Creative rights drive growth and innovation

We represent districts on opposite coasts with varying political views, but there is one thing on which we can agree: in North Carolina and California, we depend on a strong community of creators and innovators to spur job growth and drive our economy.  

Creativity is at the core of our lives in 21st century America, from the software and apps we use, the videogames we play, and the books, newspapers, and journals we read to the motion pictures and television shows we watch and the music we enjoy. These define our cultural and social identities, provide for economic growth and jobs and affect our well-being in countless ways. And all are protected by copyright.

Make a list of all the different activities you enjoy and you will see how actively you participate in this cycle of creativity and innovation. As our forefathers envisioned in the Constitution, copyright has become a basic economic and innovation driver for our country. Copyright provides a core foundation, protecting and nurturing creativity and the economic investment needed to produce and distribute the products of innovation loved by American consumers.

Nothing demonstrates this fact more powerfully than a new study just released by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, titled Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2013 Report.

This study marks an important milestone, as the core copyright industries now contribute more than $1 trillion in value added to the U.S. gross domestic product. These industries make up roughly 6.5 percent of the entire U.S. economy. And if you add certain contributions from industries related to copyright — such as toys and games, fabrics, TV sets and computers— the totals become even more staggering, with more than $1.7 trillion value added, or 11.25 percent of the economy.

Since 2009, copyright has outpaced the rest of the economy in real growth by more than 2-to-1. Its value added to the U.S. economy exceeds that of other industry sectors like construction (nearly double), and rivals U.S. sectors such as healthcare, finance and insurance. 

The study also highlights copyright’s function as an engine for export revenues by giving back to the U.S. economy in an age dominated by foreign trade deficits. In 2012, this “copyright surplus” amounted to $142 billion for key copyright sectors. This positive balance of trade directly benefits the U.S. and provides welcome economic stability in sometimes unsettling and unpredictable economic times.

Copyright is responsible for employing nearly 5.4 million U.S. workers. These high-quality jobs, with salaries that average about 33 percent higher than those in the remainder of the economy, include not only those who entertain us and whose names and faces we may know, but those who provide the essential foundation of a healthy creative industry. These are the men and women who work and sweat behind the scenes every day developing software or apps, building sets, painting scenes, running lights or cameras, writing and recording music, building game experiences and writing, researching, editing and publishing books. All of these hard-working individuals rely on copyright for their livelihoods.

But as the copyright economy advances to meet the needs of the digital marketplace, significant challenges continue to arise. For example, a recent report by NetNames showed that 24 percent of total Internet bandwidth worldwide involves traffic on infringing sites and services — strong evidence of the ongoing threat to this important economic sector and our ability to protect creative works online. Additional threats include physical counterfeiting, market access barriers and discriminatory treatment for U.S. copyrights in foreign markets. 

For some, copyright is a difficult concept to understand and value, but without this right, we wouldn’t have access to the breadth of creative works out there. Can you imagine turning on your TV and seeing an empty screen, or scrolling for music on your smartphone only to find nothing there, or having no books to fill your e-reading tablet or to learn from in classrooms? Or how about having no games to play on that new Xbox One or PS4 game console? Copyright is at the core of these activities that we currently enjoy. 

This study demonstrates that protecting copyright produces concrete, positive economic results that serve as a launching pad for further growth, innovation and high-quality jobs. It also underscores what is at stake for copyright, providing a compelling argument for effective laws that promote and foster our economic growth here and abroad. We must carefully nurture those who originate and create because, ultimately, copyright runs deep in our daily lives and throughout the American fabric. 

Coble has represented North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District since 1985. He sits on the Judiciary; and the Transportation and Infrastructure committees. Chu has represented southern California’s congressional districts since 2009. She sits on the Judiciary and the Small Business committees. Coble and Chu are co-chairmen of the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus.