Copyright gives an author several instruments to make money off his works. It is up to the author to actually exploit those instruments, but at least he has them.
Some people question the validity of those instruments; for instance, why do works continue to be burdened by copyright even after the author has died? And why do these terms get longer and longer? Well, the argument goes, the author can use the extended time as leverage during negotations with the publisher. The longer the publisher is allowed to make the book, the more money the author can ask upfront for himself, or during the copyright term for him and his heirs.
Although in theory that would be a valid argument, in practice such extensions get written into the law by publishers, so it is doubtful that the argument holds. But lets not talk about that.
What’s really baffling to me is that in some jurisdictions, unpublished works that are discovered after an author’s death, still get a copyright attached to them. Why on earth is that?
There are several reasons why copyrights exist in the first place. Because we want to stimulate the production of works. Because we feel it is fair somebody gets rewarded for the work they do. Other reasons perhaps. None of those explain copyright on unpublished works.
Basically, the copyright on an unpublished work is like a gold ore. Those who find it first, get to stake a claim. It’s finders keepers. There’s something wrong with that. Copyright was not meant to be a lottery. Copyright was meant to provide society with very real benefits.
Any copyright lawyers in the room who can explain it to me?