I have finished reading Larry Lessig's Free Culture. Towards the end of the book, Lessig described in detail the battles he faced in court trying to overturn the Sonny Bono Act(which extended the copyright terms even longer), and he's mistake which may have costed him the victory. It's a very sad truth, for had things turned out differently, we would have had much more literature in the public domain for the artists of today to freely study and build their works upon. For example, we would have already had all of Bird's recordings in the public domain(since 2005, 50 after his death). This would include all of his recording(I could publish them all on a website somewhere for example, or create films with his music in them, or create my renditions of his musical compositions). Instead, the copyright term has now been extended another 20 years, and of course, what is to say they wouldn't extend it the next time the limit comes around?
Some thoughts about Lessig's "mistake". I think that indeed it was a wrong decision on his part. He decided to make his arguments based on some technical logic related to the constitution and prior court decisions rather than the real issue, i.e. -- why is extending the copyright indefinitely a bad thing. He needs to take on the salesman's approach more, and trim down his arguments down to 3 main points or less(3 is the typical number of points/features in any Apple presentation on any of it's products). The big picture, as I see it, is that an unlimited copyright term means that 1) artists will have less freedom because anything they create has high potential to infringe on other works under a copyright, and 2) it give the large media publisher -- who control most of the artists in the world -- even more power, and thus restricting the artists themselves even more. Both of these lead to the same thing, artists lossing freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of expression(point to the first amendment already!). Lessig really needed to make this point to the judges above anything else, IMHO. I think that Lessig is now wiser for this mistake, but he still tends to go in logic circles too much for my taste. I think that he needs to change his mindset into a more skeptical one. Very few people can or care to reason and think logically in the manner that Lessig does(he tends to go back and forth, check and recheck his arguments to make sure he didn't make any mistakes along the way of his reasoning), the more he does this, the more people lose interest in what he is saying. Logical arguments are fine, but they have to be short and to the point. He needs to keep his focus on the big picture and not get lost in the details.
What I like most about this book were the stories. The store of Cauchy vs RCA and the FM radio; how copyright came to be in England; the Sonny Bono Act; the Sony and the VCR; CD's, etc. I how have a much better sense of the history behind copyrights and the understanding that government is supposed to balance an artist's incentive to create with the creative freedom and knowledge of the public, and that intellectual property is not at all the same as regular property.