued by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) demonstrate another example of this.

The report, prepared by Stephen Siwek of Economists Incorporated, finds that the value added of the “core” copyright industries to Gross Domestic Product in 2012 exceeded $1 trillion dollars. The report itself does not in any way attribute the success of these industries to copyright protection. It simply states the contribution to the U.S. economy of industries whose primary business is to create, produce, distribute, or exhibit copyright materials.

The press release, on the other hand, has the following title: “Copyright Contributes $1 Trillion to the U.S. Economy.” Not “copyright industries,” just “copyright.” The press release then proceeds to assert conclusions not contained in the report. A lawyer affiliated with IIPA states that “In order to preserve and enhance jobs, exports and economic contributions, it is critical that we have strong legal protections for U.S. creativity and innovation in the U.S. and abroad.” The lawyer adds that “To foster continued growth of this dynamic sector, we need strong and modern copyright laws that take into account changes in technology and the continuing harm caused by copyright piracy, especially as legitimate digital distributors continue to emerge. Vigorous enforcement of those laws is also critical to ongoing efforts to create and preserve good U.S. jobs, reduce persistent trade deficits, and foster durable economic growth.”

To be sure, the copyright industries contribute significantly to the U.S. economy (although as the report shows, the exports of the software industry are three times larger than the rest of the copyright industries combined). But the press release just assumes without basis that to “preserve and enhance” these contributions, strong legal protections are necessary. Further, the press release asserts without foundation that “strong and modern copyright laws” and “vigorous enforcement of those laws” are critical to fostering continued growth of this sector.

Without doubt, copyright protection does play a role in the success of these industries. However, the exceptions and limitations to copyright also play a role in the success of these industries, and many others to boot. Contrary to the IIPA press release, the Siwek report itself provides no copyright policy prescriptions for Congress or trade negotiators.

Jonathan Band is a DC-based attorney whose clients include Internet companies, providers of information technology, universities, library associations, and CCIA.  He previously guest-posted on DisCo about the changing textbook industry.

Intellectual Property

The Internet enables the free exchange of ideas and content that, in turn, promote creativity, commerce, and innovation. However, a balanced approach to copyright, trademarks, and patents is critical to this creative and entrepreneurial spirit the Internet has fostered. Consequently, it is our belief that the intellectual property system should encourage innovation, while not impeding new business models and open-source developments.