What if I translate someone's book, and release my translation into the Public Domain immediately? Would an alternative Project Gutenberg of liberally licensed translations work?
At least the Berne Convention says that "Translations, adaptations, arrangements of music and other alterations of a literary or artistic work shall be protected as original works without prejudice to the copyright in the original work."
Of course the translation is not the same thing. Also, it is more complicated than that. The authors (quite reasonably) have some protection and control over translated versions. Still, even if only some parts of the world, and even only for a selected subset of all good books, could wait less than 50 years after the author's death to easily access his works free of charge, I believe that would be a good thing.
One could imagine both "open source" and "crowdfunding" approaches to building such a library.
It would be ironic to see the author's native language readers having more restrictions than the rest. Maybe such reduction to absurdity could fuel an argument for a worldwide copyright conventions reform for the digital age.
But if history is any indication, they would just make tighter restrictions for the translations.