Congress eliminated the benign practice of the renewal requirement (which had guaranteed that 85% of works and 93% of books entered the public domain after 28 years because the authors and publishers simply didn’t want or need a second copyright term.) And copyright, which had been an opt-in system (you had to comply with some very minor formalities to get a copyright) became an opt out system (you got a copyright automatically when you “fixed” the work in material form, whether you wanted it or not.) Suddenly the entire world of informal and non commercial culture — from home movies that provide a wonderful lens into the private life of an era, to essays, posters, locally produced teaching materials — was swept into copyright. And kept there for the life of the author plus 70 years. The effects were culturally catastrophic. Copyright went from covering very little culture, and only covering it for a 28 year period during which it was commercially available, to covering all of culture, regardless of whether it was available — often for over a century.As this article notes, in the past:
You could reprint it, make a low cost educational version, legally create a braille or audio book edition, even base a new film or play on it. All without asking permission or paying a fee. But copyright law has changed since then. Copyright terms have been twice retrospectively extended. Now, [Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic] Fahrenheit 451 is not slated to enter the public domain until 2049.And, as Cory Doctorow points out:
Remember folks, thanks to 11 copyright term extensions in the past 40-some years, more than 98% of all works in copyright are "orphaned" -- still in copyright, but no one knows to whom they belong.Does this make sense? In order to "protect" the property rights of a few commercial interests, everything is being put under the padlock and key of "copyright". The old system was perfectly workable. If you had a commercial interest in protecting some property, you applied for it, and you extended it. And that left all the other stuff in the public domain. This system has been turned upside down simply to make it easier for the tiny percentage of commercial copyright interests to lock down everything and mindlessly have the system look after their interests. Nutty!