Webster's Online Dictionary

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“Fair Use” is a concept of US copyright legislation. In essence it is ‘any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work’1.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association reveals in a study2 about $4.5 trillion of the revenue generated in the US, or 18 percent, and about 17.3 million jobs rely on the fair use exceptions. This revenue is generated by industries such as3:

  • manufacturers of consumer devices that allow individual copying of copyrighted programming;
  • educational institutions;
  • software developers; and
  • internet search and web hosting providers.

The figure looks gigantic, and the temptation is high to argue for a small share of revenue for the creators of all that content used under fair use exceptions. However, the exceptions of fair use make quite many economic activities only possible, e.g. software development, which in many cases requires the making of temporary copies of existing programs to facilitate the programming of interoperability, making temporary copies of TV programmes to watch them at a later point in time, or even browsing the web, which requires temporary cache copies of websites on the rendom access memory of the computer — activities that would be extremely hard to monitor in order to collect resonable compensation for the use of copyrighted content, let alone the difficulties of establishing corresponding licensing agreements. Thus, establishing the fair use exemptions in 1976 was a vital ingredient for many industries to grow.

More importantly, it is worthwhile noticing, that it is not only copyright protection that stimulates innovation, creativity and eventually business. Obviously, the “fair use” exemption in the U.S. even outnumbers the potential of the ‘copyright industry’.4 I should add, however, that relying on a fair use exemption requires copyright protection to be established in the first place — and this not in a narrow sophistic sense but in order to make the creation of content viable at all.

  1. []
  2. available online at []
  3. p. 6, 18-39 and appendix II of the report []
  4. according to the IIPA-report (, ‘In 2005, the estimated value added for the total copyright industries rose to $1,388.13 billion ($1.38 trillion) or 11.12% of U.S. GDP.’ []