I've thought long and hard about copyright law, what the problems are, and I've come up with some solutions.
The problems with copyright are obvious. We now have a system where copyrights almost never expire anymore. There are two extremes, the protect copyright until the end of time crowd and the lose it right after you publish crowd. I think there's a reasonable medium.
First of all lets deal with copyright terms.
I think ten years of protection after the initial publishing is a great start. Many people think this is good enough, however I don't begrudge an author profit because something was written too long ago. Stephen King is making all kinds of money off of 30 year old books and I think he deserves it. There's a difference between his 30 year old books and say the 30 year old books by many other authors. He's actually still selling his.
Use it or lose it.
To protect people who actually still are selling their works I propose production based protection. For physical media at least 5,000 copies must be produced during the two years preceding the expiration of the 10 year term. This prevents the company from making five copies in a "production run" and giving them away to contest winners or putting them on eBay. It makes them actually produce a volume they will want to sell. If they don't then it's public domain. I really hate "hard" numbers like 5,000. That's nothing to a big guy but huge to a small publisher, I just can't think of a reasonable alternative. Every time a production run of at least 5,000 units is made the copyright is automatically extended for five years, assuming of course that run was made before the copyright expired.
Upon the death of the author the estate has 1 year from the time of the authors death to make a last production run to secure five more years of copyright protection. This allows widows and children to receive some going away royalties. If the author dies 10 years to the day after the only production run of his work this give the family a free 11th year to do something about it. Barring a new production run the copyrights expire naturally or 1 year to the day after the authors death should they expire within that year.
As for electronic distribution not only must it remain for sale it must remain for sale in formats supported by technology that can still be purchase. It had better work a Kindle, PC, Nook, iProduct or something being produced. Selling a game on Nintendo's virtual console can protect the original. This may even motivate Nintendo to make or officially license other companies to make classic hardware like Sega and Atari do just to cover all the bases as selling cartridges for an Atari 7800 today benefits next to no one. Selling a "digital copy" of Pong for $25,000 is out of the question as well. Digital copies cannot exceed the original MSRP adjusted for inflation by more than 10%.
This would do away with lost works, like Marble Madness 2 where only two copies were ever actually known to exist. Under my rules the game would be public domain now (it would just be up to the rest of us to persuade one of the two people who own copies to upload them). It would also allow fans to scan in copies of Omni Magazine and the like to be shared with the rest of the world. Heck, you could look forward to a monthly release cycle of expired magazines.
Corporations have a maximum of 50 years copyright on any production since they are theoretically immortal entities. If a corporation chooses they may designate a director, actor, writer or someone as the possessor of the copyright and they can maintain exclusive publishing rights from the individual. This may pay off in the case of a child actor, but it's a gamble for the company itself and it leaves room for a disgruntled copyright holder to take his movie elsewhere. Copyrights transferred from a corporation to an individual (except by lawsuit which involves infringement) shall still be subject to the 50 year limitation to prevent a company from transferring a 49 year old movie to an executives infant son or some shenanigan.
I think it's perfectly reasonable. Some may argue that lots of old stuff is being revived after the expiration date. On that note make trademarks lifetime and transferable. Micky can handle it the same way Bugs did. You can download public domain Bugs Bunny cartoons and do whatever you want with them, but you still can't take control of the character which is the property of Warner Brothers. Trademarks are valid as long as they're used plus twenty years even if media that uses them is public domain.
Reasonable is my goal, and content creators should profit, but not 100 years after they die.