A few years ago, we wrote about some research by Paul Heald that did an astounding job visually demonstrating how much copyright law today harms
the dissemination of content. The key graphic was the following one:
What it shows is that while new books are available for sale, they quickly go out of print and are basically not available -- until you get down to 1923, at which point the works are in the public domain. Think of all those works that are no longer available to buy in that major gap in the middle. Heald has since updated that research
to show how serious a problem this is -- and demonstrating how the arguments against letting these works into the public domain make no sense. He demolishes the arguments made by some that a public domain will be either "under" or "over" exploited (yes, both arguments are made), as neither makes much sense.
It appears that copyright is doing similar damage in Europe. At the latest Chaos Communications Congress in Germany, Julia Reda, the European Parliament member from the Pirate Party gave a talk on the state of copyright law today
(you can see the video here
and included a similar graphic concerning books available in Europe:
What amazes me is that this giant set of missing works isn't seen as a bigger deal by policy makers (outside of Reda). This is a massive loss for society and the public based on copyright today -- and could be easily avoided with a few basic changes to the law, including things like requiring registration of copyrights and, if not shortening the term length of copyright significantly, at the very least, requiring the copyright holder to re-register the work over time. As we've pointed out in the past, prior to the 1976 Act, copyright law required registrations and renewals (at the 26-year mark) and the vast majority of works were simply not renewed at that point, because there was no economic incentive to do so.
Yet, despite that, we still automatically grant copyright on all such works for a much longer period today. Not only does it not make sense, it leads to the massive gap in those two graphics above -- which is a huge loss for society and culture.