So right now the only way that an artist can make any money through the system is to get lucky and somehow sell enough copies that he can cover all the expenses and such that the record companies put into their contracts. One out of every however many thousand musicians ever get enough money from their musical work to even think about putting their kids through college and quitting their day job.
Who makes the money? The record company, they take billions of dollars from the total population, line their pockets, and give a little bit to the people who allowed them to profit in such an obscene manner.
If we elminate this system, then anyone can conceivably hit it big. Spread your work out across the world for free. Let the folk music scene at large know that you have something worth hearing. Let your fans make copies and spread the word about how great you are. Play shows and let people grab your album by wifi and put it on their ipods when they show up. Id you can get it out to millions of people, if even a fraction of those people visit your website, and decide they want to paypal you a dollar or two, or buy an autographed album, or merch, or really like what you're saying, then you will probably make more money than you are making today.
Like you said you maybe make a few bucks at a bar, like most musicians I know you can't be selling too many albums... it's a tough business. But if you can spread word about your talent, if people like what you're doing, I really think you can get support.
People won't be spending as much money on the Old Way. Billions of dollars will be freed up. So if someone likes music, they can afford to spend a few bucks on music or a poster from their favorite artist.
You say that people won't spend money on things that they can get for free? I say that's crazy. People have always spent money on things they don't need to. People want to support things that are good. Look at every other tracker or half the community websites out there. People donate thousands and millions of dollars to keep these sites going. They don't have to donate money to use the site. They could be leeches and ignore the fact that they need money. But they want to see the site continue to exist, they like what the site is doing, and they think it's worthy of a few measly dollars.
Now translate that to the music/book/video business. People will want to spend money to ensure that Star Trek and the Simpsons continue to exist. If people like it, they will spend money on it. Smaller artists will gain momentum if people like their work. The more people who think you're a good artist, the more other people they will tell. The Jazz and folk communities will find out about the best new artists and they will gain support, at shows, for buying actual albums from the artist, from whatever people think up.
So the next question... you no doubt say that a lot of artists, smaller lesser known people will not be able to make it. Are they making it now? Do you make it now? Sure you have a chance to hit it in the folk scene... but it probably isn't going to happen in the music industry that we know today. Maybe you could get signed to a little label and somehow make a few bucks, but probably not... it's a tough competitive industry, and most people simply don't succeed.
I think more people are likely to succeed in a no-copyright future. The people who do make it will be people who are liked for what they create, they are judged to be worthy of support by the public at large, there will be no gate-keeper to success other than the judgement of what is good.
Now all that said, I too have little problem with copyrights that are short, and in line with what the Framers designed for books. If copyright was not a hige extended monster to create profits for the few, then I doubt if I would have ever even pondered over these questions of whether it is right or wrong. As it is I think it's wrong to try and tell someone that they can't make a copy of something, it just flies in the face of the natural, as the gg-parent said. If I have a book, who is to say I can't copy it? It's wrong to make copies of something? That makes no sense to me, it's an artifical racket to supposedly create incentive.
Although the constitution created copyright specifically to transition works into the public domain, that seems to be something actively fought against by our govt and the content creators.
Anyway I digress, but I would have few problems with a sane copyright term. I merely have become radicalized by the fact that the powers that be are so opposed to something like a small term, and seek to take away our rights as much as possible. So certainly my view is extreme, but if anything, I feel that we need to become extreme to fight against those who are opposed to even the simple arguments against the latest extensions. The more people who adopt my views, the better.
Thanks for the response, and I hope you can make it. I've got many friends who also are struggling to try and make a few dollars doing what they love... it seems a bit tough most of the time. But always do it because you love it. I never started writing to make money... although of course it would be nice if someday I can make a living at it.