I was thinking about the current concept of copyright protection this morning, and it made me quite angry. I doubt I can capture the full scope of my mental rant, but allow me to summarize:
1. The purpose of protecting authors' exclusive rights to exploit their works is to incentivize creativity. It's a bargain between creators and society: we'll use the threat of violence to protect your creative works, and in exchange that work will enter into the public domain after a certain amount of time.
2. Copyright laws are specifically authorized by the Constitution, and in 1790 terms were set as 14 years with 14-year renewal if the author was still alive. That seems too long to me, but not unreasonable or unjust.
3. Current US law appears to protect copyright for up to 120 years or life-of-the-author plus 70 years. This is completely insane. There's no way to reasonably argue that authors will refuse to be creative if their great, great grandchildren don't maintain the exclusive right to exploit the author's work. Current law is an abuse of process: large companies (e.g., Disney) earn money from copyrights and then use that money to lobby Congress for copyright extensions. Repeat ad nauseum.
4. The smartest one of us wouldn't be able to do more than smear poop on a cave wall in the shape of a buffalo without the thousands of years of intellectual property bequeathed to us by our ancestors for free. This inheritance is of incalculable value, and 99% of what we do now is derived from this legacy. In this light, is society's benefit from Mickey Mouse really worth the tens of billions of dollars that Disney has extracted from us by means of copyright laws?
5. The RIAA and MPAA would have us believe that without intellectual property laws our culture would grind to a halt as creators refused to create. Stupid. For thousands of years artists, writers, and musicians have created amazing works of art, all without the benefit of copyright protection. It's ludicrous to argue that they'd stop now if their exclusive rights were protected only for a decade rather than 120 years or life-of-the-author plus 70 or whatever.
6. Copyright is dying. There's no way that the generation that is currently in college will ever convict anyone of copyright violations for music, book, or movie "piracy". It just won't happen. The end. Copyright is a distortion of the natural order that can only exist if it is mutually beneficial to authors and society. That balance is so far out of whack now that there's going to be whiplash when the existing copyright system finally collapses. (I put "piracy" in quotes, because many copyrighted works should be in the public domain and be a part of our common heritage and cultural legacy. You can't "pirate" what you have a right to possess.)
7. If the Tea Party were savvy, they'd make freedom from stifling copyrights a plank in their political platform and quickly win over millions of young voters.