Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel (Reason archive here) has a great column up at Bloomberg about copyright law and how it's totally lost its way. The short version of the article is this: "A copyright isn't supposed to be a reward. It's supposed to be an incentive."
Read the whole thing for a fascinating meditation on the copyright history of Robert Frost's fascinating meditation on mortality, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Just as an effective emissions-trading system depends on getting right the exact number of permits and total amount of emissions, so a good copyright system depends on setting the right terms, limits on fair use and enforcement mechanisms.
"If copyright is weak, then it will provide little incentive to create," [Mercatus Center scholar Jerry] Brito writes. "But if it is too strong, then it will limit the public's ability to enjoy and build on creative works, which after all is the reason why we have copyright in the first place."
Striking that balance is tricky, even without political pressure. And lawmakers have shown little interest in trying to reason out the optimal solution. Instead of balancing the interests of consumers and future producers with financial incentives to create new works today, copyright has become an expanding monopoly privilege for well-connected industries.
Watch this great recent Reason TV interview about copyright: