A couple of data points I would have liked to have seen but could not find in the study released Monday by the International Intellectual Property Alliance on the copyright industries’ $1.5 trillion contribution to U.S. GDP:
1) What portion of the economic activity in what the report classify as “non-core” copyright industries is being counted toward that $1.5 trillion? Following classifications established by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2004, the report divides the copyright industries into four categories: Core industries (movies, TV, books, newspapers, recorded music, computer software); Partial copyright industries (industries in which a portion of their output is eligible for copyright protection, e.g. fabric, jewelry, furniture); Non-Dedicated Support industries (transportation, telecommunications, etc.); and Interdependent industries (CE manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, blank media etc.). Together, the four make up the report’s “total copyright industries.”
According to the report the core industries contributed $889 billion to U.S. GDP in 2007, the last year for which data are available, while the non-core industries contributed $636 billion. Not all economic activity in those related industries is related to copyrighted works, however, as the authors of the report acknowledge. So how much are they assigning to the copyright category? “A portion,” according the report. How big a portion? The report doesn’t say.
2) What sort of negative externalities can fairly be laid at the feet of the core copyright industries, in the form of foregone innovation, legal costs related to infringement claims or possible infringement claims, the higher cost of interdependent goods resulting from design requirements imposed by copyright owners, etc.?
I wasn’t really expecting an accounting of those costs in a report paid for by the copyright industries. But whatever those numbers are, they’re real and they’re non-zero, and any fair assessment of the true contribution of the industry to GDP should take account of them.
Which is why it was disappointing to see the U.S. Department of Commerce sign onto the report. Not the sort of analytical rigor some of us were hoping to see from the Obama administration.
The full report is here (PDF).