Policy makers had recognized a constitutional (and economic) imperative to protect American property from theft, to shield consumers from counterfeit products and fraud, and to combat foreign criminals who exploit technology to steal American ingenuity and jobs.
Oh, never mind that the Constitutional imperative is to "... Promote the Progress of Science and of the Useful Arts," not to "protect [...] property form theft." We must keep copies from being made at all costs!
While no legislation is perfect, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (or PIPA) was carefully devised, with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate, and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA), was based on existing statutes and Supreme Court precedents. But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery?
Well, the bipartisan support was the result of bribes and "campaign contributions," but we can ignore that! Those pesky kids with computers ruined everything!
Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal? When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn’t censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is?
Usually a thorough review of evidence is done by both the defense and prosecution, but what the defense doesn't know doesn't hurt anyone. Right?
I propose a 5 year limit on Copyrights and Patents, with no opportunity to renew. That way we get that touchy-feely "Artists get compensation" feeling without adversely impacting the economy or the creation of future content.
After all, what reason is there to create content if you can just spend the next 100 years living off what you've already done?
The problem is that Copyright came with a promise similar to the promise that Patents have: That once the creator has profited from the work, the work enters the collective cultural domain. The reasoning is that then the Public will always have access to the works.
As it is, though, these works remain under Copyright, and it is still technically illegal to create archival copies for cultural preservation, and it's also therefore illegal for the Public to gain access to those archival copies for their enjoyment.
Right now, there is a collection of recordings of Jazz music from the '30s by some of the masters of early Jazz - from Armstrong to Basie - that no one is allowed to listen to because they're under Copyright, even though it's not clear that anyone actually holds the Copyright to these recordings. So they will remain in an archive in Harlem until the Copyrights expire, probably sometime around 2025 at the earliest, if not longer. It's a travesty that no one will be able to listen to it.
Worse, there are huge storerooms at the movie studios in Hollywood that hold collections of some of the most influential and (culturally) important movies of the Silent Era and the early "Soundies" that are simply decaying in their tins. The film is a material that is extremely fragile and doesn't survive even in controlled conditions, and so the reels are covered in a brow-gray gunk that used to be film. None of those movies will ever be seen again because the Copyright owners have no interest in recovering what's left (they don't see a market) and no one who has the funding is able to recover them all because they can't get the Copyright releases - if they can get it at all. In many cases, the studio that "owns" them can't even prove they have the Copyright.
And so our Culture is being destroyed or lost because no one is allowed to make valuable archival copies, and no one is allowed to view them because the proper royalty payments can't or won't be made.
Even if it can be proven that the works are true orphan works, no one will touch them because someone will make a Copyright claim that needs to be verified, even if the claim is invalid.
Worse yet, derivative works that build on this culture (like tributes and documentaries and the like) can't use this material, even if they can get their hands on it.
It is as if Copyright is making it illegal to record and share any of our History that occurred between 15 years ago (which is roughly when most Copyright owners seem to abandon their works) and 95 to 170 years ago (which is when the current Copyright extensions expire).