Second, public and private grant-making organizations should support research that builds the data infrastructure that would support research in this area. They could convene a representative group of researchers, for example, under the auspices of NBER, to further identify, characterize, and prioritize data sources. Funding agencies could then assist researchers in negotiating access to such data and in some cases fund their acquisition from industry stakeholders, perhaps through a research consortium. In many cases, private firms hold data that may be recent enough for some research purposes but obsolete commercially. They might be induced to release these to researchers on a rolling basis.
Third, as we have observed, the federal government needs to expand the collection of data on the digital economy as well as on intangible assets such as intellectual property holdings and their use. This should take several forms. First, agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of the Census should consider adding copyright-related information to regularly conducted surveys of businesses and consumers. One prime example would be revising the Bureau of Labor Statistics Time Use Survey to address questions of digital consumption in a contemporary way. In the current survey, there is no measurement of time spent listening to music exclusively rather than in combination with other activities. Although private sector sources of data are important, as we have noted, there are significant limitations of current surveys, and the availability of such data is limited for researchers. The Bureau of Economic Affairs of the Commerce Department has very limited resources to acquire the types of business data described above that could be extremely useful in understanding the landscape of intangible assets.
The committee proposes a more ambitious approach. Agencies such as the Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Science Foundation, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the Copyright Office should form an interagency group that, along with expert advisors, would study the advisability and feasibility of an ongoing and systemic national business survey of intellectual property. Like the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS), the IP survey would include samples of businesses in the service and manufacturing sectors. It would probe uses (e.g., licensing) and holdings of intellectual property and costs of acquisition and maintenance. Because of the nature of the production of digital goods, including the prominence of user-generated content, the business survey should be complemented, if at all feasible, by a detailed consumer survey of user-generated content and use. This would include, among other things, measurement of the amount of production and distribution of digital content by non-business entities (i.e., by users), and also