Unlike BRDIS, these surveys could be conducted periodically, such as every five years. The Bureau or the National Science Foundation would issue periodic reports of aggregated data, but detailed data would be available to qualified licensed researchers on the same basis as other business confidential information, through the Census data centers. Such survey data could never provide data to answer all of the research questions we pose in Chapter 3 but would be a considerable advance on the status quo, greatly contributing to our ongoing efforts to better understand the stock and flow of intangible assets in the economy.
We cast this proposal as a study recommendation because of the constraints of our charge and limitations of our expertise. Although a survey would be especially important for understanding copyrights because of the lack of a formal registration requirement, it would make little sense to mount a survey of copyrights alone, neglecting patents and trademarks. Nevertheless, other forms of intellectual property are outside our statement of work. Equally important, we are not in a position to judge two very important considerations that could render either or both surveys impracticable—the burden they would impose on respondents (e.g., the need for businesses to conduct patent and copyright searches) and the resources needed by agencies charged with carrying them out. The federal statistical agencies generally are tightly budget constrained and having to cut back activities.
The gap between what would be ideal in terms of data requirements for a thriving research agenda around copyright and what exists currently is large. Building easily accessible and comprehensive datasets relevant to the study of copyright-relevant industries is crucial for the development of a research community based around copyright issues. We hope the categories of data described in this chapter will help focus efforts to obtain and create high quality datasets for addressing some of the key policy questions described in this report.