Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All's Fair in Love and War

You know, right now I'm feeling a great deal of stress at work.  There's all this "must contact me every five minutes" sort of attitude going on, along with a "please check in when you get to a site and do not leave until I say you can" snittyness.  Along with gastro-intestinal pain that's only been increasing all day.  It's getting so a technician can't be a geek in peace these days.

But I digress.  What I really want to discuss is this recent study showing that industries that thrive on the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law contribute $4.7 TRILLION dollars to the global economy.  Holy crap.... can you say "death star" funding?   We're not just talking about teachers photocopying a few pages of a book to share in class of course, the whole Internet search engine market falls under this category according to the courts, which explains a big portion of this value.  How much value is returned to you by Google being able to help you easily find that loofah sponge you so long to purchase?  Not that there's anything wrong with that....

The research includes a great many things under fair use that it tries to put dollar figures to.  For example, the idea that you can time shift or space shift your content is another big portion of the value.  Why watch Dancing with the Stars at 9:00 downstairs when you can watch it tomorrow in your bathroom while using your new loofah?  So now the value includes dvr's, and the fat bandwidth pipe used to supply your home with all that juicy content you are just so dying to gain access to.

Granted, the report is pretty esoteric, and you should have a relatively good head on your shoulders to digest its findings.  It's more interesting to tease out details such as the difference between core industries (photographic, education) and non-core industries (tv/radio sales; telcoms) and determine the influence of each on the overall market value (core being $2.04 trillion of the total). 

But what the real story is here, is that fair use is an important and valuable doctrine that needs our continued support.  The number of industries fair use impacts is enormous and wide spread, and the continued erosion of fair use by modern copyright law is going to create serious legal and economic hurdles for developing industries.  Without fair use, there is no google, no Amazon, no YouTube.  What will the Web 3.0 be like if our current doctrine of fair use is obliterated by corporations bent on sucking every last dollar out of a creation, with ungodly DRM or other restrictions? 

I'm not sure, but as long as I can still get my generic medications, then I can at least be comfortable in knowing modern patent law is working fine.  Anyone got a few tums I can take?  Blech.....

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