Like every anti-copyright freeloader—seriously, where the hell is it written that you have a *right* do you demand that the work of others be given to you for free?—you're very big on what's wrong with the present system, but not so good at offering *viable* alternatives that don't boil down to "screw the artists!"
Yes, DRM sucks, but it only exists *at all* because there are so many people out there who appear to believe they have an inalienable right to the craftsmanship of others.
' this whole business of making parts of DVD/BRs "unstoppable"' — oh boo fucking hoo. Poor widdle you with your middle-class Western "problems" of having a minuscule amount of minor inconvenience while CHILDREN ARE FUCKING DYING OF HUNGER.
I mean, seriously, sense of perspective, much?
I DO agree that the endless extensions of copyright are a poor solution, but as the concept of copyright was invented in the days when the only medium was the printed word, it's hardly surprising that movies, radio and television haven't been handled well.
Prior to the invention of moving pictures—and the industry that followed—there was no demand for *corporations* to be able to have copyrights assigned to them as copyrightable works tended to be the work of just one person (or a very small group) .
The idea of publishers also owning copyright in a novel is also a relatively recent invention; Charles Dickens did his own advertising and PR: the publishers really were just publishers back then.
I'd be more than happy for corporations to be allowed to own a copyright, thus the "life + X years" thing could be restored to something like this:
1. For individuals: "life of owner + X years", where X is something like 10-20 years at most.
2a. For corporations who bring copyrightable works into being, they have two options: "life of copyright-owning corporation only, with no transfer of rights possible, or 100 years, whichever is the sooner". This would be the default method.
2b. If the corporation in question wants to have the right to transfer their IP rights, they should be allowed to do so ONLY on payment of a renewable annual license by the assigned IP owner. (Also: this should only be allowed to happen once.) Thus, Disney could transfer their older movies to, say, a "Disney Archive" company, but only if they continue to pay for this right for as long as they wish it. The moment they stop those payments, the default system returns and, if the rights have been transferred already, those rights lapse instantly. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Both 2a and 2b would have "availability" clauses requiring the copyright owners to ensure all their copyrighted works remain available to the public at a fair and reasonable price throughout the lifetime of that copyright.
My reasoning behind (2b) above is that some media—e.g. many early silent movies—simply wouldn't survive if left solely to the Public Domain. Restoring the complete footage of, say, Lang's "Metropolis", is a massive—and massively expensive—undertaking. That annual license fee would effectively fund such restoration and archival projects, and would be mostly distributed to relevant institutes and other entities.
My reasoning behind point (2a) above is simple: Animation, computer games, and many other media can be seriously expensive and labour-intensive to make. The idea that any single *individual* can own a copyright in a movie like Disney's "Snow White" is utterly insane, so assigning that copyright to the company that *enabled the creation of the work* by paying for it up-front (and taking all the risk!) seems perfectly fair to me.
Note, too, that many other countries rely on collectives and cross-border collaborations to produce some of their copyrightable content. (E.g. many French animations for children were co-produced with Canadian producers. Even series like "UFO" and "Space:1999" were co-produced with German and Italian money. Even the return of the BBC's "Doctor Who" in 2005 gives a Canadian Broadcasting Company co-producer credit in seasons 2 and 3.)
This sort of thing means allowing copyright assignation to a corporate entity is an important requirement of any rebooted IP system.
Under (2a) If Disney goes completely bust, everything they did enters the public domain. (Chapter 11 in the US would be a way around that, so it's not as bad as it appears.) But as long as the company exists, they don't have to worry about their earlier works entering the public realm. This removes the pressure to extend copyright terms as Disney aren't planning to go bust any time soon.
Without option (2b) above, if Disney decided to dump some of their older cartoons into the Public Domain—e.g. those old black and white musical ones that primarily of historic rather than entertainment interest today—who would be responsible for ensuring those animations are made available in suitable formats, and that the archived original material is maintained? By requiring an annual fee, the costs of both operations are covered.
Copyright *can* be a tool for expression. The trick is realising that laws are complex systems too, and need regular maintenance and upgrades as and when circumstances require it.
Finally: Don't blame the *concept* of Copyright for the failings of the US Government and its love of lobbyists' money. That's a problem with YOU, The People, not an inherent problem with Copyright itself.