Study: Unauthorized sharing of documents is widespread

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Almost half of the $90 million distributed to publishers by the Copyright Clearance Center last year was for reuse of digital content. And while publishers say this shows they are making strides in the battle against wrongful use of their Web content, a new report suggests that continued ambiguity about the rules has created a copyright infringement pandemic.

Outsell Inc. estimated that 89% of U.S. workers forward content to others, for a total of 56 billion documents exchanged annually, many without proper authorization. The study by the research and advisory firm is based on a survey of 2,000 professionals in corporate, government, education and health care environments.

“We didn’t write this to say to the [publishing] industry, `You need to clamp down on this,’ “ said David Curle, a director and industry analyst at Outsell. “We wrote this to say you need to build awareness. Not only do people forward a lot of stuff without being authorized, but the industry does very little when people want to comply.”

Unlike the music and entertainment industries, the publishing industry has not banded together to educate information users about where fair use starts and ends. However, publishers have linked up with different technology providers to generate revenue from document sharing.

ALM, for instance, uses Copyright Clearance Center ’s Rightslink program. “It’s almost a mechanism for notifying people that they need to get rights,” said Ellen Siegel, ALM VP-licensing and development. “It’s a revenue stream, and it protects our assets.”

Since April 2002, Primedia Business Magazines & Media has partnered with Data Depth Corp.’s iCopyright to allow readers to license and purchase its digital content for commercial reuse.

“As soon as we moved into the digital realm with the Web, where everything is a link away from everything else, we felt we needed to do something to sensitize people to the fact that if you want to make a secondary use [of our information] beyond first-person personal use, you have to pay for it,” said Andrew Elston, VP-content licensing and development for Primedia Enterprises.

“We do not make buckets of money from it. But we do provide people with the education that this is something they need to be serious about.” M

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